GREAT FALLS — The second annual Big River Ruckus kicked off in Great Falls on Thursday, August 11, 2022. Thursday's highlight was a presentation by Craig Johnson, author of the "Longmire" mystery novels.
"For me, this is home territory," Johnson said. "I was talking to some people at the Russell Museum, and it's been more than 20 years, since I've been in Great Falls, and so I'm feeling kind of guilty about it, but this is just such a beautiful community, and the chances of coming up here to see the museum, and being a part of the Big River Ruckus, I don't get to do too many band-stands, so this is kind of fun for me."
Johnson is the recipient of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Fiction, as well as the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for fiction, along with many other awards. He resides in Ucross, Wyoming, with a population of only 26.
His "Longmire" stories are set in northern Wyoming, where Walt Longmire is sheriff of the fictional county of Absaroka. The series debuted in 2004.
"In some ways, I look at the mystery genre, and it hasn't fallen prey to not telling stories. For me, a good book has to have a story ...The thing about crime fiction is that's it's got a beginning, middle and end. You'll never worry about the characters just fading away, or not having anything happen in the book, or something like that. Something's going to happen in crime fiction, you can count on it."
Attendee John Godwin said, "It was amazing to get so close to somebody that you've read his book for years, and just a normal person writing these great stories, it's a fantastic experience."
When asked about the "Longmire" series, Godwin said, "When I started reading 20 years ago, his character was comparable in age with me, and I could really relate to him. He had all these aches and pains, and still had a job to do, and he did it well. It's just like real life, and the way he (Johnson) can paint the story, you're there, and you're experiencing it. Just fabulous writing."
When asked about what's key to writing a successful novel, such as the Longmire series, he stated, "it's good to have a message, it's good to have interesting characters, good humor, good history, all those different things. For me, the style of writing that I have is kind of like a crow. I go out and fly around with all the different genres, and I pick whatever is shiny or whatever I think will work. Then I get to the nest of my book, and I put it in there. It can be problematic, sometimes for marketing because a lot of people don't know where to stick my books, which genre to put them in. Are they westerns? Are they mysteries? Are they comedies? All these different things. I think the reading public is sophisticated enough now to where they enjoy a book that has all these multi-layers, and for me, that's what I try and do with every book."
The event runs through August 13th. There will be live music outdoors on the stage at Elks Riverside Park on Friday and Saturday evenings, and literary, arts, and sports events throughout the three days.
Kellie Pierce of the Downtown Great Falls Association said, "Last year was its inaugural year. We wanted a multi-day event that we can host here in Great Falls, that would bring some out of town guests and really showcase our amazing and beautiful river that we have and this city that we all love and adore. So we've brought in arts, and sports, and music, and combined them all into one weekend, so we've done that again this year."
Among the highlights:
- August 12: Tommy Castro & the Painkillers; Paul Thorn; The Melissa Lynn Band
- August 13: Shinyribs; Jason Boland and the Stragglers; Suzy Bogguss; Chuck Mead; John Roberts y Pan Blanco
Click here to visit the Big River Ruckus website for more information.
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