First in Series: The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson is the first modern western in the Walt Longmire series about a Wyoming sheriff. Registered commenters below will be entered for a chance to win an advanced reader's copy of Craig Johnson's upcoming collection of Walt Longmire short stories, Wait for Signs!

The first novel in the enormously popular Longmire series, The Cold Dish (2004) by Craig Johnson, gave me the vibe that I’ve known the main characters all my reading life and I’m enjoying, say, the twenty-fifth installment in the series, not the debut. All superior mystery and crime series, or at least the ones I prefer, make you feel at home—immediately relaxed. Longmire #1 succeeds in this respect and still offers a fresh voice in a genre that has gotten drier and drier since Ross Macdonald went to the great fedora bar in the sky.

So what’s eating Sheriff Walt Longmire in book one? For starters, a lot. His wife Martha died a few years before, and he struggles daily with the loss. The open emotional wound is deep and he suspects there’s no closure to be found. Added to this heartbreak is the widening estrangement with his beloved grown daughter, Cady, as they each deal with their continuing grief.

The day job doesn’t seem to be helping matters. Walt is blamed by some irate citizens after a group of four boys get too light a sentence for brutally raping a young Cheyenne girl in a basement. When one of the accused rapists, Cody Pritchard, is found dead in the woods, it appears to be a hunting accident, but Walt suspects otherwise. It’s revenge: the dish being served by the titular title.

Friends and colleagues in Longmire’s life are deeply conflicted individuals, much like Walt himself, and each character could be the star of his/her own series. Take Victoria “Vic” Moretti. She’s a deputy with a profane mouth and deadly shot, and she’s the one subordinate who is not afraid to tell Walt his crap stinks from time to time. But under that hardboiled exterior, there’s a vulnerability that could unravel her sensibilities. Then there’s Henry Standing Bear whose loyalty to his sheriff friend extends him beyond the law which has increasingly complicated consequences as this story, and further entries, unfold. Like Vic, Henry needs to occasionally steer the sheriff in the right direction. He may be the fullest sidekick to come down the line since Hawk from Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series.

Johnson writes about modern Wyoming like it’s the Old West with its live-by-the-gun mentality. With the exception of technological conveniences, Walt Longmire could be a contemporary of Lonesome Dove’s Gus and Woodrow. He’s a man bound by honor but is quick to toss rules that prevent justice from being realized. Though Longmire may think he wants to retire, to throw in the towel, a hero is rising up his strong moral spine and he’ll do his best to make sure the dish of vengeance isn’t served during his watch.

And like the other modern knight errant Philip Marlowe that he owes a debt to, Mr. Johnson infuses passages with Chandleresque beauty like:

On the afternoon of June 25th, 1876, as the heat waves rolled from the buffalo grass, giving the impression of a breeze that did not exist, Colonel George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the Seventh Cavalry rode into the valley of the Little Big Horn. Also that afternoon, Davey Force, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, went six for six against Chicago, who scored four runs in the ninth to pull out a 14 to 13 victory. Custer was not so lucky.

In addition to the sharp prose, it should also be mentioned that not since Larry McMurtry hasdialogue seemed so natural—revealing much about these characters and their relationships—that at times you feel like you are sitting in on a conversation as opposed to reading a book.

If you missed this book but have already tried others in the Longmire series or have watched the hit A&E television show, you may think you don’t need to go back to this series opener. But don’t skip over The Cold Dish because it gives much-deserved rich character and ongoing plot development in one of the finest debuts from an author in any genre.


This sweepstakes has ended.

Comment below for a chance to win an advanced reader's copy of Wait for Signs (12 Longmire Stories) by Craig Johnson, not due out until October! To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

Wait for Signs Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 14, 2014. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 .m. ET August 21, 2014. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Under the pen name of Edward A. Grainger, David Cranmer writes the continuing adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. He is also the editor/publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and books.


  1. Mates


  2. Sally Schmidt

    I would love to read this. I really enjoy the A&E series – but the books are always better. Thanks for the chance.

  3. Jeff Tufano

    I love Longmire the TV series so reading one of the books would be an extra pleasure.

  4. Bill Mulrenin

    Count me in!

  5. shelly mccann

    Love this series

  6. Ron Scheer

    Not counting the TV series, I know the Longmire cast of characters only from a later volume of the novels. I agree that they are easy to feel immediately at home with, like old friends and acquaintances. It’s an irony that you can feel you know well-written fictional characters far better than you ever get to know people in real life.

  7. Fred Gillis

    Count me in.

  8. David Cranmer

    Ron, Maybe because they can’t talk back. We observe them from afar and don’t really have to interact. Similar to how we can feel closer with social networking friends than we do with our own families. Maybe?

  9. lasvegasnv

    Interesting character

  10. Jo Ann Hakola

    I’m gathering this series to read it but would be happy to read these short stories. I like them best anyway!

  11. Angela Lee

    The Cold Dish is an awesome book and a great start to the series! Looking forward to the short stories collection.

  12. Kelly Robinson

    Great giveaway. I’m a fan of the books and the show—though I’m new to the latter.

  13. Michael Kelberer

    Agree with your assessment of the quality of the series from book 1. A voice that’s new but familiar….

  14. Meta Knapp

    Noticed my comment was in red, so I am not registered.
    and again would love to read the new collection. thanks

  15. Meta Knapp

    I am now registered I meant to say.

  16. Janet Washer

    Branch Connally is NOT in the novels!

  17. Karen Barnett

    Love the TV series – looking forward to start reading the books.

  18. David Cranmer

    jkwasher, Turk! Yes, Branch Connally was created and expanded from that character. Still Lucian Connally’s nephew. After watching the A&E show and reviewing all year got my head got turned around with names. No excuse, of course. And will be corrected.

  19. randal120

    Randy Johnson here,

    This is the only Longmire novel I own. I intend to read it sometime. Have too many promised reviews to get out of the way.

    Skimmed the article. Afraid of some spoliers I guess.

  20. Gordon Bingham

    Probably my favorite current tv series. Have been meaning to read the books – this would be a great start!!

  21. David Cranmer

    Randy, you are in for a treat, friend. Nothing short of an awesome series.

  22. Joe Ormerod

    Bought this after watching the first episode of “Longmire” and I was HOOKED!!! Brilliant, is a word that comes to mind describing this book! I have gifted copies to several friends and recommended it to many others…you won’t be disappointed!!!

  23. David Cranmer

    Joe, I enjoy both the show and books and now am looking forward to these short stories. 12 new adventures! Carumba!

  24. snow dog

    I’ve read all of Craig’s books in order and look forward to the next one. I really liked his latest Any Other Name. Almost quit the series after A Serpeant’s Tooth because I hated the ending, no spoilers. Going through Longmire withdrawal.

  25. David Cranmer

    snowdogmom, I’m having withdrawls myself and, maybe, a short story collection with twelve new adventures will help. Hopefully we will hear soon if the show is renewed.

  26. Ed Hardy

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Craig Johnson’s “The Cold Dish”.

  27. meg e dobson

    I’ve been a huge Longmire fan for years. Craig Johnson’s storytelling and humor hits the right note every time. His novella Spirit of Steamboat is a modern masterpiece.

    Mixed emotions on the A&E show as I think its extremely well written (Edgar nomination) and, other than Lucian well cast, but they did a disservice to the original source. I’d personally like a cross over to the big screen w time to do the books full justice.

    I would ride across a desert without water for the 12th arc in the series! (Even on a horse with no name.) LOL

  28. Bill Cook

    I am new to the Longmire books and just read The Cold Dish. Great story, suspense and humor. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

  29. David Cranmer

    [b]Meg[/b], there is a significant gulf between the books and the show and one I don’t mind crossing, enjoying both shores. Though some fans of the books have a difficult time with the swim and that’s a testament to Mr. Johnson’s extraordinary writing. And I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Spirit of Steamboat.
    [b]Jazdog[/b], you are in for a some top reading. Enjoy.

  30. marla beale

    I’m almost up to date on the novels. I started reading them this summer after watching season 1 & 2 on Netflix. This first book was not my favorite. However DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY more than made up for it. I’m glad Moretti has been softened for the TV series. I really enjoy his writing, and excepting her, I like all the characters better in the books. I’m looking forward to the new book!

  31. Paula Sweeney

    I’m loving working my way through the series! Would love to add the book of short stories to my growing collection, thanks!

  32. lynette barfield

    I can’t say how much I would like a copy of this book

  33. Thomas Walker

    great article. I have been wanting to start in on the books. Love the TV series. It would be great to win this book

  34. Mark Skertic

    If you like the TV series, you’re gonna love the books. Craig Johnson has a great feel for dialog, it never sounds forced and each character speaks with a very specific voice. He never hits you over the head with too much description, but I feel like I know Absaroka County. The Longmire books are simply a great series.
    There are some great authors telling crime/mystery stories in western settings these days (other favorites of mine are CJ Box and Margaret Cole), but it’s hard to argue that Johnson doesn’t rank among the very best.

  35. Susan Meek

    I love these books and I’ve been happy to share my addiction with several people. I’d love to get my grubby paws on this collection of short stories. I have to say, I love the books more than the TV series. I prefer the way the characters look in my head than the TV actors (except for the actor playing Sheriff Longmire).

  36. Carol Lawman

    What a great evening it would be to read this book! All curled up with the cats and Sheriff Longmire.

  37. Sue Farrell

    I must get this book and start reading the series. The TV show season is much too short for me—I want more.

  38. Jennifer Vandenberg

    I picked up Another Man’s Moccasins because I liked the cover. After finishing it I immediately bought A Cold Dish and have enjoyed every Walt Longmire book since. The characters and the setting are haunting.

  39. Lynn/MI

    Wow! What a wonderful treasure! Would enjoy muchly a chance of winning a copy! Thanks for offer!

  40. Kristen


  41. I. J. Hamilton

    I am a huge fan of this show and was waiting anxiously for it to come out. While waiting, I discovered it was based on …BOOKS! and immediately got The Cold Dish! OMGoodness…loved it and binge read all the ones that were on the shelf at that time. I have read each new one as it has hit the shelf . Mr. Johnson has a way with words when he writes which makes the stories thoroughly enjoyable. I am now looking forward to his collection of short stories!

  42. Kristen Stewart

    Sounds good!

  43. Sharon Haas

    I’ve been waiting for this! Thanks for the chance to read it early!

  44. CatBookMom

    I plan to re-read the early books in this series starting next month; or perhaps I’ll listen to the audio versions, read by George Guidall. I’ve started this series before, but gotten distracted. I like what I’ve seen of the TV show, too. Would be great to have a copy of the stories.

  45. ravensfan

    Looks great. Would love to win this.

  46. Julie Couture

    Thanks for the chance to win this book!

  47. Terry Foster

    If you get a chance to meet Craig you’ll immediately see where he came up with his main character. They could be brothers.

  48. Jeremy Calkins

    I discovered the Walt Longmire stories through the TV show and have since gone on to devour everything I can find in print. I cannot wait for the collected shorts as I have missed a few along the way.

  49. Andrew Kuligowski

    The good people at Murder by the Book (then, still a brick-and-mortar presence in Denver) got Craig Johnson to sign a copy of The Cold Dish when he was swinging by promoting a later book in the series. That hooked me. I just listened to the audio version of Junkyard Dogs and have Hell is Empty on my TBL (To Be Listened To) stack – George Guidell helps me add onto my reading time by providing a classy audio to Craig’s works that I can listen to during my daily commute.

  50. Alice

    Yes, please! I would love to add this to my collection!!!

  51. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  52. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Revenge! Yes!

  53. Jennifer Weaver

    Love the show and would love to read the books!

  54. Suzanne Rorhus

    Love the show!

  55. Marisa Young

    I love this series of books by Craig Johnson and would love to read The Cold Dish.

  56. Lisa Richardson

    I love the series on television, but I’ve never read the books, and I would love to!

  57. caite fitzgerald

    Yeah, what he said. I have watched and enjoyed the series and would love to start the books!

  58. Lin Larson

    I had never heard of Longmire before, but when the marathon of the first season came on I watched it in its entirety. Love the show and am now planning on reading the books. 🙂

  59. Donna Antonio

    Count me in. This is one of only a few series that my husband and I agree on.

  60. Lori Rutherford

    This would be the most amazing gift for my husband. This is one of the only tv series that he stops everything for until it is over. If I don’t win, I will certainly be looking for it in my bookstore in October!

  61. Trish Rucker

    I am new to Longmire but really want to read this!

  62. Karen Terry

    I love the show Longmire on A&E. I haven’t read any of Johnson’s books, but will start.

  63. Sally

    I liked the tv series so much, I’m working my way through the books and would love to win this book.

  64. susan beamon

    Do not have this volumn of the series, so sure would like to win it.

  65. Jeff Quest

    Loved the series from before the tv series. Great books, each one different from the previous.

  66. bigsandwich6

    Yes to Longmire short stories.

  67. Scott Knight

    Yes to Longmire short stories.

  68. Pam Furry

    I want ANYTHING he writes! I have read everything and am waiting for more. The tv series is very good…the books are amazing.

  69. Greg Mattia

    would truly enjoy these sstories

  70. Joyce Mitchell

    Love the Longmire series. I have a few short stories on my Kindle, but would love a whole collection. Thanks. (Am I the only one who has to have my password replaced every time I log in?)

  71. Barbara Fish

    Please choose me!

  72. Dave Gershen

    Craig Johnson is not only a great writer, he is a wonderful storyteller (go to one of his book signings) and a genuinely nice guy. “Cold Dish” is a great book, as all of his books are. He’s created a character in Walt Longmire that is sorely needed in the morally deficient times in which we live.

  73. Steve Scott

    Loving the TV series – Just bought seasons one and two. Watching the show made me really want to check out the books. I have every Tony Hillerman book, and I think I would like the Longmire series.

  74. Virginia Campbell

    Love Walt & Co. Thank you, Craig Johnson.

    Would be “over the moon” to win a copy of “Wait for Signs”!!!

    My review of “The Cold Dish”:

    “The Cold Dish” of revenge is well-served in the first book of author Craig Johnson’s “Walt Longmire Mystery” series. As the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, Walt Longmire has learned to keep his friends close, his enemies closer, and to keep a close eye on potentially unfriendly situations. A longtime lawman, Walt’s law enforcement career actually began with his tour of duty in Vietnam. Also serving in Vietnam was Walt’s lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear, who now runs the local watering hole, The Red Pony. Walt and Henry go together like salt & pepper in a perfectly-seasoned recipe. Two strong individual characters, quite interesting on their own, but even better as a duo. The depth of their friendship is unspoken, but none-the-less keenly felt. That doesn’t mean that they can’t insult each other to infinity and beyond, which provides much of the laugh-out-loud humor in the book. Along with Walt and Henry, we meet a unique group of supporting characters like Victoria “Vic” Moretti, Walt’s fast & foul-mouthed deputy. A former Philadelphia patrol cop from a long line of police officers, Vic moved to Wyoming along with her husband when he was transferred through his work as an engineer with a mining company. Vic, as loyal as she is loud in expressing her opinions, is also extremely competent, and in her own way, very caring. Rounding out the roster in the sheriff’s office are Ruby, the capable and observant secretary/dispatcher; Ferg, the dutiful deputy; and Turk, more punk than policeman, and more attitude than ability. The setting itself, the stark, majestic beauty of the land, and the history of relationships between the settlers of the past and their modern-day descendants and the native Cheyenne is also an entity with a strong presence. Walt is the kind of detective whom I find most intriguing, flawed and fascinating, his keen intelligence expressed in his deductive reasoning skills and his wry humor. His interactions with the residents of the community, his love for his daughter, and his reflective grief over his wife’s death are all important components of Walt Longmire. When a crime case from the past once again rears its ugly head, this time with murder as the result, prejudices and passions are combined in an explosive mix, one with devastating consequences. Author Craig Johnson writes with a sure sense of his people and their place, their ambitions and weaknesses, and the story line is consistently compelling. The conclusion is shattering–a stunning blow to the senses–yet we are ultimately left with the rekindling of the desire for life to continue and for laughter to reclaim its rightful rank. I was captivated by “The Cold Dish” from the very beginning, and it just got better as the story progressed. However, there was a turning point in the story line for me where Walt has to question a crime witness, a strange, alcohol-fueled, mule-riding man living in a decrepit cabin. The vivid word imagery of the scene and the interplay of dialogue between Walt and the surprisingly informative witness are simply superb, and a very good book then became a keeper. When you read “The Cold Dish”, with my highest recommendation, you will discover exactly what I am talking about, and then, just like me, you will look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

  75. sue

    I’m not familiar with the series YET, but after reading all about it, I am looking forward to it.

  76. Laurie Nutter

    Thank you for the chance to win these short stories. Love the
    Longmire series. Have read one of the books. Would like
    to read more.

  77. Pat Murphy

    Have just started reading the series and would love to get the short stories. I liked the first episode of Longmire but the book presents a whole different perspective on the TV episode.

  78. CBG

    I’ve been a fan of Craig Johnson’s writing for years. Unlike so many other authors, he gets Wyoming right. I’d be proud to own his story collection.

  79. Ronald Roseborough

    The Longmire series is the best western series bar none. Count me in.

  80. Thomas Dodson

    Just started reading this book. I love the TV show and would love to have the collection of short stories, LOVE short stories. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series as well!

  81. Angel Wilde

    Want to read it.

  82. Ellen

    I have been to a couple Craig Johnson book signings and found the author to be as entertaining as his books.

  83. v cess


  84. Wendi Morris

    Love to read “Wait for the Signs”. It will help with my withdrawal during the Longmire hiatus.

  85. sue brandes

    Love this series and would love to win the book. Thanks for the chance.

  86. Charlene Roberson

    I had never heard of Longmire until the TV series, which I LOVE!! Now I am ready to make my way through the books………….

  87. Jim Belcher

    This is a great series and if I could I would drop all my other reads and finish the series today, but alas, my job requires that I read other things. As much as I am enjoying the TV show, it does not hold a candle to the books.

  88. John Monahan

    I really enjoy the books and the show. I hope I win a copy of the new book.

  89. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win

  90. Carol Robinson

    I love all the books and I’m a big fan of the series. Thank you for this contest. For an enthusiastic fan the wait for new books to debut is excrutiatingly long. I’d love the chance to read it sooner!

  91. Saundra K. Warren

    I love the show and the books!

  92. Tricia

    Hmm…sounds great. I would love to get the collection of short stories, Wait for Signs!

  93. Mary Marley

    I think Longmire is the first series where I don’t even mind that the stories on the television and in the books don’t match up.
    Can’t wait to read the short stories!

  94. Susan Robinette

    Love the books, and I can’t wait for the short stories. I’d love to win a copy.

  95. Gregory Sparks

    I’m a late comer to Longmire. I catch teh show on OnDemand. (A&E runs it too late at night.) Also didn’t even realize what channel A&E is.) I enjoy the show, and bought my first Longmire book, last week. Feed my newest addiction.

  96. LabRat517

    I want to thank whoever had the idea to take this great series of books and put them on TV. I had never read any of the Longmire books until I watched this show and I was so hooked by the characters that I raced to my kindle to buy every one of the books. Wonderful, well written books that gave me a look at life in a part of the country I didn’t know. The best part is that Johnson, like authors such as Robert Parker, Harlan Coben, and Sue Grafton, has created real people, not just characters, that you want to get to know better. I hope I win so I can get to read this book as soon as possible.

  97. Anne Marie

    I consider shows made from books as wholy seperate items from the books (see bones) In that way I can enjoy both without comparing the two. I am really looking forward to this collection.

  98. Darlene Slocum

    I would be very upset if I missed an episode of Longmire. Thanks for the chance to win a book. He is now on my reading list. The hour on TV is just too short!

  99. Maureen Wynn

    I love the television series, and now it’s time to start reeading the books, to tide me over until next season!

  100. M Thompson

    Have read every Longmire book to date, and would love to win this prize

  101. Mary J

    I love the TV show and would like to read the books. Looking forward to getting the book that started it all!

  102. Mary Hopper

    I have loved the TV series and really want to read the books!

  103. Lana Baker

    Though I missed the first season, I’ve enjoyed seasons two and three, and recently read The Cold Dish and loved it. Looking forward to more.

  104. Kelley Tackett

    Walt Longmire is such an amazing character. I’m looking forward to many more books and many more seasons of this terrific show.

  105. Steven Head

    First saw Craig on the Kindness Goes Unpunished book tour and have followed all the books since. Prefer the printed Walt with the sense of humor and slower pace to the TV Walt but happy to experience both. So far no one has questioned my recommendation of the Longmire books and hope it stays that way.

  106. meg_evonne

    Just finished listening to the excellent Hell is Empty. So ridiculously pleased that the TV show didn’t attempt Virgil and Dante’s Inferno. Bless their heart. When can Walt go to the Movies? **

  107. Meredith Taylor

    Love the books, love the series on tv. Can a happily married lady have a mad pash for: Craig, Walt, Henry, Robert Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips? well, duh. And the ladies are dam’ cool, too.

  108. Jackie Wisherd

    I am all into Longmire tv show and any book that Craig Johnson has written.

  109. Cindy R

    I’ve never read any of his books but love the TV series! Well done.

  110. meg_evonne

    Cindy, you’ll live the books! Or you can check out the audio version from your library or download them into you phone. Enjoy.

  111. seltaeb

    I can’t believe that A&E canceled the show! I always enjoyed watching it and am bummed to not be able to find out who was shot in the last episode.

    At least we can all continue to enjoy the book series!

  112. David Cranmer

    seltaeb, I don’t see the show being gone by a long shot. Way too popular and I’m betting the creators find another home for it. One where they are better appreciated.

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