A Writer Touts Small-Town Wyoming

Craig Johnson's mystery novels, set in rural Wyoming, provide the basis for a series airing this summer on A&E.

Craig Johnson at Busy Bee Cafe, Buffalo, Wyo., image

Craig Johnson hits Busy Bee Cafe, a favored haunt in Buffalo, Wyo.

There’s no confusing author Craig Johnson with Sheriff Walt Longmire, the sarcastic, recently divorced main character of Johnson’s mystery novels set in fictional Absaroka County, Wyo. But visit Buffalo, Wyo., and you might recognize people and places from Durant, a town in the series. The author is one of the 25 residents of nearby Ucross. craigallenjohnson.com.

Q Why Wyoming?
A
We’re not like the rest of the country. Lots of people who live on the fringes of society elsewhere survive and thrive in Wyoming because of the freedom that comes with living where there’s so much room and so few people.

Q For example?
A
I had a neighbor whose body hair had grown through his long underwear. Could I have invented that character?

Q A source of inspiration?
A
Wherever I go, the first thing I do is get the local paper. The Buffalo Bulletin’s police dispatch transcripts read like haiku: “A pig was seen on Fourth Street. Officer dispatched. No pig found.”

Q Longmire, an A&E TV show based on your books, is airing this summer. Why wasn’t it shot in Wyoming?
A
The powers that be were concerned that our weather was too volatile. They filmed it in New Mexico.

Q Is there an actual Busy Bee Cafe?
A
On Buffalo’s Main Street. It had closed, but then the books came out and people began showing up and asking where it was. It was renovated and reopened.

Q What will you get if you order “the usual” at the Busy Bee, as Walt does?
A
Well, that’s just the surprise.

Photography courtesy of Erin Nickerson

This article was first published in March 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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