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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

C.J. Box On His Latest Joe Pickett Novel, Stone Cold

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HH: There is an amazing story in the New Yorker today. Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandy Hook killer, Adam Lanza, gave a series of six interviews to a New Yorker reporter that will chill you. And what is so weird about it is I have long had scheduled a conversation today with my friend, C.J. Box, the bestselling author of the Joe Pickett series. And the latest Joe Pickett book, Stone Cold, just comes out tomorrow. C.J., welcome back, it’s good to have you as always.

CJB: Well, thank you so much for having me back. Thank you, Hugh.

HH: It is always fun, and this was a terrific read. I had to go back and forth to Colorado this weekend and read it on the plane out, and got envious looks from air passengers. And on the way back, I finished it today. But there is a subplot in Stone Cold that I’m going to start with as opposed to the major plot, which is what do you do about kids who are troubled, young adults before they become killers. And it’s just eerie that I was reading this today when the Adam Lanza piece came out.

CJB: Right. Well, I read that piece, too, thanks to you, and found it fascinating. And you know, that is, it’s a major subplot in the book in that Sheridan, Joe Pickett’s daughter, is a resident assistant at a dorm at the University of Wyoming, and there’s a kind of troubled guy on her floor who stays to himself, wears all black, plays violent video games, and makes her suspicious. But he does nothing that she can turn him in for other than just, she alerts her dad that the guy makes her nervous.

HH: And there is a contact with the parent of the troubled child. That’s why this is so right out of the headlines of the New Yorker today. So my question, C.J., is what drew you to that subplot?

CJB: Well you know, it’s just something I think that everybody thinks, it’s one of those things that just bubbles underneath the news. I think anybody who has kids in school, or in my case, daughters still in college, it’s something I think about. I wish I didn’t. And I wish it wasn’t something that I’d ever need to consider, but it is. And those kind of things make their way into my books.

HH: Now obviously, the University of Wyoming features prominently in Stone Cold, and right down to the cafeteria line and the dining center on Page 79. I gather you’ve eaten there.

CJB: You know, I did that kind of as an in joke, because my youngest daughter would never take me into the dining center. She was too embarrassed. So I wrote that story and said see, this is how daughters should be nice to their fathers.

HH: Well, she took him through the Mongolian Beef, and he enjoyed the Mongolian Beef. But I’m curious, is it true that at the University of Wyoming, students can bring their guns, but they have to check them at a facility on the campus?

CJB: That’s right. They store them there, not just check them. If they want to use their guns, if they’re going to go hunting or something, they can go to the university police and get their guns out and go hunting and then put them back.

HH: At one point in the book, two college students report to the RA, “How many guns are we talking about have gone missing from a dorm? Four, one guy says, my twelve gauge shotgun and Ruger, .357 Magnum revolver, Matt had a .223 Bushmaster and a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol.” Now to a non-gun guy like me, that sounds like there’s an armory. But that’s actually kind of, is that routine?

CJB: It’s not unusual, I’ll put it that way. I know that, I did an interview recently, or talking to somebody about that subplot and mentioned that when I was in college, we used to have our guns in our closets, you know, in case we had to go hunting all of a sudden. So that’s changed a little bit, but no, that’s not unusual.

HH: Yeah, that’s going to be, that’s going to really throw the anti-gun people into a tizzy, that…and my late television producer, Martin Burns, a very good friend of mine, grew up in Idaho, big lefty. He used to take his rifle to high school and leave it in the high school cloak room and they would go hunting after high school.

CJB: I did, too. I’m not kidding, because we would go shoot prairie dogs after school. So we’d need our guns in our lockers.

HH: And so you would just take guns to, that is just amazing to me. All right, so let’s talk a little bit about what you do. When you wrote that subplot, did you talk to the people who handle security for high schools and colleges across the country and what they do about troubled adolescents like Adam Lanza and how, the dilemma is you can’t do anything. And the university administrators can’t do anything. No one can do anything.

CJB: You know, I didn’t talk to anybody. I didn’t interview them, but I did quite a bit of research on Adam Lanza, but also the shooter in Colorado at Aurora.

HH: Yup.

CJB: …and the fact that, and I remember actually some of your interviews about the guy in, oh, where was it in the South where NBC published his manifesto.

HH: Oh, yeah, the guy at Virginia Tech, the killer at Virginia Tech.

CJB: Yeah, I’m sorry, Virginia Tech. But in all those cases, what strikes me and still stays with me is the fact that a lot of people knew that these guys were very, very troubled, but, and this Adam Lanza thing that’s in the New Yorker is even beyond that, because his parents seemed like they tried to do everything they could.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: And it still happened, which, there’s not an easy answer to this.

HH: I was thinking of Lt. Col. David Grossman, whose research group is actually called Killology. He’s been at West Point for years, and he’s written a great deal about video game-inspired violence and corner shooting and stuff like this. And so I just, I found it eerie that you had wrapped that into Stone Cold, and it’s not really the major plot of the book, although it’s got quite a combustible ending to this.

CJB: Right, and it’s always on Joe’s mind throughout the entire book. Every time his cell phone rings, he’s scared to death what might be on the other end.

HH: Now this book is a different part of Wyoming. You took Joe out of his normal habitat.

CJB: Right. He’s normally stationed in and around the Bighorn mountains, but in this case, the governor has asked Joe once again, he’s reinstated him as a game warden, and he’s asked Joe to go up into the very corner, the northeastern part of Wyoming, which is the Black Hills. Most people have heard of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Those Black Hills extend into Wyoming. And he asked Joe to go up there and investigate some rumors that there, that a guy has purchased a very large ranch, and the rumor is that he finances himself by being a high-class hit man.

HH: And Medicine Wheel County does not actually exist, does it?

CJB: It does not actually exist.

HH: But there is a Medicine Wheel in a national monument up there, because I was doing my research for this, and I said well, let’s find out where Medicine Wheel County is, and you threw me a curveball. There is no Medicine Wheel County.

CJB: No, I didn’t want to make the people who live in the real county feel bad.

HH: Okay. Well, it’s pretty interesting. Was there in fact a place that Harvey Longabaugh, otherwise aka Sundance Kid, lived in Wyoming?

CJB: Absolutely. That’s Sundance, and that’s one place I didn’t fictionalize the name for. But yeah, the little town of Sundance up there in the Black Hills is where the Sundance Kid got his name. He was arrested as a 17 year old trying to steal a horse, a rifle, and a saddle. And while he was in jail, he called himself the Sundance Kid.

HH: And when we come back from break, I’m going to talk about the key plot here, but before I do that, Governor Rulon, who is a feature in the Joe Pickett novel, is he loosely based on Brian Schweitzer, because he’s a Democrat, and he’s an anti-federal guy, but he’s a Democrat.

CJB: You know, I introduced him before Schweitzer was a governor.

HH: Oh, you did?

CJB: And I actually, when I introduced him, I was thinking more of actually Governor Janklow of South Dakota at the time.

HH: Oh, sure. Sure. And he’s a terrific character. What are you going to do when he’s termed out in three years, though?

CJB: Well, there’ll be a new governor. And I don’t know what he’ll be like.

HH: Do you hear from any of the Democrats up in that part of the world to say that Rulon is their hero?

CJB: Well, there’s only about five of them, but the ex-Democratic governor of Wyoming, in fact, always reads the books. And whenever I see him, he tells me I’m just way too hard on governors.

HH: C.J., where are you going with Stone Cold, by the way? People can go to, I’m sure, and find out, but give us the quick précis of where you’re headed.

CJB: Oh, it starts tomorrow in Laramie and Cheyenne, and then Denver, Phoenix, Tucson, the Tucson Book Festival, which is terrific, then Houston, Austin, St. Louis, New York, Boulder, Cheyenne, Sheridan, Casper, Wyoming.

HH: Do you have any idea where it’s going to open on the New York Times bestseller list, because you always open high.

CJB: I don’t. I’m very optimistic, because the last three have all debuted in the top five, so you know, I’m crossing my fingers.

HH: Now for the first time ever, the reason I asked you to do it this hour, I am now carried live in Casper, Wyoming.

CJB: My hometown.

HH: And so do the people of Casper get belligerent with you that Cheyenne and Laramie get more time than Casper does?

CJB: A little bit, yes. Every place in Wyoming wants to know why they aren’t featured.

HH: You know, that must be, are you like the most famous Wyoming writer?

CJB: I don’t know. I think I’ve probably sold more books than anyone else.

HH: I think that to be the local, can you go around Wyoming without people saying there’s C.J. Box?

CJB: Less and less all the time now.

HH: Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

CJB: It is a good thing.

— – – – – – –

HH: Hank Williams [Jr.] is featured in C.J. Box’ new book, Stone Cold. You must know, C.J., that whenever you do an interview with me, we will pull the bump music from out of the book about which we are talking.

CJB: You know, I actually keep that in mind now, because Duane has given me a hard time now for a couple of them where I don’t have enough songs mentioned.

HH: We need at least four and you gave me three this time.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: People have to, you came up one short. Now look, I also have to bring to mind, I don’t know if you are like me. My favorite all-time television show is Friday Night Lights. And did you ever watch that, C.J. Box?

CJB: I’m a huge fan of that show, yes. We watched, we started late, but then we got caught up and watched every single one of them. Love them.

HH: All right, so you know that there’s a bad boy high school rodeo star in Friday Night Lights, and there is a bad boy high school rodeo star in Stone Cold by the name of Dallas Cates. I’m just curious if that was in the back of your mind when you wrote Dallas Cates into this story.

CJB: Not necessarily, but I’ve had a plotline in mind with a rodeo guy for years and years now, and I’m finally going to probably do that with the next book.

HH: Now have you ever traveled with these rodeo people, because I went down and covered the rodeo convention in Las Vegas a few years ago, and of course, drew upon my vast experience in the land of rodeo.

CJB: And I heard that, and it was one of the funniest, some of the funniest interviews I have ever heard.

HH: Well, I was displaying some of my knowledge there. But in terms of the bad boy here, had he appeared before?

CJB: No, no, it’s his first time.

HH: Okay, so I didn’t think so, but after 14 novels, you can lose a few strings in the thread. So let’s go to the major part. You’re up in this sort of distraught part of the country, and I want to send people this, just again, I never give away plot, but up in Northeastern Wyoming, the copper mines closed in the 20s, the gold mine closed in the 30s, the coal miners got shut down by the EPA five years ago, you write, the Fed put new cleaning regulations out and power plants couldn’t afford to finance new scrubbers. The coal was too expensive to burn, and the low sulfur coal from Gillette went out. Then the lumber industry went down. Is this, in fact, a snapshot of the Great Plains?

CJB: It certainly, I think it’s an accurate portrayal of some parts of the Rocky Mountains and the Plains right now. You know, most of these states kind of survive by extractive industries. And one by one, they’re going by the wayside. That doesn’t mean they may not come back, but right now, that’s what they talk about – coal mines being closed down, refineries being closed down, timber sales not being made, yes.

HH: You also have a character say the tourism economy died when the interstate highway system routed I-90 north of the old line, so tourists shoot right through the top of the county and not past through those old towns anymore. Now that happened when Route 66 got replaced. Did the 90 destroy a whole bunch of northern towns?

CJB: It did in the Black Hills of Wyoming at least. Yeah, there used to be highways that would go through all those little towns that just simply, the highways are still there, of course, but very few people go off the interstate. So yeah, those places…

HH: And all of the people, they headed to North Dakota in the last few years to get in on the Bakken play? Is that true? Is Wyoming losing population to North Dakota?

CJB: No, Wyoming’s actually gaining population, but North Dakota’s gaining it much, much more.

HH: Oh, I’m just amazed by these books. People must want you to come and stay in their town and then live with a little anticipation both good and bad as to whether or not you’re going to be good to them.

CJB: Actually, I usually kind of just sneak around. I kind of interview people, talk to people, but don’t say I’m basing a book on this area.

HH: What’s the deal with the white hat on the back page, C.J.? You’re normally wearing your black Stetson.

CJB: You know, I normally am. The publishers chose that picture, which sort of shocked me. But you know, what can I say?

HH: All right, now the next part of this is people will be surprised, or let’s, for folks in Casper and other places who have not heard you on the show before, tell them who Joe Pickett is.

CJB: Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden, and he was introduced in the first book, Open Season, way back in 2001. And his district is the Bighorns area. He lives in a fictional town called Saddlestring, Wyoming, and he’s married to his wife, Marybeth. He has two daughters and a ward, all girls. And he loves his wife and kids, but he also gets embroiled in controversies and trouble in just about every book, and not necessarily because he’s the sharpest knife in the drawer, but because once he gets involved with something, he almost has a fatal flaw of wanting to see it through every time.

HH: And C.J. has won the Edgar, the Anthony, the Macavity, the Gumshoe and the Barry Awards. This is his 14th Joe Pickett. It’s been translated into 27 languages. That’s quite a ride over a decade, C.J.

CJB: Yeah, I’m just always very happy how well each book does. Each one has done better than the previous one. And they, all the books are still in print, and it just continues to go kind of like a freight train. And I’m glad I’m a passenger on it.

HH: Now there’s always a story in here which is usually torn from the front pages. It just happens that you’ve got the troubled adolescent like the New Yorker today, but the main story is about vigilante justice. And I’m curious, was there a predicate?

CJB: The only predicate is some stories I heard several years ago from some ranch people. And actually, in another part of Wyoming, that is was not a very well-kept secret that the local philanthropist-rancher who would fly away in his plane and come back two weeks later with lots of cash was probably killing people for hire. But nobody really had a problem with that, because you know, he would buy the football uniforms for the team, and help out anybody who needed help, and he’d be the first guy to step up whenever there was anything needed to be done in the county. And I just always found that intriguing that all these people seemed to know what he did, but didn’t have a problem with it.

HH: Did you believe it?

CJB: You know, I could not trace it down to a certain name. It’s just that I heard it twice from two different people about the same area.

HH: And it’s fascinating to me how that could possibly go on. By the way, for Joe Pickett novel lovers, they will be surprised that there’s actually a snatch and grab in the city of New York in the middle of this book.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: How did you research that?

CJB: Every year when I go to New York on the book tour, we stay at the Beacon Hotel. And I’ve done the walk from the Beacon to the Dakota many times, so I knew the route, knew the area, knew when it got full with theater goers, and just used that.

HH: And Zabar’s, I don’t know if they’re going to be happy or not. But is that your favorite nosh?

CJB: It’s not really, but it’s very iconic for New York.

HH: It is, and the snatch and grab, you know, there are a lot of thrillers that are set in New York City, and it’s a very high tech city, the most surveilled city in the world other than London. And you have to weave that into this. So it’s sort of a new challenge for C.J.?

CJB: Well, it’s certainly different from what I usually write, because one of the reasons I love to write about the mountain west and all these locations that are in the middle of nowhere is that there aren’t security cameras everywhere. And in this case, there were.

HH: And no, and there isn’t, there’s an internet that’s very grumpy at the Carnegie. By the way, has there been a Carnegie Library before?

CJB: There’s, well, there’s Carnegie…no. Marybeth, Joe’s wife…

HH: Yeah.

CJB: …yeah, she has worked at this library on and off throughout many of the books.

HH: Did you call it a Carnegie before?

CJB: I think I did, yes.

HH: Because there’s a Carnegie Library in Warren, Ohio, in which much of my youth was misspent. And they’re all over the country, and I didn’t realize that Carnegie had built any in Wyoming. Are they actually up in Wyoming?

CJB: Most of them have been replaced, but those were the original ones.

— – – – —

HH: That’s Chris LeDoux. Am I pronouncing that right, C.J. Box?

CJB: LeDoux.

HH: LeDoux. You may now know that I’ve never heard of Chris LeDoux until I read Stone Cold.

CJB: That’s okay. He’s a local favorite.

HH: Oh, he is, up in Wyoming?

CJB: Oh, yeah.

HH: All right, now I have to tell people the backstory. C.J. Box is my friend, bestselling novelist. His latest book comes out tomorrow, Stone Cold, the fourteenth Joe Pickett story. Yesterday, C.J., I always call you Joe. It’s so funny. Yesterday, C.J., in the Toronto Sun, you’ll find this very…just yesterday, scientists have discovered Yellowstone National Park super volcano is two and a half times larger than previously thought. And it could erupt with two thousand times the force of Mt. St. Helens. The headline is, When Will Yellowstone Blow? Super Volcano Threatens To Wipe Out Much Of North America. And the story then goes on, I’m Tweeting it out now, goes on to detail the horrific aftereffect. And so I always have to tell people you and I know each other because of Bill Bryson’s super volcano part of the Brief History Of Nearly Everything.

CJB: That’s right, because I’m a member of the Hughniverse, I’m a big fan, and I was getting really tired of hearing you talk about the super volcano, and how dangerous it was. So several years ago, I think I sent you an email and said I’m in Yellowstone Park right now, it’s beautiful, you should come visit, and you should read my books. And so I sent you the Yellowstone book called Free Fire, and luckily, you replied back and said send them all.

HH: And full force Yellowstone eruption, according to yesterday’s Toronto Sun, would probably kill millions and make much of North America uninhabitable.

CJB: Correct, if that ever happens. It’s way overdue. There’s no reason not to…

HH: That’s what I mean. It’s way overdue, and you shrug it off continually, and that there’s not even a mention of it in Stone Cold.

CJB: No, and I didn’t mention the earthquake fault in California, either.

HH: Well, that’s not going to cause millions to die, I don’t think. Now is Cheyenne, Wyoming actually known as the Magic City of the Plains?

CJB: That’s an old moniker, yeah. I think when they first brought the railroad here, that was one of the, like a tourism slogan.

HH: Is it still on signs around Cheyenne, because I’ve been to Cheyenne, and I didn’t really associate it with being the Magic City of the Plains.

CJB: Well, I live here, and I really don’t, either. But…

HH: Okay.

CJB: Yeah, that’s still used in some tourism brochures.

HH: Another target of Stone Cold are internet millionaires, including Rocco Biolchini and Fonnesbeck and all these super duper billionaires. I’m wondering if you’re…did you have a bad experience with Facebook or Twitter, C.J?

CJB: No, I didn’t, but I think one of the subplots, obviously, is that the people who are being killed are sort of like super elites who seem untouchable. And our guy, our rancher-assassin, is one of the few people who can get to them. So there’s, I think, pretty annoying caricatures that meet a bad end.

HH: Well, Bernie Madoff is caricatured in this book, or parts of Bernie Madoff.

CJB: Sure.

HH: And I’m curious what the reaction is to the idea of vigilante justice going after people who ruin millions. Anyone told you, yet, where they’re made uneasy by vigilante justice?

CJB: You know, I hope somebody does at some point, but no, so far, of the people who’ve read it, you know, are kind of upset that Joe Pickett might put him out of business.

HH: And what about Nate Romanowski? Now there’s, you have to explain the Nate Romanowski character to people who have not heard you before.

CJB: Nate Romanowski is a kind of outlaw falconer with a Special Forces background and a code of his own who happens to carry the largest handgun in the world.

HH: Which is a…

CJB: It’s now a .500 Wyoming Express. It’s a .50 caliber, five-shot revolver. And…

HH: Who makes that?

CJB: Freedom Arms in Freedom, Wyoming.

HH: And so how many of those do they sell a year?

CJB: I don’t know. It’s into the thousands, and I know that they’ve sold even more since Nate started carrying one.

HH: Well, I’ll bet, and I wonder if they love you. Do you own one?

CJB: I don’t. I can’t really handle a gun that big, but yes, they do love me. And whenever they have a new model, they let me know. And they want me to come shoot it.

HH: And do they have a signature C.J. Box .500?

CJB: No, they should, but they don’t.

HH: They should. They absolutely should. They should have a limited edition. So anyway, Nate Romanowski has always been a beloved character, but how are people reacting to his crossing the line here?

CJB: Well, a little bit uneasily, but I think that’s kind of what I’m going for here. I mean, I don’t really want a kind of series where you know, Joe Pickett gets in trouble and Nate Romanowski comes in and shoots everybody in the end. Their relationship has really varied.

HH: That’s not what happens. It is a very different book.

— – – – –

HH: That’s Chris LeDoux. Did I get it right this time?

CJB: You got it right. Yeah, I like that song.

HH: Hooked On An 8 Second Ride. That reminds me of my black cow/brown cow question. And my ex-friend, Carl Catlin, wanted me to ask you if you thought black cows were more dangerous than brown cows, but I’m not going to fall for that bait.

CJB: Well, I think you got a good answer, which was just stunned silence.

HH: Well, you know, you’ve got to ask the questions that occur. Now this is interesting about Stone Cold. I’m going to go back to the Malaysian Airlines MH-370 disappearance in the next hour, and at the Toronto Sun, which surfaced the Yellowstone story, they have also got a story on the five top conspiracy theories as to what happened to the airplane. This is number three – trapped in Vietnam. Oil slicks were spotted off the coast of Vietnam on Saturday, and even though investigators said they were not left by the missing plane, one conspiracy suggests hijackers are now holding passengers and crew hostage at an abandoned Vietnamese airport.

CJB: Wow.

HH: The theory was seconded by some friends and relatives who say their loved ones’ cell phones were ringing unanswered even days after the plane disappeared, proving, they say, the phones were still functioning. Now C.J., in Stone Cold, there are a network of private airports around the country. Now how much of that springs like Athena from the head of Zeus out of your imagination, and how much of that is just the way the West works?

CJB: Well, actually, it’s the whole country. There are a lot of small, private airfields on big land holdings. I know of several on big ranches in and around Wyoming and Montana, so yeah, they exist.

HH: But they can’t be big enough to take a complete plane, right?

CJB: Well, they can take small planes.

HH: I know, there are lots of, I just, I think that is the weirdest of the Malaysian Airlines conspiracy theories. All right, back to Stone Cold. Also a fact check – elk hiding from hunters by standing in one place and freezing like stone, Page 246. Does that happen?

CJB: Yes, it does, because I think, I’m a hunter, and you know, what you’d always look for is movement. And if there’s no movement, often you can realize that you’ve overlooked elk and other kind of animals that you’re hunting for.

HH: But I mean, but is it documented behavior?

CJB: Yeah, they learn if they’re hunted enough.

HH: That is amazing. That was a pretty neat little information. Now you have a special needs child in Stone Cold, a child with muscular dystrophy. What inspired that character development?

CJB: It was just kind of a storyline to show the benevolence of the rancher, rancher-hit man, that he would take care of this kid for the local game warden, but in the same way, also kind of buy his influence.

HH: So did you set out to make everyone right on the razor’s edge of good and bad?

CJB: Yes.

HH: That’s pretty cool, except for the local bozos who are the hit people, I mean, the thugs. They’re not the hit people. They’re the thugs.

CJB: Right. They’re just thugs. They’re poachers and just, yeah, they should be in jail.

HH: And so they work for the bad…but you’re ambivalent about this bad guy.

CJB: Well, you know, I’ve in the past sometimes had really, really bad villains. And in this case, I wanted to not necessarily empathize with him, but explain what he was like and why he did what he did, and let the reader come down where they may.

HH: Now people are going to have to come to their own conclusions about Whip, who is a CIA black operator during Operation Desert Storm. He was with an off the books rendition and interrogation unit. But his cover got blown by a whistleblower in the same unit who claimed Whipple murdered a couple of Iraqi Republican Guards who wouldn’t cooperate. Now how do you think the Special Forces are going to react to Whip? You must have a lot of people who love Nate Romanowski from that community.

CJB: I do. I do meet people who are from that community who like Nate. I think they will probably not like Whip very much because of what he does and how he acts, and his lack of ethics. But I think they generally tend to like Nate.

HH: But he is himself an excellent fly fisherman, and I like the part that you’ve now introduced sinister fly fishermen into your series.

CJB: There aren’t many sinister fly fishermen.

HH: No, there are not, actually. They’re kind of dull, mostly. I say that with a great deal of affection for my fly fishermen. But Whip, I’m not sure that the fly fishing community is going to like the idea that the Lyle Dickerson model 813 built in 1959 cost $10,000 dollars.

CJB: It’s true.

HH: I can’t believe that.

CJB: Well, those are like vintage bamboo custom made rods. Most fly fisherman, of which I am one, and not a boring one…

HH: You’re not boring.

CJB: No.

HH: But the sport is.

CJB: We use much more modern and cheaper equipment.

HH: Why, this is way off target, but why would anyone care if it’s bamboo as opposed to modern graphite? It’s not a golf club.

CJB: Well, because bamboo is just vintage. I have a bamboo rod that I love to use. They’re great action, they’re just not as practical or as cheap.

HH: All right, the last serious line of inquiry here, and I haven’t given anything away, I hope not, but everybody is corrupt in this book in this county, because the economy has cratered. So everyone is, not everyone, but 90% of the people are on the exchange. You know when Romney got in trouble when he said the 47% comment…

CJB: Right.

HH: You paint a picture of a part of the country where dependency has become the norm. Is that the reality that you’re running into in various parts of the great west?

CJB: In some parts, yes. To be honest, I’ve seen it more in some of the heartland in the Midwest in some communities, and not quite as much out here in the West where nearly everybody is on some kind of support. And that’s the case here. Everybody who has any initiative has left this county leaving only those who are beholden to this ranch owner and to their EBT cards.

HH: And EBT being electronic benefits transfer.

CJB: Right.

HH: You see, I, it’s so, it would be a source of despair if this were real. I mean, there are Farkas’ everywhere, and you’ve got a Farkus, and that’s a famous character who reappears in Joe Pickett novels. But the epidemic of dependency that you describe here, have you, do you actually think that exists in places?

CJB: It exists in pockets throughout the U.S., and surprisingly in some very rural areas.

HH: You see, that’s going to be a wake-up call as many other things. I have one more comment to make with C.J. Box. Don’t go anywhere, America. We’re out of bumps, because he only gave us three bumps, so we’re just going to come back with George Strait in homage to C.J. Box.

— – – – –

HH: Now C.J., I have a marketing suggestion for you. Over at, you can get any of the Joe Pickett novels and your four standalones, including the bestseller, The Highway. But you can’t get them all at once. And I have a pal, Archbishop Chaput in Philadelphia, who not only is the first Native American archbishop, he is also, was previously the bishop of Rapid City. So he kind of knows the Mountain West. And I want to send him your books, because we are, we exchange book recommendations I send him. But you have to send 14 different books if you order them. Can you just have a send every Joe Pickett book button to your friend?

CJB: There is a place, there’s a little museum in Wyoming that bundles them all up and sells them as what they call a boxed set.

HH: Oh, where is that? What is that?

CJB: It’s the encampment, Grand Encampment Museum.

HH: The Grand Encampment Museum. And they do that off their website?

CJB: Yes, they do.

HH: All right, you have solved my problem. But I think, I hope they’re paying you something for that.

CJB: Oh, no, I’m just happy that they do it.

HH: Now C.J., you also have in here the youngest of Joe’s daughters is dating Noah After Buffalo, a northern Arapahoe from the reservation school. He was bright, polite, handsome. Lucy had met him at a debate tournament where they had competed against each other in dramatic interpretation. He seemed like a smart, well-adjusted boy. Still… That still is not because he’s a Native American, but because she’s dating, I assume. But you do have a lot of Native American factoids throughout the Joe Pickett novels. How do the Native American communities react to these?

CJB: You know what? I’ve never gotten any negative reaction. I try to be very realistic in the portrayal. I’m not one to romanticize things on the core conditions on the reservation. I try to keep it fairly accurate. But I’ve not had any complaints, and I’ve heard fairly good things, and I know that I’ve got some real Indian fans that follow each book.

HH: I just thought that was a neat, little way, Noah After Buffalo. And so when you come up with the names, how do you come up with, I know how you come up with the names for a lot of your characters who are bailiffs and judges and things like that. But how do you come up with your Native American names?

CJB: In this case, I went to, I checked the website for the Northern Arapahoe tribe, and chose a name from there so that I knew that it would be accurate.

HH: Oh, that’s very interesting. And what’s a red holiday, C.J.?

CJB: A red holiday is when certain kind of not-hunter types, but shooter types, go on trips just to shoot things like prairie dogs.

HH: So do you keep a little notebook of terms that you want to introduce that we flatlanders will then find to be intriguing and out of the box?

CJB: Better than that, I just write novels and include them.

HH: Well, C.J., this is a great one. Stone Cold in bookstores everywhere, my hat is off to you. And what’s next? Short stories.

CJB: You know what? There’ll be another Joe Pickett book, and there’ll be an anthology of short stories this summer. But I did want to say I bought six copies of The Happiest Life for my family, and they all like it.

HH: Oh, you’re a wonderful human being, C.J. Box, and Stone Cold is a wonderful book. It’s linked at Go meet him in person. He’s actually nice. He’s not Nate at all. And you can find out where he’s going to be by going to

End of interview.


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