C.J. Box On His New Novel, The Highway
HH: Morning glory and evening grace, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. Be assured, my eyes are indeed on the television monitor. I know that al Qaeda has issued its warning. I know that we are on alert around the world. Nineteen embassies have closed, but that’s really not going to be a story until its sadly a story, and I’m not going to sit here and speculate on it. I’m instead going to introduce you to summer. As I promised last week, one of our favorite guys is back in studio with me, C.J. Box, author extraordinaire is out in Southern California on his national book tour and by the time I’m done talking with him, this hour and next, you’re going to have already ordered The Highway which is linked over at HughHewitt.com and you’re going to be looking at everyone of the 3.5 million trucks on the Interstate highway system of America with a different view. Now, truckers listen to me, there’s lots to like in this book, don’t get made at C.J. Box, but go to CJBox.net to find it; go to Hugh Hewitt.com to order it. Chuck Box, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt show.
CB: It’s great to be back. Thank you, Hugh.
HH: Three point five million trucks.
CB: That’s good research. I didn’t know that.
HH: Yeah, that’s a lot of trucks that are all of a sudden—we get a lot of truckers call this show and I’m not taking calls today, guys, so you’ll have to just go read the book, or you can send me an email, email@example.com. Chuck, how do people communicate with you, by the way?
CB: My website CJBox.net and I have a forum on there where people can post questions or comments and I reply to every single person who posts there.
HH: Now, people who listen know that there a handful of authors, wherever they publish a book, they come on the show. There’s the late Vince Flynn. We miss Vince, he was the guy that started that trend. Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, Steve Pressfield and you. And you usually come on to talk about our friend Joe Pickett.
HH: And we’re going to talk a little about Joe Pickett, but The Highway is not a Joe novel.
CB: Not at all.
HH: No! [laughing] No, it has noting to do with Joe.
HH: It’s a Cody Hoyt novel.
HH: And we’re back with Coty Hoyt and people who don’t know you well, who know you as a Joe Pickett guy, may have missed the first Cody Hoyt novel, so we’re going to tell them about that as well. First, let’s tell our friends in Phoenix, I’m talking to C.J. Box early so he can jump on the plane early and be over at the Poison Pen Bookstore at seven and he will make it on time, in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona, Poison Pen tonight, 7 PM. Right?
CB: That’s right. That’s right.
HH: And so people go over there and you’re going reading from this. Then on Tuesday you’re in Houston? Where are you doing it in Houston?
CB: At Murder by the Book in Houston.
HH: Houston on Tuesday at 6:30 PM and then you’re going to Lexington, Kentucky and we just added an affiliate in Lexington. That is terrific.
CB: That’s good.
HH: Um, let me see, oh, I didn’t put it up here. WCA, I think it is or maybe WBKV. I think it’s WBKV and in Lexington you’re at Joseph Beth Booksellers, then off to Oakmont, Pennsylvania. That’s near Pittsburgh Steeler people.
CB: It is. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. This will be the first trip ever.
HH: You’re doing a reading in Pittsburgh?
CB: Yes! [laughing]
HH: You’re going to have to read very slowly.
CB: Okay, I’ll keep that in mind. [laughing]
HH: That’s at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop; then you’re going up to Maine for a couple of signings—that’s unusual. These are these mystery bookstores. What’s this all about?
CB: There is, is some very successful mystery bookstores around the country that have survived all the closure of the general book, general independent bookstores because they specialize in customer service and they work very closely with their customers, they recommend books, people go there to see what they should be reading and I’m going to several of those. Poison Pen, in particular—
HH: You were at Ann’s Book Carnival yesterday.
CB: Book Carnival here in LA is like that.
HH: Down in Orange.
CB: Very dedicated customer base.
HH: One of my friends sent me a note this morning, Jim Klingler was in line. He said there was a good crowd there.
CB: There was.
HH: At the bookstore signing yesterday so that is a terrific thing. Well, let’s, let’s pretend, or for the benefit of our audience, for example, 94.5 upstate South Carolina or Columbus, Ohio, 89.9 or excuse—98.9, I do that every time WJKR, I’m sorry, 98.9, to our friends in WRJM in east Illinois or all over the place where—Odessa! We’re new in Odessa on 550. Lexington, Virginia, is 14.50—I’m so sorry Lexington, Virginia. It’s 14.50, We at Grand Rapids, Michigan, all of our new audiences that haven’t heard CJ in the past, you started writing novels in 2001.
CB: Well, right. Well, I started having books published in 2001. I was writing for 20 years.
HH: And so I always like to give bio at the start and I’ll tell people we’ll get to The Highway and I’ve set the hook for all you truckers and you’re just going to have to be, just have to be patient with me, but we have to do a little bio first. Tell people where you were born and raised and how you got to that first book in 2001.
CB: Born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. I’m a Wyoming native and I still live in Wyoming outside of Cheyenne and also have a place on the Encampment River. I was a high school journalist, editor of the paper, and got a journalism scholarship to the University of Denver and then after that, my first job was on a small newspaper called The Saratoga Sun in Wyoming. And shortly after that, after I was working as two years as a reporter, I start working on a manuscript.
HH: And you and I were talking at dinner last night, you were kind enough to join me for dinner, and the fact of the matter is that you, you credit those years as a reporter as being vital to the ability to sit down and turn out copy.
CB: Right. To be able to write on deadline, write clearly, succinctly, briefly, and I write everyday and that was the training for that.
HH: And so, tell people by the way, what your writing regimen is.
CB: I’m a morning guy, usually. I get up, I work out, I listen to the Hugh Hewitt podcast—
HH: You are very kind, but he actually does! I get e-mails from him occasionally.
CB: Because I can’t get it over the air unfortunately where I live. And then I get to work, and I try to write at least 1,500 words a day, sometimes it is more than that and then in the afternoon, I edit and then do other kind of writing business and then the next day, start there.
HH: Now, the fetching Mrs. Hewitt asked you last night if you like to look out over the vast expanse of the prairies towards the Rocky Mountains and I found your answer very interesting.
CB: Yeah, I sequester myself in the basement in a corner and my only view is of a window well.
CB: Luckily, one of my daughter’s did go down there and paint a nice scene of the window well of fly fishing, but what I find, is that I’m very distracted if I can look out the window. So, I always pick the darkest corner of the lowest floor of wherever I’m working so I don’t get distracted.
HH: So, I like to emphasize because a lot of would-be authors listen to this program, I’ve got a friend Steve Conlin working on his first novel, always listens to the writers. I know a lot of people are working on their first novels or their screen play, everyday same place, same amount of time, minimum number of words. Discipline, discipline, discipline.
CB: Yeah, I go to work everyday just like everybody else. It’s not—if I waited for inspiration, I would still be on book 2.
HH: Now, the first book, I’m going to run through these names, these are the Joe Pickett series and there are 13 of them: Open Season, Savage Run, Winter Kill, Trophy Hunt, Out of Range, In Plain Sight, Free Fire, Blood Trail, Below Zero, Nowhere to Run, Cold Wind, Force of Nature and Breaking Point. Breaking Point was an extraordinary success. How well did your last book do?
CB: It did extremely well. It was on the, it opened at number 3 on the New York Times and stayed on the list for 5 weeks and continues to sell very strongly.
HH: See, that is everybody’s dream, but, or course, the first book was different. Open Season–
HH: How did you sell the first book?
CB: Oh, I had a book tour that consisted of 3 places, one of them was LA and while I was out here, I remember the New York Times came out with a great review of it and suddenly it started to sell. It became a New York Times notable book as they called it and then went into 4 printings after that. But the initial launch was only 5,000 copies. Nobody expected it to do anything.
HH: You see so it’s years of work for that first novel and then that first novel does okay, but really when you do think, when did it first occur to you that you’re going to be able to do this for your living, because you were also helping with Wyoming tourism at the time, right?
CB: Right. My wife and I had a company that promoted inbound tourism from Europe into 5 western states and we had offices overseas and it was a very successful little company. Not until this past January, did I finally leave the business and devote my time to writing full time.
HH: So, a dozen years—
HH: And before that, how long did you begin writing that manuscript in the basement before 2001?
CB: It was 20 years. It took 15 years to come up finally with a manuscript that turned into Open Season, then another 5 years after that to get it published.
HH: So, the arch of your writing career, to the point that you’re now a New York Times bestselling author, and by the way, I think The Highway is going to number 1 and I believe that because I don’t say that very often. I know Dan Silva’s books get up there, and I know Brad Thor’s get very close and Vince always got to number 1 and, occasionally, Steve Pressfield will make the list and get pretty high up in the Gaits of Fire will sell forever, but rarely has a book grabbed me by the throat and dragged me along like The Highway..
CB: I how much you like scary movies, I didn’t know how much you would like a scary book.
HH: I don’t and, in fact,
HH: In fact, I got a tweet yesterday saying after you recommended The Conjuring, I’m not sure I’m going to follow you on The Highway. But it is just absolutely—Duane told me months ago, when he read the book months ago—because you sent out the review copies early, and I only read it this week because I like to read it right before I interview the author.
CB: I appreciate that.
HH: Same deal. Is everyone telling you the same thing?
CB: Yes. It’s gotten some of the best reviews I’ve ever received. There’s one that just came out on Sunday, all over the country where is just starts out saying, The Highway is the most terrifying book of the summer.
HH: I don’t know whether that’s good or bad or the dark [inaudible] of C.J. Box’s mind which we will be exploring as we keep an eye up there. Hey, Phoenix, go over and see him tonight at The Poison Pen Bookstore, Houston, tomorrow night at Murder of the Book and I’m going to be talking to C.J. Box, the new book The Highway, linked over at HughHewitt.com. Stay tuned.
HH: Welcome back, America. It’ Hugh Hewitt. Thank you for listening today on August 5, 2013. I know it’s the big summer vacation month. I know some of you are already headed to the airport or you are on your way there or you’re at vacation and you’re wondering what to get. If you’re in Yellowstone National Park or you’re headed there, you are going to see C.B. Box’s wonderful book about Yellowstone up there, Free Fire, which is actually the occasion for C.J and I connecting many years ago, when I started worrying about Yellowstone blowing, and C.J. throws cold water on the hot thermal cauldron that is Yellowstone. Tell people about Free Fire, the new book is The Highway and I’m going to talk about it and the 3.5 million truckers who are listening and, I’m teasing you truckers, I shouldn’t given what we now know about you! No kidding!
HH: Tell me about Free Fire.
CB: Well, Free Fire is a Joe Pickett book.
HH: In fact, let’s tell people about Joe Pickett.
CB: Wyoming Game Warden and he is sent into Yellowstone Park to investigate a murder that occurs in a part of Yellowstone that, legally, possibly you could commit murder in and get away with it. And, in the book, I’m able to explore Yellowstone Park kind of from the inside out, because I’ve been there, I think 150 times in my life and I know if very well and there’s a lot of parts of Yellowstone that simply aren’t known from the casual visitors, so I wanted to show those areas to readers and learn about the park beyond the simply thermal areas. The architecture, the structure, the conflict between the concessioners and the Park Service, those kind of inside-out things is what I wanted to—
HH: I was explaining to Betsy last night, as C.J. was preparing to coming over for dinner, that as the passage between the ceases to people who are bound for the Panama Canal so Free Fire is for people who are bound for Yellowstone and that’s a good thing for you. That was a very smart idea.
CB: Well, you know, it wasn’t strategic. I wish I could say that I was that clever. I just wanted, wanted to have an inside-out novel about Yellowstone Park. In almost all of the strange things that I describe in there are true, can be found, if you know where to look.
HH: Stepping back again, there are 15 books on CJ’s resume. I’ve read 14 of them. I have not read 1 of them, but actually there are 16—what’s the one I haven’t read. I made a note of it today, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye.
CB: That’s another very dark book.
CB: About an open adoption gone horribly wrong.
HH: Okay. Blue Heaven was wonderful.
CB: Thank you.
HH: I love Blue Heaven. Blue Heaven is optioned for a movie?
CB: It is. It is, under option, has been for 4 years.
HH: Anybody option The Highway yet?
CB: No. Not yet.
HH: Not gonna be long. Not gonna be long! By the way, who handles that for you, does your literary agent handle the options or do you do that?
CB: My literary agent has an arrangement with an agent here in LA who does the TV and movie stuff.
HH: And how much can we tell them about Joe Pickett and what’s on your mind about Joe? Do you prefer not to talk about that might not develop?
CB: Oh, no. I have, from what I understand, I’m not directly involved. It’s being pitched as a TV series with Robert Redford as the Executive Producer so I assume that they would answer his calls.
CB: Well, just see what happens.
HH: You know, if he calls here, he’s just gonna have to get in line!
HH: But Joe Pickett is such a winsome character. There are 13 stories in the series. His family grows up around him. It’s so obviously, and I use the analogy of Friday Night Lights which you liked.
CB: I love it.
CB: That’s one of my favorite shows of all time.
HH: You and Laurie are like, like the fetching Mrs. Hewitt and me, we watch the same things. Back—Joe Pickett’s 13 novels, he goes from the first open season, who, I think people should read them in order, they can read Free Fire if they are going to Yellowstone. But, in the middle of this, you get bored. . .
HH: and you decide writing a book a year isn’t enough and you start turning out a book every other year. Blue Heaven, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, Back of Beyond, which is the first Cody Hoyt, now The Highway. Why do that when you’ve got Joe Pickett who is a franchise and selling you lots and lots of books, why do that?
CB: Well, it’s not because I get bored, but as a writer, certain ideas or themes emerge in my head that I really want to write about and explore that will not fit as a Joe Pickett book. All of the stand alones could not be Joe Pickett books because of the subject matter or the setting, and this one, could not be a Joe Pickett book, The Highway.
HH: Because it is literally set across the country, cause the highway business is the highway business. . . .
CB: Right. It set primarily in Montana close to Wyoming, but it’s just such a different dark subject that it wouldn’t work as a Joe Pickett novel.
HH: There are some pretty dark characters in the Joe Pickett series, but nothing like this. This is about a serial murderer who is a trucker, and we’re not going to give anything away. People, we’re not doing any spoilers here. I’m very careful about that as we move through this. But it wouldn’t fit in Joe Pickett’s world.
CB: No. No. It would be too—a Game Warden chasing a trucker? No.
HH: No, No. So, let’s talk a little bit about Cody Hoyt, because Cody Hoyt was in Back of Beyond and people are a little bit familiar with him—we’re not going to tell anyone about Back of Beyond another Yellowstone book.
CB: Right, right. That’s Yellowstone wilderness.
HH: Give people a little sense of what Back of Beyond is and who Cody Hoyt is before we transition of to The Highway.
CB: Cody Hoyt was actually introduced for the first time in Three Weeks to Say Goodbye as a real secondary character, but he was such, he’s kind of an out of control, cop with his own sense of justice, who can’t really hold a job because he’s just relentless and he’s an alcoholic and he’s, he’s bad news, but he’s fun to write. It’s fun to write a character like that.
HH: A very compelling character.
CB: And, in Back of Beyond he was going, was going after, he determines through an investigation, that there is a killer on a multi-day pack trip into the wilderness of Yellowstone and his son is on that same trip. So, I wanted to take his character and put him into the wilderness where, with no alcohol and no cigarettes and to try and find this guy as the tension builds.
HH: And it’s fascinating from the perspective of he’s a city guy. He’s a Denver cop who’s become a Montana investigator for the Sheriffs department and he ‘s just not Joe Pickett. He’s not comfortable with horses, he’s not comfortable camp fires, he’s just not supposed to be in the Yellowstone. . .
CB: He’s not comfortable with ethics.
HH: And with that, we’re going to talk about that in a second, but he’s a fascinating character, and last night we were talking to Ed McMahan. He was my dad’s favorite mystery writer and he had some pretty hard edge people in there, but I don’t think I’ve come across the Cody Hoyt in outside of the thriller genre. There are
HH: a lot in the thriller genre who have Coty Hoyt’s “get it done”. Joe Pickett would never shoot anyone in the knee
CB: No. No.
HH: in order to get him to talk
CB: Nor hang him from a tree. No.
HH: Those are, by the way, things that happen.
HH: We’re not going to tell you anymore than that, but you don’t really want to be on the bad side of Cody Hoyt. So, going back to Joe, Joe might end up as a TV guy, and I just got to ask, who would play ‘em?
CB: You know, I don’t know. My daughters are always casting Joe as whoever they hot male actor of the moment is. I never think, as an actor, the only guy who both my wife and I both, we were both talking about Friday Night Lights we both though that Kyle Chandler, whose Coach Taylor, would be a great Joe Pickett and it may be just simply because his character is very much like Joe.
HH: It is exactly –
CB: He’s kind of bumbling, but he’s got his code and he’s very inspirational in a way.
HH: I just got done writing for a book I’m finishing up about Coach Chandler and the character of Jack Bauer, they both are continuingly, ah, confronted with moral choices and they always make the right one.
HH: And sometimes, they screw up in route to making the right one and Joe Pickett is very much that way. If that goes, do they have any idea when that would start showing up?
CB: No. All I know is that it is going to be pitched. I don’t know anything beyond that.
HH: When we come back, I’m going to pitch, The Highway, America. It’s C.J. Box’s brand new book. His website is cjbox.net. If you want to get the Joe Pickett novels, start with Open Season, but The Highway is in bookstores and airports everywhere. It’s at amazon.com, it’s linked at HughHewit.com. We’ll talk about it when we return. Stay off the highway, except in it. I’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show
HH: Duane has spent some time picking out the C.J. Box bumps for today. They are pals outside the studio as well. Tell me, Duane, did C.J. do your radio broadcast at one point?
DP: Yeah. He did. It was spectacular.
DP: Over in the Hughniverse.
HH: Mostly these sorts of things.
DP: No, actually it was the stuff that Chuck likes, but he’s a big blues guy. He loves blues.
HH: I hope you have Truck’n on here somewhere on your play list.
DP: Well, that would be too obvious, wouldn’t it?
HH: No, it would be too-
HH: Sell, the book!
DP: Yes, it’s coming.
HH: Let’s try and tell the book.
DP: It’s coming.
HH: Now, you read the book, did you bring your copy in for him to sell since I stole your last copy? There you go, good and you got the readers copy and you walked in and you said, you’re gonna love this book, but I wouldn’t read it for 4 months because I don’t read books—but it showed up 4 months ago.
DP: And it was hard not to tell you about it too, because it’s a great book.
HH: No spoilers, America. In fact, don’t read the Amazon reviews. I am afraid someone will spoil it for you. There are too many plot twists in this and you don’t want to read the Amazon reviews. It would be like being told that they, the Von Trapp Family gets out of Austria.
DP: They do?
HH: You don’t want to know—they do! See, you don’t want to do that to anyone at the beginning of the movie. Don’t worry, the escape the Nazis. Some people get out, some people don’t get out in The Highway and you don’t want to know what’s going to go on there. So, Duane, you give it your 5 starts?
DP: Oh, it’s a great book.
HH: You know Carl sent me an email today.
DP: It’s a great book.
HH: Carl is a Steelers fan so someone obviously read it to him and, I must say though, Carl thought this was your best book.
DP: I think so too.
CB: Oh, well, that’s interesting.
HH: I know, I’m always going to be partial to Free Fire but I, I do think it’s amazing. So, let’s talk about it. How in the world—this is a book about a serial killer in a truck. So, we’re going to expand a little bit on the background of that. How in the world did the premise come to you?
CB: Two things, two things kind of happened at once. I have daughters. My youngest daughter was going to the University of Wyoming and, which means from Cheyenne to Laramie driving over the top of a mountain called The Summit on I-80 with lots of truckers, you know, back and forth, and a few years ago I went out to go check her car to see if she needed an oil change, and I turned her car on and her check engine light was on. You know, she’s very blonde and blonde and I said, how long has this on and she said it’s always on, don’t worry about it, which drove me crazy. At the same time–
HH: It’s kind of how I do those lights [laughing].
CB: Exactly. At the same time I’d just read a story, I think it was in the USA Today and then I researched it further that the FBI had created what they called a Highway Serial Killer Task Force, because they estimated that, at that time, there were about 700 missing truck stop prostitutes around the U.S., and only one guy had ever been caught, but they estimated that there were probably 10-12 of them who were preying on truck stop prostitutes that they call lot lizards around the country and it’s a very difficult crime to solve, because by the time they find out that somebody is missing, the guy could be 9 states away.
CB: Most investigations are localized, not on the highway.
HH: Let me tell you what happens when you read a book like this and you’re me. I read, I finished your book, I had my list of notes for questions and things to talk about and then I started doing research into serial killers who are truck drivers. It’s very disturbing, by the way. The current number of suspected serial truck driver killers is 25.
CB: Oh, that’s even more than I thought.
HH: I know, and so I started reading about some of them, and we’ll talk about the crime, and I had open in my window, one of those true crime stories about a guy named Ben Rhoades, who is a very famous serial killer out of, I think it’s Texas, a trucker, and grizzly, grizzly, terrible, terrible story. And, then I saw a story on Chinese pollution and so I tweeted out why don’t the enviros actually worry about Chinese pollution as opposed to non-issues in America of the sort that you wrote about in your last book, you know, wetlands that aren’t wetlands, that kind of thing.
HH: And so I clicked and put the link in, thinking I put in the New York Times link, but I put in the serial trucker link
HH: and so a bunch of people tweeted me back and said, why is there as story on serial truckers, serial killers who are truckers in the story about Chinese pollution and I said, don’t ask, but read C.J. Box’s new book, The Highway and they had understood what had happened to me. So, that’s the danger, I am, I want to say to the 3.5 million truckers out there, we know that 99.999 percent of you are normal, hard-working fellows. You actually dive into the world of long-distance trucking pretty thoroughly in this book.
CB: Yeah. I was, I was fascinated with it. I still am mainly because I know some long haul truckers, I have relatives who are. I know it’s a complete world of its own and just the fact that, I think, I have a reference in the book that they are almost like sea captains. The shipping lanes are the Interstate highways and they can never get off of them, ever. They can’t go into town, they are on those Interstates and it’s a fascinating world.
HH: We are going to come back and talk about that world and its dark side. It has a very dark side, but that is what the subject matter of The Highway is and we’ll tell you more about that. Don’t go anywhere, C.J. Box in studio with me. We have an eye on the embassy closures, and eye on the news. Don’t worry if anything happens, you’ll hear about it first on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: Thanks for joining me on this Monday. The Reince Priebus transcript will be posted shortly over at HughHewitt.com so you can go and find out what he had to say about the debate schedule that they are imposing upon the GOP field. My Washington Examiner piece is linked over at HughHewitt.com and you will find there the link to The Highway, brand new best-seller. It will rush to the top of the New York Times chart probably this week. In studio with me, C.J. Box, who will be over in Phoenix tonight at the Poison Pen at 7 PM. He’s moving at the speed of sound. The Poison Pen Bookstore at 7 PM in Phoenix, Scottsdale, doing a reading and signing the book, so if your driving around right now, you can count on catching him over there. C.J., I’ve got to read to you from a Los Angeles Times story, April 5, 2009, by Scott Glover: “The FBI suspects, the FBI suspects that serial killers working as long-haul truckers are responsible for the slaying of hundreds of prostitutes, hitchhikers and stranded motorists whose bodies have been dumped near the highways over the last three decades. Federal authorities first made the connection about 5 years ago,” so that would be about 2004, “while helping police link a trucker to a string of unsolved killings along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma and several other states. After that, the FBI launched the Highway Serial Killers Initiative to track suspicious slayings and suspect truckers.” You then, I mean, your book is full of the technical details of what the FBI has been doing. Were they cooperative with you? Did you, did you—
CB: I did not contact them. I did work through some, actually some, a Sheriff Department Deputy in Helena, Montana, who, there had been some disappearances around there and he walked me through how he was working with the FBI, on the websites, for example, where they’ve got, websites where they’ve got all the dots, where all these women have gone missing and it’s, it’s absolutely just, rings every Interstate highway.
HH: You know, I tell people,
CB: Coast to coast.
HH: when the Liam Neeson movie came out Taken
CB: Oh, yeah
HH: that anyone with a teenage daughter, or a college age daughter, would never let them go abroad if they saw Taken, and after they read The Highway, they are never going to let them drive anywhere by themselves again.
CB: At least with, in, not in a car with a check engine light that’s always on.
HH: I actually think it wouldn’t be a bad thing if dads made the daughters listen to the book on a drive across the country. Even though it is dark and it has some pretty rough edges, it’s a good way of meeting the world, because a lot of young people just don’t understand that one percent of the world is completely twisted.
CB: That’s right. Evil is out there and, of course, in the book, and I’m not giving away anything, but the two girls that are in it, not only have a car that’s not reliable, but they’ve decided to change their route to go into Montana instead of to see their dad in Omaha, so nobody knows where they are when their car breaks down.
HH: And they also drive like teenage girls.
CB: That’s right.
HH: I love that in part, not just teenage girls, but we will see idiots texting on the road at all times.
HH: And they are not paying attention, and anyone who has driven by truckers, and we’ve talked about it for years, and the truckers call up and yell at me, because most of them, again, 95 percent of them are very respectful of the dopes on the road, and know that they are armatures and they are professionals and they take care to watch out for people, but 5 percent are jerks, right?
HH: There’s 5 percent the bell curve.
HH: and those 5 percent can be tremendously destructive of people and you’ve got to be very careful of them. But of that 5 percent, 1 percent are also crazy.
CB: Yeah. What I found in the research for the book, I got on a lot of internet forums and lurked around on the trucker forums, learned all sorts of things that are in the book about the subculture terminology, things that they do. But I also went on a ride with a husband and wife trucker team that, cross country, every 4 days they go from coast to coast, and they are great folks. They took me along from Billings to Chicago and I found out their attitude about that small percentage of bad truckers is just like ours. They avoid them.
CB: And they can tell by their rigs if they are people they don’t want to be around.
HH: There is one kind of truck, the way that it’s painted, that is a giveaway, which I think people ought to know, and there’s probably some, just right now, some guy just bought a truck and did not know anything about it and bought one of these trucks, but how is it painted when they are bad-ass—let me, I can’t say that.
HH: When they are bad guys?
CB: What we actually—
HH: Blink that out, Adam.
CB: What we, actually saw this actually when we, when I, went on the truck trip with these guys. We were in a truck stop in Fargo, North Dakota, and there was one truck parked far away from everybody else. It was an all black Peterbilt and the driver had even taken black chimney paint and blacked out any, any bit of chrome on it. So, I think I described it as subtle as a fist.
CB: And the drivers I were with said we’re not going to go over by that guy. They could tell by the rig, they could tell by the way he had made it look, that this is not somebody that you want to meet.
HH: Now, I have a nephew who works for the Flying J, the owner of which is now the owner of the Cleveland Browns, so we know that the Flying J Pilot is the best organization in the world.
HH: But the truck stop culture is detailed in your book as well and the subcultures within it, it’s a world. I mean, so when you drove across the country, how long is the Billings to Chicago run, 2 days?
CB: Oh, no. Well, yeah, it was 2 days. It could have been done quicker, but there are a lot of federal guidelines on how long they can drive. So, it was just one overnight and 2 full days on the road.
HH: And can you imagine living that lifestyle? I mean, your back, your butt, your knees creak, is it physically wear and tear on your friends?
CB: Well, you know, the trucks are very comfortable, the seats, I mean, they’ve really done a lot of things with those, very comfortable ride. And what I found is that because it is so comfortable, you kind of get a feeling that you’re just in a bubble, that the world is just rolling underneath you as you sit on top of it. They don’t pay that much attention to other traffic. They drive so that they save fuel as opposed to, you wonder why those trucks are going to slowly, it’s because they’ve figured out exactly what mile an hour to maintain the best fuel efficiency because that could mean their paycheck.
HH: You had to dive deep into a regulatory world again. In your last book, the one that everyone loves, um, um, what’s the title of it? Um,
CB: Breaking Point
HH: Breaking Point, that the folks at the Pacific Legal Foundation love, when you go in to the regulatory world of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It’s just got, it got its own attraction. It’s just so bizarre. Here you go into the regulatory world of trucks and it is just as complicated and bizarre as anything else.
CB: And the driver’s will tell you that it’s getting even worse. It’s getting worse every month with more regulations imposed on them. I think they really do feel like the government is against them making a living.
HH: Many liberal truckers out there?
CB: Oh, I’m sure there are. Um, there’s all kinds of truckers out there.
HH: When we come back, we’ll talk about that. Don’t go anywhere, America. C.J. Box is in studio with me. His new book, The Highway in bookstores everywhere. It’s linked at HughHewitt.com, shooting up the best-seller list and with good reason. It will scare the pants off of you and you’ll learn a lot as you go along. We’ll talk more about that when we return to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt, eyes on the news, we are constantly, if anything goes bang, or if they, the bad guys, try anything around the world, we will let you know. In studio with me, as you prepare to go on vacation, and you’re looking for a book that will simply absorb you, well, C.J. Box’s new thriller The Highway is out. You’ll see it in bookstores everywhere, piled to the top and they are flying off the shelves, and extraordinary pre-sales on the book. We’ll be talking a little bit about the selling of books in hour number 2. It’s a Cody Hoyton novel, not a Joe Pickett novel, and The Highway will just scare you and completely captivate you. I do want to cover one little detail, C.J. Box, there is a character who is going to a book club in the course of The Highway and they are reading a Wally Lamb book.
HH: And, so I actually hadn’t heard of Wally Lamb, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. He’s an American author known as the writer of the novel She’s Come Undone and I Know That Much is True, both of which were selected for Oprah’s book club. He was director of the writing center at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich from ’89 to ’98 and has taught creative writing in English Department at the University of Connecticut. Okay, so that is a shout-out in a book. You’ve been kind enough in the past to give both Generalissimo and me shout-outs, is Wally Lamb a friend of yours, or did you just know him to book club favorite?
CB: A book club favorite and also, I think, it’s an indicator of the, it reveals the personality of the woman who is going to the book club
CB: she’s clutching her Wally Lamb book as she goes. Those who are familiar with him, knows what kind of woman that is.
HH: Have you ever met Wally Lamb?
CB: No, I have not.
HH: It’s, have you heard from him yet?
CB: No, no I haven’t, but I picked up one, one of those books a few years ago and thought this is not my kind of book.
HH: I love stuff like that though!
HH: It’s one of little details that I find in my favorite authors, they have an eye on the world at the same time that they are creating their own world. And it’s a perfect poker tell about the person, right?
HH: And we’re not going to tell you anything about the character in the book, but it shows up at one point and I said, okay, this is very, very funny and I had to go and look that up. How many poker tells did you put in this book? They are all sorts—
CB: There’s a few. In fact, that same character who is actually Cassandra Dewell’s mother at one point is at the, she finds her at the Occupy Helena Rally.
HH: Yes, was there an Occupy Helena?
CB: No, but there was only 2 people there, her mother and some other guy.
HH: Is that what, what the asides about Occupy Helena are well worth the read itself. And so when you are writing and you decide to do something like that, is that an after thought or does it come to you in the course of just you’re doing a sit down.
CB: No, actually comes, I think that’s one of the things that really, it’s really hard to get for a lot of writers, and I hope I can do this and, that is, always to give every character their own motivation. They’re not just there to propel the book. They exist in this world and in order for them to be a realistic character; they’ve got to have other interests. There has to be a reason for them to be there besides to propel the story.
HH: And that is, this is a very minor character, but you know her very well. She went to Woodstock, you know, except she didn’t. There are lots of people like that. Don’t go anywhere, America, except to go get your copy of The Highway. I’m going to keep talking with Chuck Box. The Highway is over at HughHewitt.com and bookstores everywhere. Enjoy it as I hope you do this summer, our eyes on news. We’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: Morning glory and evening grace, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. I just love The Game of Thrones music. My eyes are on the news, America, and nothing has blown up, no attacks have begun. We now the consulates have closed. Our prayers are with our—the Foreign Service doesn’t get much props, but they do do dangerous work in very far flung places and, hopefully, they are being very well protected by the Marine guards and everybody else out across the country, and we’ll keep our eye on that. The Reince Priebus interview from today will be posted over at HughHewitt.com, as will my interview with C.J. Box who is in studio with me. C.J. Box, author extraordinaire. His website is CJBox.net and his brand new book is The Highway, one of the most chilling books I have read in a decades. That means, twice this summer I’ve gone in harms way, because I’m a scaredy cat, and I went and saw The Conjuring and that was stupid of me. And, The Highway just gripped me, you know, what this book, C.J. Box, did you ever read Helter Skelter?
CB: I did. Yes, a long time ago.
HH: I was in high school. I’m older than you by a few years and so you were even younger, and we were talking books last night
HH: and I should have said, we were talking about books that we remember, and Helter Skelter scared me so much, I was awake all night, and, The Highway, of course, is fiction so it doesn’t, but it will scare people because there is reality lurking behind it. In fact, the extraordinary Lynne came in during the run-up to this hour and she loved your book.
CB: Yeah. She said that, yeah. Yes.
HH: And you told me last night, we were having dinner, that C.J. Box books, unusual for the genre sell 50-50 men, women.
CB: Right. And we see that at almost every signing, and it’s unusual because most books are either tend to have more male or female readers, and at Mystery Bookstores especially, it tends to be more women. So, the signings and events we do around the country, the store manager, often, very surprised to see all these men show up that have never been in their store before, so it’s great. It’s both husbands and wives that read the book.
HH: I think one of that reasons is for Joe Pickett series is because Joe’s wife is, and his daughters, are big figures in those books. They are in the back story and the foreground often as characters understanding what’s going on. In The Highway you introduce a new character into the Cody Hoyt series. Her name is Cassie. She’s female law enforcement and I began going back through my mind, of course, Joe Pickett’s boss in the last book was female law enforcement, but she was a bureaucrat and people did not like her.
CB: Ah, huh.
HH: Cassie is very likeable. Tell people about Cassie.
CB: She’s a brand new investigator. She’s from Helena. She knows that she is an affirmative action hire by the Sheriff who wanted to prove that he embraces diversity. She’s a good person, but she also knows that they other law enforcement people view her as someone who didn’t deserve to get that job, so she tries her hardest to prove herself and, to herself as well, to the other cops.
HH: And she’s about 10 pounds overweight, right, or maybe 15 pounds overweight?
CB: Probably 15 pounds overweight, yes.
HH: I don’t know how you found people who are self-conscience about that, but you did a little psychologically, a little psychological profiling of people like that, and how they react to, and how they use food as comfort. I found that very interesting that that’s part of her character.
CB: Yeah. That’s, actually, the book starts out with her on a stake out eating those little Hostess donuts that she’s said I’ll only
CB: eat 3 an hour, but she’s already finished the box.
HH: That led to a conversation last night, by the way, about the book by Bill Bryson, what’s it called, about the hiking, the trail, um, oh, oh, I can’t remember, [inaudible] brings along the little dolly thing, but I digress.
CB: [laughing]. All of a sudden I can’t remember it either.
HH: I can’t remember it either.
CB: I know the book but—
HH: We talked about it last night and we’re both, oh, well. Anyway, back to The Highway. She’s in here and there hasn’t been, how hard is it for you to write a female law enforcement character? Joe Pickett, you’re kind of inside of his head, you know him. You know his wife, you have a wife, but here’s female law enforcement, how hard was that?
CB: You know, I have, like to get into the heads of the characters whether they are male or female, mature or young. I write a lot of kids characters. In this case, like always, I kind of counted on my wife as she would say, and my daughters, who all read the manuscript, is this realistic? Does this ring true to you? I don’t want to give a female male attributes, but is this realistic, and they help me with that and there were a few things that they told me to tone down or reel back because I wanted to make it seem as real as possible.
HH: And she develops an attitude as the book goes on vis-à-vis her male hierarchy which, I think, is very authentic, at least it felt authentic to me.
HH: And I thought that will be interesting. Have you heard yet from any women in law enforcement?
CB: Not yet. The book has only been out since Tuesday, I have not yet.
HH: Okay. Lots of cops driving around right now and if you’re a woman cop, I think you’re going to enjoy The Highway quite a lot, and if you’re a man cop, you’re probably going to roll your eyes at some things and then recognize yourself in others
HH: bad on you. She is a single mom, she’s a single mom because her husband was killed at the battle of Wanat in Nuristan Providence in 2008. You cover that in pages 204-05. It’s homage to this soldier, and I like that. I like the fact that you put that in there. What was your motivation there?
CB: Well, obviously, because she’s a single mom I wanted to explain what happened to her husband, and I did a little research, and I guess it bothered me that this particular battle when I read about it was really heroine. The kind of battle that in other wars everyone would have known about, but I bet nobody knows about this, because nobody knows about the war.
HH: Have you read Jake Tapper’s The Outpost?
CB: Not yet.
HH: You heard me talking to him?
CB: I’ve got it on my list.
HH: And that is the same sort of deal and so this is a good way for a writer of fiction to weave in the world in which we all live, even though it’s in the remotes of Montana. Now, back to the book, the book, let’s tell people about the placement of this because it involves the Interstate Highway System and not many people go the northern route. I’ve traveled the 70 back and forth a half-dozen times. A lot of people take the 10, the 40 is often used, but the 90 is used only in the east and the 80 only used in the east, but it is lonesome, long and empty up there, isn’t it?
CB: It is. Yeah, I-90, it’s lonesome and long but it has a huge amount of truck traffic.
CB: And not necessarily a lot of other vehicles and I very much noticed that. I-80 is the same way in the west through Wyoming, where it is just continuous, it’s almost like trains of truck traffic.
HH: And let me compliment St. Martins, this is Minotaur Books, but its St. Martins, right?
HH: And so, they open the book, The Highway has got a map of Interstate 94 and you’ve got 89 and 212 in Helena, and this is what’s it, I just love this. You just know where it’s happening.
CB: My daughter did that map.
HH: Did she?
CB: I asked her to do that map and we sent it to the publisher because they never like to do maps for some reason.
HH: Oh, it, I have, as you can see, I’ve got notes in here where the drive involves and where everything is going on because it set in the course of 2 days.
CB: Right. Very compact.
HH: There’s a very terrible statistic here, and that terrible statistic is if a kidnapping isn’t solved within 96 hours–
CB: It’s likely not going to be solved.
HH You’re never going to find them until their dead.
HH: And so, the Cleveland case came along at a time that is the backdrop to this where 10 years later the women are recovered, but that is so rare.
CB: It certainly is.
HH: Tell people about the one case you got to know a little bit about, how they found a trucker who was a serial killer, because it took an accident.
CB: It did I, think, if I remember correctly, he was pulled over for a traffic violation or a light out or something like that, and while the officer was writing him up, he looked inside the cab and, I think, he saw a foot, that’s all. And that led to his apprehension and then him later confessing to 20 or 30 other murders.
HH: The one that I was researching yesterday, Ben Rhoades, he’s not dead, they haven’t executed his sorry rear-end, but he was, he had a torture chamber in his truck, and he would pick up lot lizards, prostitutes, who work the truck stop world and torture them. And they don’t know what he did—they can’t, when they find a bad guy who’s a trucker, they can never, they can only suspect that they didn’t start doing this yesterday. At one point, your bad guy has a profile and he fits serial killer profile. Tell people, not about your character, but what serial killer profile is.
CB: Well, in this case, he lives with his mother who he despises, in a little, tiny rural house in Montana, and he’s got his own little room, he’s only there a couple of weeks a year, but every time he goes there, he’s reminded of how much he doesn’t like his mother or his deceased sister, who his mother dotes on, and he’s got a thing about women, and because of his job, he has the opportunity to act out on that.
HH: Now, what’s interesting and occurred to me at the end of The Highway and, if any of the bad guys are listening right now, the advance of computer technology will find these guys, because trucks are tracked. I didn’t know that either until after I read The Highway. They live in one of the most observed worlds now where there used to be these sailing captains, like Jack Aubrey, out on the ocean blue, and no one would know when you’d come back.
HH: Now, they know exactly where you are and, in fact, the dispatch companies are watching them every minute of every day.
CB: They are unless the trucker learns how to go off the grid.
HH: Tell people about that. Oops, when we come back from break. Ha! That’s a tease, America. How do those trucks vanish? We’ll tell you when we come back, in studio with me is C.J. Box, his new book The Highway is absolutely going to grip you because it’s got so much, you’re going to look at the truck next to you and say, I think I’m going to slow down and let him go past me, and we’ll tell you why when we return to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Stay tuned.
HH: [laughing] This is the Fabulous Thunderbirds. I cannot say that I played with them.
HH: I can’t.
DP: You’re being truthful.
HH: You know, Three Dog Night’s Danny was in last week while you were gone.
DP: Yeah, so.
HH: We talked about the old days.
DP: You didn’t sing with him either.
HH: We talked about the old days, Danny, and I listened to it, good show, you should have listened to it on vacation. Duane is back from vacation and back in studio with me is the wonderful C.J. Box, his brand new best-seller The Highway, not a Joe Pickett novel, a Cody Hoyt novel and I don’t know that it will get to No. 1, I think it will. I think everyone is going to look at each other and say, wow! The truckers are going to love it or hate it, one way or the other, and if your listening right now, you’re really going to be mad that C.J. has figured out some of your tricks, one of which is, in one of the most regulated industries in the United States, you write at one point that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Safety Measurement System, the CSA, the drug testing, the rising fuel costs, the dispatch companies, they are monitored and followed but they can go off the grid. How do they do they do that, C.J. Box?
CB: There are several ways and I learned about it by being, by checking out the trucker forums where, on the internet, where they explain how to go off the grid in great detail. And it depends on what kind of monitoring they’ve got, but one of the most clever ones I read about was that they could use a shower cap with aluminum foil inside and tape it around the Motorola tracking unit on the top, the hood of the truck, and it would take it off the grid. And then they would do whatever they wanted to do and then take it back off and then just explain to the dispatcher they didn’t know what happened, it must have malfunctioned.
HH: And also, the economics of trucking are put into The Highway and the fetching Mrs. Hewitt asked you last night at dinner, what’s an average trucker make, and you said if they’re really good at what they do, and watch their pennies, sixty to a hundred grand, right?
CB: Yeah, that’s what I was told by the truckers, yes.
HH: Everything comes down to the cost of fuel, the load and where you’re drive—explain to people a little bit about this because it’s a fascinating, you did a deep dive into the economics of trucking.
CB: I was very interested in that, yeah, but there’s a lot of math involved, because truckers want to make some money on their own, really need to calculate their loads, their prices of fuel, which states to fuel up in, which ones to avoid. Every little penny with a 150 gallon tank, every penny on that gallon of fuel is going to make a difference. So, they have travel at certain, whenever you see a truck going really fast on the highway, you know that they aren’t paying for their own fuel, because they don’t care. But, if they are maintaining 62 miles per hour, that means that they are doing their calculation, they can make a little bit more money on that.
HH: Interesting as well that CB culture is almost dead.
CB: It is. The only, the rare times that I heard the CB radio go off were when truck stop prostitutes were calling truckers in the lot, but they don’t talk to each other on the CBs.
HH: So how do they communicate, now?
CB: Cell phones. Just like everybody else.
HH: So how do they know about speed traps and stuff like that? The CB in the 70s were a craze and then it got outside of trucking and all the songs came up, how do they replace that informal network of communication now?
CB: Well, they have GPS’ that might indicate that, but at least in my experience, they tend to travel the same routes all the time, only few drivers go run roads that they don’t know. So, they tend to know more about every mile marker on the highway, where the speed traps are likely to be, well in advance.
HH: And they know something about dragon fly. This is just one of many terms, and I love the language. You discovered, was that from your trip with your friends who took you out on the car?
CB: It was. It was. Dragon fly, you drag up the hill and you fly down it and that describes a certain terrain.
HH: And also, Minnesota, from my friends listening on AM 1280 The Patriot, you’re not doing a book signing in Minnesota?
CB: Not this time, unfortunately.
HH: That’s too bad, because Lileks will love this book and, in fact, he’ll find it creepy.
HH: You haven’t met Lileks in person yet, have you?
CB: No, I’m looking forward to it.
HH: Next time, you’ll have, C.J. may do a cruise with us someday in the future, Lileks, so you have to be jealous about that. We have to get him out on a cruise.
CB: Maybe he could go too.
HH: Well, we could turn it into the friends and family of the Hugh Hewitt Show cruise, but, um, the fact of the matter is that Minnesota is not beloved by truckers.
CB: No. Heavily regulated, true or not, they think that the State is after them, they’ll do anything they can to fine them for something.
HH: I’m also amazed that Ohio is not beloved to truckers, because there are a lot of trucks on the Ohio Turnpike but, of course, the turnpike costs money.
CB, Um-hum, right. Right, so anything that costs money or slows them down, they don’t like.
HH: And are Wyoming and Montana favored states?
CB: They are. Yeah, and that’s one reason why sometimes truck drivers will deviate north to go across country, even though they’ll lose a few miles, just to go through those states where they don’t feel like they are being hassled as much.
HH: Now, law enforcement has a largely luminous side, mostly good men and women who protect us from the dark side. There is, I don’t know what you pick for your reading. What do you pick for your reading? I have a suggestion for your reading.
CB: What I’ve been reading is starting out with the description of the lizard king, the driver in the lot, as he’s starting to get ready after somebody.
HH: That is, that’s pretty chilling. Uh, but I’m looking for the pages where Cody describes what law enforcement does and why he cheats.
HH: And maybe after the break we’ll come back with this. How much time do I have till the break, Duane? I got to find this to do it because Cody Hoyt, tell people his view of law enforcement.
CB: He’s got a very cynical view that sometimes no matter what they do, there will be something procedurally where the bad guy won’t get caught or won’t get convicted, and his outlook is that he will do anything to get those people convicted, even if it means planting evidence or setting them up if he knows they are guilty.
HH: But what I liked about that, and we’ll come back after break, I’ll find it, is that he doesn’t really convict them, he just points the CSI types toward them.
HH: So if you plant a little DNA evidence, if you think you know who the bad guy is, for example, they are not going to take plaster casts of truck prints unless they have an idea whose vehicle to match it to.
CB: Right. So he, he sets up things so that people will look in the right direction.
HH: So what do you think about that?
CB: Wow, I guess if you can guarantee every time that the guilty guy will get caught, then it’s probably okay, but I don’t know how you make that guaranty.
HH: What I thought about, it’s a fascinating moral dilemma because it’s very close because you want the bad guy. In this case it’s a subsidiary character, it’s not a main character. Cody Hoyt knows he guilty of murder, knows he’s a real bad guy, knows he’s not going to get caught unless he points the CSI types, the lab techs in the right direction. So he plants a little evidence and the little evidence he plants is a McDonald’s wrapper that he took out of his trash, right?
HH: And it’s just designed to put a pointer and it does work.
CB: And it does work.
HH: And so it’s illegal, it’s wrong, it can get you dismissed from the police department or from the Sheriff’s office or from the Highway Patrol, but he does it because, and I’ll read it when we come back, the culture that he’s up against is truly horrific.
HH: Do you agree with that?
CB: You know, to some degree, yes, to some degree, but also it is a character and he’s justifying his actions. But it’s not necessarily my deepest, innermost conviction.
HH: And you also have another, we’re not going to give any spoilers away, there’s another place where that theme reoccurs. You set it up nicely, small, large. There is a small instance of that, there’s a large instance of the choice that has to be made and when it comes back around—how long did it take to write this book?
CB: I think about 18 months, but I had to stop in the middle and work on a Joe Pickett book, so I had to stop and put it aside and then, then while I had it aside, I came up with a few. . .
HH: I’ve got to come back and talk about juggling that. Don’t go anywhere, America, C.J. Box in studio with me. CJBox.net is his website for all the Joe Pickett novels and the brand new book The Highway which is also linked at HughHewitt.com, stay tuned.
HH; Thirty-four minutes after the hour, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt with C.J. Box in the studio with me, his brand new book, The Highway is going to grip you and grab you and you’re not going to put it down. The cover art has a big-rig tracking, a little Ford Focus, or some thing like that—is that the car Focus?
CB: Yes, it is, a little red one.
HH: A little red Focus with a couple of teenage girls in it and it’s going to keep you parents awake all night long. What I was talking about before the break—we have are eyes on the news—nothing big to report, America. And I don’t really care about A-
rod, but the Cody Hoyt character says this on page 80, you’ll find Cassie, that it’s us, the good cops. or the cops against the world. We do our damndest to put away the degenerates and the blanks so innocent people won’t hurt by them, but all the forces out there, set us up to make us fail. We’ve got county attorney’s that won’t take on a case unless it’s air tight, judges who want us to invent the law, instead of enforce what’s there, defense attorney who want to show publically how blanking incompetently we are and juries who want to stick it to the man. So when we figured out that someone is guilty as sin, sometimes we need to stack the deck a little bit, you know what I’m saying? Somebody’s got to defend innocent people. They need a dark angel. The deck is stacked against them, to all those good citizens all out there, just want to raise their families go to work, go to church and keep their heads down, they don’t give a blank about County politics or political correctness or running for Sheriff or the Sheriff’s blank’n diversity program, they just want to live their lives—somebody has got to step up and protect them, you know, and who is tougher on bad guys than me? Look, he said, blank did it. The two of them are the biggest growers who are fighting for market share and it goes on from there. It’s a great, great speech, by a reformed alcoholic whose no longer reformed at that point, whose no longer reformed at that point.
CB: There are a lot of blanks in there.
HH: There are a lot of blanks in there and, off he goes, and any cop’s tell you that? Is that something that C.J. Box invented or is that something you’ve heard from Sheriff’s and Highway Patrolman out there.
CB: No, I had some conversations with a couple of Sheriff’s Department Investigator’s once, after a few beers –they made it clear to me what they thought about everything out there and how the deck was stacked against them and how they were trying to do the right thing. And, they are very passionate about wanting to get the bad guys, and they feel like sometimes, at least in this situation, that everybody was preventing them from doing it.
HH: There are Highway Patrolmen in this book as well.
CB: Oh, yes, there are!
HH: Better not get pulled over any time soon.
HH: How often do you get pulled over? Are you a led-foot?
CB: Not really. I have, I have been pulled over a few times.
HH: The fetching Mrs. Hewitt is absolutely the worst—she is heavy on the lead, and she does not pay attention to the blinking lights and they show up—and I’m a little go on to get along guy, always in the right lane, doing my speed limit. I want the police to know, that that’s absolutely true, but they are going to like this portrait or not or not like this portrait because you talk about how you’ve got to assert authority and then you begin to think about, they are the only guy for miles and miles around on these highways stretches dealing with a lot of unusual people.
CB: Yeah, I have talked to some Highway Patrolmen, and they are a mixed bag too. They are some real lone wolves out there. Others, just as standup as you can be.
HH: Sub-cultures within truckers, theirs is a Christian sub-culture which is very interestingly portrayed, front line guys, not back of the park guys, but front line guys.
CB: Yeah, they park in the front because they don’t mind being seen, they are not trying to hide from anything or doing any nefarious and, I actually kind of based that scene on something at one of the truck stops when I went on the road, is—a bunch of drivers sitting around in a truck stop—debating scripture with each other at a table and, in fact, they were the biggest group in that particular truck stop.
HH: And so, I wanted to point out to—it’s a great dialogue, by the way. It rings authentically true to the Protestant ear.
HH: And so, there is that culture. There’s a squeaky-clean culture and I’m sure there are Chaplin’s at everyplace and there are good truck stops, but there is an underbelly, absolutely elicit and you talk about one place where you can buy—where you can sell a hot truck and it’ll end up in Mexico in a day, and they’ll discount it heavily, and then you buy another one and reinvent yourself.
CB: Right. I heard about that from the drivers I went with that it’s fairly well known within the trucking culture. They don’t talk a lot about it, but it’s basically like the last resort, if you really get in trouble, you can drive to this place and pay a lot of money and be back on the road with a new identify and a new truck within a matter of days.
HH: Now he has to then build, a trucker will then have to rebuild their life
HH: and they do that with short-hauls as an independent trucker. I mean it’s fascinating. You did your homework.
HH: That’s why The Highway is going to get an extraordinary reception from all the readers who love books out there. I’ll be back to talk about the book business in a second, C.J. Box is my guest, his brand new book The Highway, stay where you are, America, it’s the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt, C.J. Box in studio with me today. I hope I’ve given you something to read this summer. His brand new book is The Highway. It’s in bookstores everywhere, shooting up the charts because it’s as scary as can be and it’s an incredibly fast-paced read, it’s dark, it’s scary and you’ll never look at a trucker the same
HH: and their either happy or sad about that and they’ll probably tell you—do not read the Amazon reviews though, though by far they are mostly 5 star, but I don’t want you to get a spoiler. I’ve conducted this interview so as not to spoil anything. C.J. Box, I want to talk about the book business a little bit. You’re only doing a half, you’re doing a book signing tonight in Phoenix and I know some people—if I know Barney Bremmer, he’s in his car from Tucson driving over to The Poison Pen right now, because he’s a big C.J. Box fan, and The Poison Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, you’ll be there at 7 o’clock tonight, Houston, Texas, tomorrow at Murder By the Book, Lexington, Kentucky on Wednesday, in Pittsburgh at Oak Mont on Thursday and then you’re going up Portland way. All this stuff is over at CJBox.net as is a link to buy The Highway. How many people approach you with plots?
CB: Oh, it happens quite often, at book signings or people will email me and say, here’s an idea for you.
HH: Do you like them or do you resent them?
CB: I don’t resent them at all, but unfortunately, you’ve got to be really careful with that. My agent, my literary agent, has a well known author-client who ended up in court because somebody said I gave him that idea. They couldn’t prove it, but he had to pay a lot of money, emotionally, a lot of his time. So, you’ve got to avoid taking, unfortunately, avoid taking those kinds of things from people that are generally well-meaning.
HH: Absolutely, I also, I know as an author myself, that people bring things to you at book signings and usually I have Marlon the Marine or Duane or somebody, and you’re traveling by yourself, and they give you stuff, and if you’re going on a book tour, you’re ending up with a boat load of stuff and they are being very nice to you, but you can’t carry—how many people give you manuscripts?
CB: I don’t take manuscripts.
HH: Good, good.
CB: I can’t because not only for the weight, but there’s an implication that, again, same kind of thing, I gave him my manuscript and then he stole my idea. I try to avoid that.
HH: So now, let’s talk about marketing. The number of bookstores dropping, and you and I told stories last night about horrific book signings we have endured
HH: and every author out there has had a horrific book signing unless they are Dean Koontz, in which case they don’t have to do them anymore anyway, because they are already selling 8 billion books. And, Dean, one of these days, I’m going to sit down and read all of your 30 books and then invite you to come on the show.
HH: I have to read your books first and every time I start them, I know I’m going to vanish for a year into those books. But now, marketing has changed dramatically, and CJBoxauthor is your Twitter handle, right?
HH: Tell people about how you’ve come to believe.
CB: I didn’t, I wasn’t all that excited about the idea, Facebook either. I still don’t really enjoy getting Facebook stuff, but Twitter I do. It’s great to put out real little punchy messages, gonna be here, gonna be there, things are happening. People I follow, like you, are people I’m interested it, but it’s a great marketing tool and I mentioned that the other day I was doing a book signing at a Costco in Colorado and I just did a funny little tweet, I’m here between the pistachios and the peanut butter which was true and all of a sudden a guy walked up with his phone going oh, my God, you’re here! I just read your tweet. I need a book.
CB: And it was so instantaneous that it just kind of astounded me.
HH: On Wednesday Dan Balz is going to be with me whose new book is Collision 2012 and we were talking about, as we set up the interview, how he has to do it to time at the drop of the book, so that everything depends upon early sales, right? It’s like movie openings.
HH: And this is an extraordinarily new development. It used to be that books grew on the shelf, now that you’re established, everyone will go buy all sorts of Joe Pickett novels or they’ll go buy C.J. Box books. But early on if you’re a first or second time around, everything depends on the first two weeks.
CB: That’s right and the books vanish off the shelves just within a few a few weeks if they’re not selling. It’s amazing.
HH: Do you stop at every book store and see if they have the C.J. Box section established.
CB: Yeah, I do.
HH: Do you?
CB: I used, now I’m, I’m a little bolder about it. I just used to sneak in and if they didn’t have a lot of them, I’d just sneak out with my head down. But now I ask if I don’t see them, because sometimes, for example, in airports, sometimes they just haven’t put the books out yet. You ask and they say, oh, yeah, they are right here in this box, and I’ll say, would you please put them out!
HH: People are flying, I just did a two-hour interview and people are looking for them.
HH: Are they big airport sales?
HH: That’s an amazing point of sale now, isn’t it?
CB: It’s an amazing point of sale, but even more so, it’s an amazing—they’ve done some studies, the publishers have, a lot of people will buy the electronic version of the book that they see in front of them at an airport bookstore. So, it’s almost like a little billboard and they actually have tape, videotape, of people standing right there with their iPad or Kindle in front of a book ordering it. So, it’s different.
HH: How fascinating.
CB: So it’s a good thing to have in airports.
HH: And what is your percentage of sales, of Kindle, iTunes versus hard cover book?
CB: It’s about 50-50 now.
CB: And it has been for the last couple of books. It seems, I think we were talking about that last night. That seems to be maybe where it’s now, where it is.
HH: Daniel Silva said the same thing so did Brad Thor.
CB: About 50-50.
HH: That’s three best-selling New York Times authors who say 50-50 and I think that’s going to go to the mentality of the reader more than anything else.
HH: Now, has anyone started a Joe Pickett fan club yet? Do you have like Joe Pickett people like there are. . .
CB: Not necessarily a fan club that I know of. I get the photos on the Facebook page where there will be a lot of people dressed up like Joe Pickett.
HH: The reason is because last night Bud said, Bud the Contractor, was over because he’s an outdoorsman that he follows your books on maps. He actually gets the map out, like your daughter did for the front piece of The Highway, the Joe Pickett novels, he likes to know where it’s going on, and his wife reads the books as well, and she follows them on the map, and I’m just thinking that’s like the Aubrey Maturin books, people would follow their sea voyages. Is that kind of, are their Joe Pickett tours yet?
CB: There aren’t, although I do know for real, because I hear from tourism people that, people visit Wyoming and want to go to the locations. They’ll go little visitor centers and say, is Savage Run Canyon around here, I want to go see it and that happens quite a lot.
HH: And how about, I made a note to ask you the Montana/Wyoming thing, this book is a Montana book, most of your books are Wyoming,
HH: some are Montana. How many Joe Pickett get Montana into them?
CB: There’s a couple mentions of Montana, but because it’s in northern Wyoming near the border, but primarily Wyoming.
HH: Is there a Wyoming/Montana thing?
CB: No, I think both states love each other.
HH: Ha, ha. I’ll be right back to found out if that’s true. One more segment coming up with C.J. Box’s brand new book The Highway in bookstores everywhere, America. It’s the Hugh Hewitt Show.
HH: Welcome back, America. If you did not hear me say this earlier in the show, I read from a Los Angeles Times story of April 5, 2009, the “The FBI suspects that serial killers working as long-haul truckers are responsible for the slaying of hundreds of prostitutes, hitchhikers and stranded motorists whose bodies have been dumped near the highways over the last three decades. Federal authorities first made the connection about 5 years ago, while helping police link a trucker to a string of unsolved killings along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma and several other states. After that, the FBI launched the Highway Serial Killers Initiative to track suspicious slayings and suspect truckers.” One of those suspect truckers is the key figure in The Highway, the brand new thriller by New York Times best-selling author C.J. Box, you know him mostly from this show and Joe Pickett. The Highway is not a Joe Pickett novel, it’s a Cody Hoyt novel and it’s extraordinarily gripping, and I just said it’s a Montana book so, C.J. Box, you’re not like putting the real bad guys in Montana and keeping the only so-so bad guys in Wyoming.
CB: [laughing] No. I never even thought about it that way. No, but I do kind of reserve Wyoming for Joe Pickett books and the other stand-alones have taken place in Idaho, Montana and Colorado surrounding Wyoming, so that’s king of how I look at it.
HH: Oh, so I see, so Joe’s going to work Wyoming down, down, down—so where’s the next stand-alone going to be? Have you already got it figured out?
CB: I’ve got two ideas, one of them in North Dakota. I’m fascinated by what’s going on in North Dakota with the Bakken Oil play and how it’s absolutely transformed that state in such a quick, and I haven’t seen any interesting books about that yet so I’m kind of intrigued by that idea.
HH: And you use two different publishers.
HH: That’s very interesting to me. They must hate each other.
CB: Actually, they compete with each other. The publishing world is a small world and both my publishers live on the same block in New Jersey and take the same train into Manhattan every day, and they trash talk each other about how well the books are doing.
HH: And so The Highway publisher is saying The Highway is doing better than the Breaking Point?
CB: Exactly, so they compete.
HH: Then the Breaking Point publisher says we got to number 2 on the New York Times best-seller list?
CB: Yes, right.
HH: The Highway guy says, we’re going to be number 1 with a bullet, that sort of thing?
CB: So they compete and I’m the beneficiary of that competition.
HH: I love free market.
CB: I do.
HH: I just love free market. Okay, very quickly, what’s next?
CB: The next is a Joe Pickett book, out next March. It’s called Stone Cold.
HH: Is it done?
CB: its 80 pages from being done. I had to take a break to go on this book tour, but it will be done really soon, and I’m excited about it.
HH: And that’s what I wanted to finish. You said earlier that you took a break from The Highway to work on a Joe Pickett novel, how hard is that to put down and then return to a book?
CB: It’s hard, but it’s also really rewarding because there are some things that happen in The Highway, real twists, events that happen
HH: Didn’t see it coming.
CB: that nobody can see them coming. Those were all kind of came after I put the book away for 6-months and I started thinking about it. And I stared thinking, what if this happened? What if this happened and I changed it up this way, so it actually kind of helped.
HH: I’m telling you, it’s really an extraordinary read, America. The Highway by C.J. Box is linked at HughHewitt.com. Send me an email if you agree with me. Carl did, Duane did, Lynne did, you all will. CJ, good to see you. CJBox.net or over at HughHewitt.com. Thanks, America. Keep listening to this great radio station.