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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

C.J. Box On His Latest Joe Pickett Novel, Breaking Point

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HH: You know, I do about 700 hours of original programming every single year. But at least at the beginning of the year, I know four of those hours, sometimes five or six, are going to be devoted to my favorite authors. Vince Flynn always comes by, Daniel Silva always comes by, Alex Berenson always comes by, and C.J. Box always comes by. And then I have to say four to six, because C.J. usually turns out two books a year. But this year, he has started with his absolute best yet. Well, I have a soft spot for the Yellowstone book, of course, but Breaking Point is the new Joe Pickett novel by C.J. Box. He’s in the studio with me. C.J., welcome back, it’s great to have you.

CJB: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me back.

HH: Let’s, for the people who have lived in a cave and haven’t listened to the Hugh Hewitt Show, they’re going to run out and buy Breaking Point, but I always say to them that’s fine, they all stand alone, people can buy any of your novels. But they ought to start at the beginning of the Joe Pickett series and work through it. Tell people a little bit about who Joe is before we get to Breaking Point.

CJB: Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden, so he’s not the typical thriller/mystery kind of protagonist. He’s a state employee. He lives in the Bighorns in Wyoming, that’s kind of north central Wyoming with his family and his daughters, and he has a knack of getting in the middle of big controversies and big issues. And the one thing about Joe, he’s not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer sometimes, but he will pursue something to the very end of it, and despite what the harm it will do his career, and sometimes danger to him and his family, but he’ll ride it out. And so that’s where he’s a little bit different than the average PI or detective, or something like that. So it’s very outdoors oriented, very issue oriented, a lot of cutting edge environmental issues are in the books, this one especially.

HH: And great, great fun. I mean, I love Joe now, and I love his wife. And you brought the wonderful Mrs. Box with you.

CJB: I did.

HH: And Mrs. Box is in studio, welcome to you, it’s great to have you join us for the first time. That’s unusual for you, and I’m glad that you did, but not unusual for your books. How much of Laurie is in Mrs. Joe?

CJB: Well, certainly the lovely Mrs. Box has four horses, and we live outside of town, and we have daughters as well.

HH: Did she ever try to remodel a hotel?

CJB: No.

HH: Okay, don’t do that.

CJB: (laughing)

HH: We’ll come to that.

CJB: Okay.

HH: That’s a subplot. But C.J., you have taken off, dude. You’re big.

CJB: It’s going well, and a lot of thanks to you. It’s amazing how many places I go where people come up and say I heard you on the Hugh Hewitt Show, I had to buy the books. And I appreciate that.

HH: Well, I’m glad that happens, but it’s all you, because Joe is great, and the other books are great. And I’m just thrilled that people have become, I mean, they’re now bestsellers, and I’m sure your publisher is banging on you about when’s our next Joe Pickett novel coming out. And so where are you going on this trip?

CJB: Oh, jeez, I’m going to be spending a lot more time on the East Coast this time, up and down Florida, to New York, a couple of nights in New York, the Virginia book festival with John Grisham. They’re listing me with John Grisham. And so it’s about a three week tour, and Denver, Phoenix, all over.

HH: And all the books are available at

CJB: As well as the tour dates and the details, yeah.

HH: And it’s, right?

CJB: Correct.

HH: And so how many Joe Pickett novels are there?

CJB: This is the 13th.

HH: Lucky 13.

CJB: Lucky 13.

HH: And you’ve also got a number of standalone books. Tell people about those so when they go to, if they’re looking for Joe Pickett, they can find those. But there’s some incredible, Blue Heaven is one of my favorite reads ever.

CJB: Thank you, yeah, there’s three standalones – Blue Heaven, Three Weeks To Say Goodbye, and Back Of Beyond. They came out two years ago. And then later this year, a Cody Hoyt book, who was introduced in Back of Beyond, will be out in late July, and that’s called The Highway.

HH: And so Cody, you’ll be back to talk Cody with me.

CJB: I hope so.

HH: But today, we’re talking Joe Pickett, and we’re talking particularly Breaking Point. Now the reason I love this book so much is that I have spent 20 years, and continue to practice in the field of federal environmental permitting and regulation. Some of your books have touched on this before. And I have lots of friends in the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, so I want to say this at the beginning. You’re very particular in pointing out how much you have affection for and love for, but there are a lot of bad apples in these agencies, and they do a lot of dumb things. And Breaking Point is about a land owner who got on the wrong side of one of these agencies for reasons that we’ll talk about here. And I think it’s going to have a pretty profound effect. But you based it on the Sackett case in part.

CJB: Right.

HH: Would you explain to people what the Sackett case is?

CJB: Well, I’m not a lawyer, but actually, the first time I heard about the Sackett case was from your show, and I was kind of looking around for something like that at the time to kind of reflect a very growing discontent out there in the middle of the country as the federal agencies are in states where they dominate the landscape. And the Sackett case, the more I looked into it, the more outraged I got. I was furious by the time the research I did on it. And what it is, is it’s a young couple in Idaho up by Priest Lake, Idaho, and they bought a two acre plot in a subdivision, with houses on all four sides, and it was going to be their dream home. They paid $24,000 dollars for it. So it was about all they could afford. And once they started to move dirt to build the foundation, out of the blue, three mid-level EPA employees flew up from Boise eight hours away, handed out their business cards, and said this is a wetlands, and you’ve got to restore it, put all that dirt back, and for every day you don’t do it, you’re going to be fined $80,000 dollars. And they were stunned, of course, as anybody would be, because there was no arrest, there was no paperwork. And then they went through, and it’s now going on six years, just a nightmare of trying to one, get some kind of documentation on what they’d actually done wrong. Luckily, they got people to defend them, but until that time, those $80,000 daily fines were racking up to a couple that, they couldn’t afford one day’s worth of fines at the time.

HH: And so the Sackett case became internationally known, and a Supreme Court decision that was a 9-0 decision in favor of the landowners. And I’m not going to bore people with the specifics about standing and exhaustion of administrative remedies, and ripeness, and all the issues that were there. It was a huge win for landowners facing federal regulatory overkill.

CJB: Right.

HH: And so it makes up, and by the way, you were out last week to the Pacific Legal Foundation benefit, that benefits the PLF, which defended the Sacketts. How did that go?

CJB: It was wonderful. It was great to finally meet the Sacketts. I did talk to Mike Sackett on the phone when I was doing the research, and Pacific Legal Foundation was really helpful in providing information so that like I said, I’m not a lawyer, so the legal things I wanted to get as right as I could, so that it would be similar to the Sackett case. It’s not the Sackett case, but in fact, in the book, it refers to the Sackett case that happened in Idaho, and this is happening again. But it was really terrific. I met the lawyer who argued the case and won, and just an awful lot of really good people at this.

HH: And George Will was speaking, and Mike Reagan was there. We’re broadcasting from the studios, so I’m glad you had a chance to meet Mike. They must love this book, because it’s often difficult to make people realize what the government can do when they’re coming down on someone. Sometimes, people need to be come down on, but when you’re an innocent, as your characters are in Breaking Point, to a point they’re innocent, or the Sacketts, it’s awful. You’re up against an agency that employs a million people, the federal government, that are civilians with an unlimited budget, they can do whatever they want, and you can’t make them answer anything.

CJB: Right. I think a story like this is almost best told when fictionalized in some ways, because the legal, the  pure non-fiction legal story would outrage anybody, but also get very complicated and hard to understand. But if you can put a face on this kind of outrage, and have the reader learn the characters, know the characters, know the motivations, know the frustrations, I think it actually resonates more than if it was just a pure transcript.

HH: Now it must have been hard not, you wear a black hat. You’ve got your Stetson with you. But it must have been hard not to make every federal employee wear a black hat, because it’s important not to do that. In fact, there’s some ambivalence about some of these federal employees – the agents who are victims, the agents who are behind it. It’s pretty hard, because we don’t want to turn ever fed into a black hat.

CJB: No, and it was kind of a trick while writing it, because I was kind of doing it almost in a red-tinged fury. And luckily, I had an editor in New York who kind of said back off a little bit. And it kind of made me realize I was just too angry. And so I rewrote the book, actually.

HH: Did your editor believe this happened?

CJB: He didn’t at first, and he went and got in the internet, and then found out that it was all…the most outrageous things in the story are true.

HH: Yeah. The Easter, when I put out a tweet a few weeks ago, I read your book in a single sitting. It was a long sitting. It was a flight back from Tokyo. But it was a single sitting. And I pointed out that this is going to help me make people understand what it is I deal with every day – federal employees who are indifferent to due process, who are unaccountable generally, and who are very difficult to get to pay attention. At their best, they’re busy, right? There are millions of things to do. And so that comes through. Have you done anything like this before?

CJB: Well you know, a few of the books have taken real issues. I mean, the very first one, Open Season, remember, we talked, it was about the Endangered Species Act.

HH: We’ll be right back.

— – –

HH: That is Cleaning My Gun by Mark Knopfler. If you open up Breaking Point, the very first thing you come to is a line from that song, which reads, “You can still get gas in Heaven, and drink in Kingdom come. In the meantime, I’m cleaning my gun.” Why did you begin your book, C.J., with that?

CJB: Actually, as I was doing the research for this book, I’m always listening to music, and sometimes, there’s a set of lyrics that fit so perfect for the book that I wrote it down and I kept it.

HH: There’s music throughout the book. We’ll play a couple more bumps, but I’m talking with C.J. Box. His brand new book is Breaking Point, the latest, the 13th, the lucky 13th of the Joe Pickett novels. And I broke one of my cardinal rules, C.J. I didn’t have people, they might not know, they might be our new listeners. I always keep my new audiences here. We just added Illinois, we’ve got new ones in upstate South Carolina, in Albuquerque, in Columbus, Ohio. And so tell people about how you got into this, because it’s one of the more interesting stories in fiction writing.

CJB: In writing in general? I was a journalist, a small time journalist working in Wyoming, and I had always, I’ve always been interested in real life stuff, real issues, and I started working on a manuscript, jeez, over 20 years ago, that later became Open Season, that was about the Endangered Species Act. And it closely followed the black-footed ferret controversy in Wyoming. And the thing about that one that was so fascinating to me was that when these supposedly extinct creatures were finally found, all the ranch owners in the area knew all along they’d been there, and they just kept their mouth shut. And that, to me, was a very interesting story. And when I went to write it in a fiction way, the game warden became the protagonist, because he naturally would be involved in something like that. And then the publisher wanted additional books with that game warden, and that’s how this series was born.

HH: So the arc of a career, I’m always fascinated by it. You know, I’m looking at Laurie. Did you have any idea this was going to turn out this weel?

LB: No.

HH: Yeah, she’s saying no. You’re writing away, you’re scribbling, as there are millions of novelists everywhere. You hit the formula, you find the character, you find your voice. And 20 years later, you’re a New York Times bestseller. Breaking Point will be on lists everywhere, you’ll win more awards like you always win, because it’s a really wonderful book. But in the course of that, did you ever get bored with Joe?

CJB: No. I think the reason I haven’t been bored with him is because every book is an issue and a theme that I’m fascinated by and want to research myself anyway, but also because in the books, he ages and his family age in real time. So every book, it’s a different scenario. Anybody who has kids knows that.

HH: He has three girls.

CJB. Three girls.

HH: Or two by his wife, and then one that they’ve adopted.

CJB: Right, and his oldest daughter, Sheridan, the first book, Open Season, is seven years old.

HH: And she’s in college.

CJB: And in this book, she’s first year in the University of Wyoming. So the scenario changes with every book.

HH: Yeah, and I think that is one of the great endearing things, as do other of the characters. The sheriff is back, and we won’t tell people about his role here. He’s back. He’s been around a lot. Two sheriffs, actually – Sheriff Mike Reed and Sheriff McLanahan. But I also, I want to bring up the fact that on Page 293, there is fire in this book.

CJB: Right.

HH: Has there been fire in your previous books?

CJB: No.

HH: Okay, this is interesting. This is big fire, and out here in Southern California, they happen every four or five years where trees explode because the beetle disease is everywhere.

CJB: Right.

HH: Is that the same beetle that’s destroying the mountains around Big Bear, et cetera, that’s working its way through…

CJB: I would guess that it is, because the whole thing started in Canada, and it’s been working its way south to the point where now, the entire Rocky Mountains, from Montana to New Mexico, are filled with dead trees.

HH: And it’s very well written, and how fire moves, and how scary it is.

CJB: Thanks.

HH: But in the course of one of these fire chapters, a lone black wolf crosses Joe’s path. Has he been in any of the books before?

CJB: He’s been in about three of them. And each time, it’s just a single sighting that Joe makes, notes that they’re not supposed to really be there, but he keeps seeing it.

HH: He looks him in the eye, and so is there a future book about wolves?

CJB: There may be, but this wolf also appeared a couple of books ago when he, in Nowhere To Run, where he finally gets out of the mountains after just getting beat up.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: And that’s one of the first things he sees when he gets out of…

HH: I love stuff like that when it recurs again and again. There’s also a new Department of Fish & Game director. This one is Lisa Greene Dempsey. Have I got it right?

CJB: Correct.



HH: LGD. She’s so perfectly painted, and in a sympathetic way. Explain to people who she is, because she is a new kind of political appointee.

CJB: Right, she’s well meaning. Her heart is in the right place. And all of her instincts are wrong. And she’s appointed to be the new director of the Wyoming Fish & Game Department, but she really feels that she needs to transform that department into the Department of Wildlife Appreciation, and is trying to get all these guys like Joe Pickett and older wardens to buy into her new agenda. And it’s obvious that it’s not going to work very well.

HH: Yeah, how many wardens do you think actually read the C.J. Box Pickett novels?

CJB: Well, you know…

HH: All of them, probably.

CJB: An awful lot of them do. We’re always invited to the Wyoming Game Wardens association every year, and it’s fun to talk to those guys, and most of them read the books. And all over the country, the different wardens or conservation officers, I hear from them all the time.

HH: And the political appointees that run their departments, I’m not sure they’re going to like LGD too much.

CJB: They’re not going to like LGD too much, no.

HH: But there’s one very charming sequence, which is sort of off topic, involving a meth lab, and an incident at a meth lab. One, I’m glad you put it in there, because it underscores how law enforcement, anything can happen at any time, and a lot of it is bad and dangerous. And certainly, we’ve learned that out in Southern California over the last couple of months where bad things happen to great peace officers. And in fact it was a Fish & Game warden that found Dorner.

CJB: Right, and that whole incident, you’ve got to give me some credit for prescience, I think, because the chase and the investigation in this book almost mirrors what happened months later with the Dorner thing.

HH: Yes.

CJB: …with unmanned drones and a reward out, and thousands of law enforcement officers trying to find one guy.

HH: And not being very good at it.

CJB: Right.

HH: That’s what I was going to come in, and so obviously, has anyone else figured that out yet?

CJB: No, no. Very few people have read it yet.

HH: And it was a Fish & Game guy that first saw, finally put eyes on Dorner up in Big Bear when they cornered him. But the people executing the search in both Breaking Point and there were not very well equipped to deal with mountains.

CJB: Right.

HH: That’s just beautiful, on horses and stuff. I don’t know that they used horses in the Dorner manhunt.

CJB: I don’t know if they did, but in the case, the fictional case in this book, it’s a bunch of special EPA agents who are mounted and going into the mountains with Joe Pickett leading the way. And those poor guys don’t know what they’re doing.

HH: Now I’ve deal with the enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service, and they’re very, very skilled. In fact, the enforcement divisions of most of these agencies are better than the bureaucratic divisions, much better, in fact, at what they do, and they’re much more experienced. And here, well, we’ll come back after the break and tell you about what the difference is. Don’t go anywhere, America.

— – –

HH: That’s Buck Owens. My guest in studio is C.J. Box, phenomenally successful author of many, many books, including the Joe Pickett novels, the 13th of which Breaking Point is out. This is a special hour when I talk with C.J. at least once a year when he’s got a book out, just about what’s going on in the West generally. And this one is really going to get your blood boiling. Breaking Point’s really going to make you happy or mad as the case may be. Buck Owens comes up, C.J., in the course of a couple of special EPA agents who are driving from Denver up to Wyoming, and one of them, the youngster, has a lot of contempt for the locals.

CJB: Yes, he does, and it’s just, I think it’s just a conversation between an older special agent and a younger, gung ho special agent. It doesn’t last very long, but I think in just a few short pages, you get a glimpse into the kind of bureaucratic arrogance that some have.

HH: There’s a subtext in there as well. Those two special agents meet up with an Army Corps of Engineers regulator, and when I was going to break, I was talking the difference between enforcement and regulatory, and it exists in most of the agencies, and I could bore the pants off of people telling them these stories. But a lot of regulators are very well meaning, very…I remember a good friend of mine, Mark Durham, was up at L.A. Corps for a long time, one of the best guys I’ve ever dealt with in the government, and there are many Mark Durhams in the government. And Mark would get just weary as well of things, but he couldn’t change anything. The government just, when it gets on a chassis, it starts pulling. And in this case, this ACOE guy, Army Corps of Engineers guy, doesn’t want any part of this thing that is unfolding, this Sackett case set in Wyoming. And he basically abdicates. He doesn’t do anything. I think that’s actually not unusual.

CJB: I don’t think it is, either, because there are some very, I think there’s some real troubled regulators, and some of those who I guess two sides. One is they don’t want to get their hands dirty, the other ones are who just can’t quite stomach what they’ve been asked to do.

HH: There’s also the state/fed divide, and I was thinking as I was reading Breaking Point, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was on recently talking to me about the regulation of fracking in Ohio. He said we’ve got this. We know how to do this. We know what you can do and what you can’t do. We know what makes sense and doesn’t. Fracking, by the way, is going to be, has that been in one of your books yet?

CJB: It has. It wasn’t called fracking, because it wasn’t called fracking then, but it’s coal bed methane development.

HH: Okay, yeah, okay, I remember it now. But you could have it back, because obviously North Dakota, maybe send it over to Joe, the boom town, the speculation. But the governor of Ohio said the feds have just got to leave us alone. We’ve got this. And that comes up again and again in this book.

CJB: Right. There is a, the fictional Wyoming governor, Rulon, shows up in this book at the site of where this investigation starts.

HH: Again.

CJB: Furious of what, that the feds have descended on his state, but at the same time, there’s not much he can do about it.

HH: And he’s checked by PC.

CJB: That’s right. Oh, yes, yes.

HH: He’s checked by an EPA senior management type who is names Juan Julio Batista, who plays, you’re just coming down on me because I’m a Latino card, and even one of our favorite characters in fiction, Governor Rulon, is backed off on that.

CJB: Right. The ultimate way to stop an argument, I guess.

HH: And by the way, is he going to be term limited?

CJB: He’s still got two more years. I’m on his second term.

HH: So two more books?

CJB: Well, yes.

HH: That’s good, because then, I don’t know what you’re going to do, because I look forward to him every time he’s in here. Talk a little bit about Juan Julio Batista, because this is a dangerous area, because there are a lot of great people out there who don’t use their ethnicity. But sometimes, people do. And so were you reluctant to write this character this way?

CJB: I was a little bit reluctant, but I kind of based it on some real people, and some real politicians that I’ve read about and heard about, and are familiar with, and I thought it’s about time somebody kind of gets called on this one.

HH: Yeah, well, well done.

CJB: Thank you.

HH: It’s going to be edgy. I also like that Dave Farkus is back, because Farkus is every man. Farkus lives from disability check to disability check. Is there another, is there a parallel in your mind? Who is he? I’ve seen him before somewhere, and it’s sort of like the Ted Baxter of the outback.

CJB: Right, and he always gets, he’s kind of like, he kind of has Joe Pickett’s affliction in that he gets sucked into the middle of these huge issues, and usually on the wrong side, and barely escapes with his life. It has now happened three times.

HH: Yeah, and so I don’t want to give away much, much more other than one of your lead characters comes out of something called One Globe.

CJB: Right.

HH And One Globe’s an environmental organization, and the government’s getting bigger, and they need some political appointees, so they pick up the people from One Globe. And the One Globe people get into the government, and they begin to do One Globe stuff without a lick of concern for due process.

CJB: Right. There’s a quote in the front of the book, and it’s a little bit out of context. The philosopher Hannah Arendt was talking about the banality of evil that exists in huge bureaucracies that justify their actions because they work for the state.

— – –

HH: That’s Chris LeDoux. Tougher Than The Rest shows up on Page 245 of C.J. Box’ brand new book, Breaking Point. Do you just listen to CW stuff all the time? Is that what you do?

CJB: No, I don’t. But I note what I hear in bars and different places. What amazes me every time is that Duane says thanks, got all those songs out of your book.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: And I think what song?

HH: Yeah, he’s referencing it, and we’re always ready for you, but you’ve got to write more music references in here, because it’s one of our hallmarks. When we interview an author, we try and throw the music in that they have used themselves. Before I go global on you and ask you about the book business, one more aspect. I haven’t given away any of the plot in Breaking Point. People have to read it. But there is an old hotel that needs to be renovated. And when did you decide to put the story within the story of what happens when anyone tries to do a good deed and runs into the government?

CJB: It was interesting, when I was writing that, I was actually going to make that a much bigger part of the story, with the whole idea is that in every aspect of our lives, suddenly in the last few years, the intrusion and the oppression has gotten so great. And I wanted to bring it home to even Joe’s wife, who’s trying to renovate the oldest little Main Street hotel in their little town. And I’ve talked to some construction people, and said how hard is this to do now, and explained. And the more they explained, the more I though no one in their right mind would ever try to renovate a building.

HH: No, to take the asbestos out, and in fact, I just had a family member lose their house to fire, and the first thing that came up is what do you do about the asbestos? It’s an older house. You’ve got to get specially trained people to take it away, which drives up the cost dramatically. I understand why it exists, but nevertheless, and when I get calls from clients that are, or prospective clients, hey, represent me on this, I say you realize what we’re talking about here, that it’s going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees before we engage. That’s what Breaking Point does, is the futility of little people.

CJB: Right.

HH: It’s not about massive home builders. They can hire me all day long to fight the Gunnison Sage Grouse, right? Or if it’s a Blunt-Nosed Leopard Lizard, or the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving Fly, corporations that are involved, they can hire expensive lawyers. But little people can’t do that. They have to give up.

CJB: Right, and it’s really, in most cases, like the Sackett case. Almost the only option is to simply give up. That one, in real life, changed simply because the Pacific Legal Foundation took on their case. And it’s now going on six years.

HH: Yeah, it’s not over yet.

CJB: No, it’s not. They still haven’t been able to build their home.

HH: Of course not, because the government doesn’t, just because they lose at the Supreme Court, doesn’t mean they lose.

CJB: Right.

HH: It’s happened again and again and again. You get all the way to the Supreme Court and you win, and you still don’t get to do anything. Well, let’s switch to books for just a moment. I always like to ask you, because you’ve been doing this a long time. What percentage of Breaking Point do you expect to read, or for people to read download versus hard cover?

CJB: It’s a tough one to answer, because it’s changing so fast. But it seems to be almost kind of peaking, finally. I would guess about 50/50. Just two years ago, I remember talking to one of my publishers who thought it would be about 30% download. Now, it’s about 50/50.

HH: Now is the upside of that, though, once you hook them, they go back and get them all because it’s so easy? It’s what I’ve been doing with the Patrick O’Brien Aubrey Maturin series. You know, I had read one a few years ago, but I didn’t have the second one handy. Now, I’m just rolling through them.

CJB: Yeah, I did the same thing with the same series, actually.

HH: Oh, are you? Where are you now?

CJB: I’m on book three.

HH: You know, it’s David Mamet’s great love, and it’s because of the language. I can see as a novelist, and you have no danger of having anything in, because it’s 200 years ago. What do you make of the readers of that? And who reads, another one of my questions, who reads these for the audio books?

CJB: There’s quite a few in the West, especially, just because of the distances in driving. I think the percentage of audio books is very high. Who reads them specifically?

HH: Yeah.

CJB: The publisher subcontracts that to an audio company, and the guy who’s done most of the Joe Pickett books is a guy named David Chandler, who I’ve never met.

HH: And so he’s doing most of them now?

CJB: Right.

HH: And do you like the voice he’s adopted for Joe?

CJB: I like him, but I tend not to listen to the audio books, because he’s a good reader, an excellent reader, and people like him. But he gives characters inflections and different voices than I have in my head, so I don’t listen to them, because I don’t want to change my own.

HH: You see, that’s very interesting. That was one of the things I’m wondering about, because Governor, for example, Rulon, has got to have, I have a voice in my mind. I have a character in my mind. I don’t ever want to see him…has anyone signed or inked or optioned any of these books for television or movies?

CJB: Yes, and I mean, obviously nothing’s been developed yet, nothing’s on the screen yet. The Joe Pickett series, there’s an offer being made from one of the networks on the series. That doesn’t mean that anything’s going to happen, but three of the books have been optioned for movies. And the options are still open.

HH: Because it would make a heck of a television series. That’s what I’m, because it’s just every season, right? It’s sort of like Game Of Thrones. You could go on and on and on.

CJB: I would love that kind of a long form thing, as if I have any say so.

HH: Is there anything in your mind that there’s a counterpart for, like Walker, Texas Ranger, but with more fishing, hunting and bad shooting?

CJB: I think of the show Justified, for example.

HH: I haven’t seen it, okay.

CJB: …which I love. It developed from Elmore Leonard’s character. And I like what they’ve done with that.

HH: Okay. And now I want to finish by talking about guns, because obviously, since the last time a Joe Pickett novel came out, we’ve had terrible tragedies in the United States – Newtown and Aurora and other things like that. The Bushmaster .223 is in this book.

CJB: Right.

HH: And there’s other gun talk, and there’s talk about guns that had to precede these things.

CJB: Oh, sure.

HH: So how does it, does it in any way impact how you write or think, because the West is just different than everywhere else.

CJB: It really is. I mean, in Wyoming right now, the legislature is advancing a bill that will arrest federal officers if they come into the state and try to enforce federal gun laws. That’s also happening in Montana and Texas and some other states, a totally different view.

HH: Because obviously, everybody has them, everybody uses them, and it’s part of the culture.

CJB: And the murder rate is very low. That’s the other thing. The states, and in fact, in Wyoming, they got rid of the concealed carry law. They just said everybody can do it.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: I’m not sure I like that one, but…

— – –

HH: Special thanks to my guest in studio, C.J. Box, novelist extraordinaire, and the wonderful Mrs. Box, who came along with him. The brand new book is called Breaking Point, the 13th of a great 13 novels of the Joe Pickett series. It’s over at We always look ahead. You’re a two book a year guy, C.J.

CJB: Well, it’s about a book and a half, actually.

HH: Okay.

CJB: Every other year, there will be two books.

HH: Are you going to slow down? Success has found you, you’re internationally acclaimed, you sell all these books all over. And by the way, is this in many other languages yet? Has Joe made it into other languages?

CJB: It’s being sold in other languages. I’m getting emails on it every day.

HH: That’s so funny. What do you do with foreign language emails?

CJB: No, they come from my agent, who has been dealing with the foreign language agents.

HH: Okay, that’s so funny. So what’s next? And then are you going to keep up this pace when you don’t have to?

CJB: I’m kind of deliberating that. There’s kind of a disincentive of being too successful right now.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: So I’m thinking about that, actually.

HH: Be careful. You’ll make the Phil Mickelson. You can’t leave California. You don’t live here anyway.

CJB: That’s right.

HH: Although you’ve been in the state long enough today, Jerry Brown may want to tax you. You’d better get out before the revenuers find you.

CJB: But actually, this year, there’ll be the two books, and then I’ve got an anthology of short stories that have been written over the last, jeez, ten years.

HH: I didn’t know you wrote short stories.

CJB: You know, short stories are hard to find now, because they’re either in a special anthology, there’s no magazines that have them.

HH: Commentary Magazine carries an occasional short story by Joseph Epstein or somebody else.

CJB: And there’s now kind of a market for them as little e-books, as like a $.99 cent short story. So I think it’s actually kind of a bright future for short stories in that way.

HH: That is very interesting.

CJB: But we’re going to put them all together and into a book that’ll be both an e-book and a real printed book.

HH: And Cody’s new book is coming out when?

CJB: That’ll be July 30th.

HH: All right.

CJB: It’s called The Highway.

HH: We’ll promote that a little bit. Tell people about Cody.

CJB: He is a deputy investigator of the Lewis & Clark Montana Sheriff’s Department, and he’s a wreck. But he was introduced in Three Weeks To Say Goodbye, actually, and featured in Back Of Beyond. And in the new one, he’s up against a long haul trucker who is a serial killer.

HH: Oh, dear.

CJB: Yes.

HH: So that’s…do you like it? I’m getting a head shake no. Laurie is looking at me and say don’t do the serial killer book.

CJB: The scariest book I’ve ever written.

HH: And how about Nate? Nate shows up, people want to know, is he in Breaking Point? Not going to tell you how, why or how long, but Nate is. What about Nate?

CJB: Nate is certainly in the next Joe Pickett book, which I’m writing right now.

HH: And a little glimpse ahead?

CJB: He hasn’t landed well.

HH: Okay.

CJB: He’s getting himself in big trouble.

HH: Oh, well, when has he not gotten himself in big trouble.

CJB: Yes.

HH: But it’s not exclusively Nate Romanowski?

CJB: No, it’ll be a Joe Pickett book and Nate Romanowski.

HH: All right, so America, there you have your preview. Once again, Breaking Point is out now over at and bookstores everywhere. The tour begins today, and so you can find wherever C.J. is going to be by going to Come on out, get a couple of books. He’ll sign them for you, enjoy them, download. C.J., talk to you in the summer.

CJB: Thank you so much.

HH: Thank you, my friend.

End of interview.


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