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C.J. Box Talking Shots Fired, His New Collection Of Short Stories

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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HH: You’re in for a treat. I’m live in Denver at the campus of Colorado Christian University. And I’m here for the Western Conservative Summit. I’ve been leading all week the Young Conservative Leadership Conference. I’ll continue to do so from this campus. My friends at 710 KNUS taking care of me, but just by happenstance, I’m here with C.J. Box, just one of my favorite people in the world, happens to be in Denver to sign his brand new book, Shots Fired, a collection of marvelous short stories which include three about Joe Pickett. WWJPD is the new thing. I just tweeted it out, or about to. C.J. what do we call these things? Decals, right? What do we call these?

CJB: I just call them decals, yes. That’s what, one of the daughter’s projects.

HH: This is a terrific project. This is like a secret signal for Joe Pickett lovers. Welcome. You’re going to be the Tattered Cover in Denver, in Highlands Ranch tonight at 7pm.

CJB: That’s right. Yup, I was in Phoenix last night, Denver tonight.

HH: Now I did not know I knew Bret Harte. I did not, Bret Harte’s one of the great short story writers of the West about to turn to the last century. And all of a sudden, along comes my Shots Fired, and I have been, this is actually a joy to read, and I’m not shining you on. If I was teaching high school or college kids how to write, because they won’t read a novel, I would give them this book along with your introductory note on inspiration, and I’d say start with short stories, because this is amazing.

CJB: Well, thank you. I really appreciate it. I love to read short stories, and obviously, I like to write them. But you know, there’s a lot of people who shy away from them. I don’t know why exactly, why they’ll wait for an entire full-length novel when short stories are available. But a short story is actually, I think, harder to write than a novel, because there’s not enough room to paper over things. You’ve got to get right to it, create a whole new world, create new characters, and tell the story in a very few pages. And it’s challenging.

HH: I am not normally a consumer of short stories. And so when Shots Fired arrived, and I saw that a few of them had appeared very idiosyncratically…

CJB: Yeah.

HH: I mean, this is the most idiosyncratic collection I’ve read in a long time. Three Joes, one Nate Romanowski, maybe a laugh out loud, I tweeted this out this morning, I was reading, I’m not going to try the French, the Novel Savage.

CJB: Right.

HH: But it’s got French…how do you pronounce that in French?

CJB: I can’t pronounce it, either.

HH: Le Sauvage Nobel, whatever it is.

CJB: That’s from Rousseau.

HH: Rousseau, and that, I was laughing out loud until I wasn’t laughing out loud.

CJB: Yeah, that takes a turn for the worse, doesn’t it?

HH: Yeah, but it was, it is fall down funny when two Lakota Indians in Paris, tell them how they get to Paris. We can tell them that much.

CJB: Right, and it’s based on fact. It’s based on something I experienced. I used to be, before I was a full-time writer, I was involved in international tourism promotion. And part of my job was to go over to Europe, and we would, we did a reception at the American Embassy for French tour operators, travel agents, journalists. And while we were there, we got our hats on and that whole thing, and there was just a parade of states that do this kind of thing. And while we were there, I noticed that there were two American Indians in the room who were not with us, in full regalia. And I thought that was pretty odd, and I went over and talked to them, and they were from Oklahoma, not from Wyoming or Montana or any of our states. And I asked them why they were there, and they said well, they had found out several years ago that French women liked to take Indians home with them. And so they were just kind of making a career of it. And they thought it was pretty funny, but then they’d go right back into the grim face so that they would look authentic. And then the very next night, I went to the Wild West show at Disneyland Paris.

HH: Which I did not know existed until I read your short story. I did not know there was a Wild West show at Disneyland.

CJB: It’s wildly popular, and the people who work there are all recruited from the Rocky Mountain states. Disney will come over and hire real cowboys and real Indians, and take them over there, and they’ll work that show. And it’s amazing to see something like that in France.

HH: Well, it’s funny that the most in demand gigolos are Native Americans. That’s itself funny. But you have an eye for France, and this goes to actually what a short story allows you to do. You might not want to work this for a whole novel.

CJB: Right.

HH: You might not want to talk about Paris for a whole novel. Paris, “It takes a while for history to grow here.” Very keen observation on a basement in the American Embassy that was left in 1944 with Nazi stuff in it when they retreated, and that kind of eye for detail, but also, the Marine guard says I wish these dollies likes Marines the way they like Indians. Or it’s you can’t choose to be French in the way that you can be America. There are very, some sharp observations in this story as there are in all of these stories.

CJB: Well, I actually heard that quote about, from a cowboy, from a cowboy from Wyoming, who had been working in Disneyland Paris for I think six or seven years, married a French girl. And I was asking him how he liked it, and he said, he made that point. He said he liked it fine, but you can never become French. They just won’t let you.

HH: And so how long in the archaeology of a short story, how long do those bits and pieces lie under the ground until you dig them up and put them together in a fine story, and find someone who wants a story?

CJB: Oh, sometimes it’s years and years and years. And you know, to be honest, I mean, I’m a capitalist. I don’t write stories on spec.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: In every case in this anthology, I was asked to either contribute to another anthology, or to a magazine, and in one case, a newspaper. And there are three new ones written specifically for this once we decided to put it out and gathered them all up. But over the years, there are just certain little subjects that I knew could not be a Joe Pickett novel or a standalone, but that I wanted to flesh out.

HH: There are two I have not read, because I am here for two more nights, and I am reading one, and I said at the end, I’ve got enough to talk to C.J. for an hour about, and I’m not doing longer than an hour, and so I thought you know what, I’m just going to save this and enjoy these last two.

CJB: That’s perfect.

HH: Then I liked this book so much, I’m going to have you sign it to my friends, Donna Lauren and Dennis Harnish, and then I’m not going to give it to them, because I love to tease them. I’m going to say I have a signed C.J. Box book for you, and you can’t have it. And they will have heard this. And that’s how much I liked this book.

CJB: Good. Thank you.

HH: I’m going to use it to torment people that I like to torment.

CJB: And I would also compliment you on reading, you can’t make people read short stories the way, you know, people are going to read them the way they read them. But you’re doing it exactly the right way, and that is like one a night.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: Or take a little break between each one, because they don’t flow into each other. And it’s driven me crazy. The book’s only been out one day, but I talked to several people last night in Phoenix who said oh, man, I just got it, and I read it in six hours.

HH: Oh, no. No, no, no.

CJB: No, no, no.

HH: No, I had it last week in Naples, Florida, and I started from the number of days forward, because I like to finish a book the day before I talk to an author, do the outline for the interview and move forward. And so I had to start it earlier for that reason. You can’t read them back to back. I suppose you could read the three Joe Picketts, but that wouldn’t work, either, or the Nate Romanowski, you really, they’re not sequenced.

CJB: No, they aren’t.

HH: So they’re different times and places. When we come back from break, we’ll talk a little bit about Joe Pickett, because I’m sure your publisher is more than happy to have a Joe Pickett short story out there. They’d take all Joe Pickett, right?

CJB: They do.

HH: They probably want you to turn out two Joe Picketts a year, right?

CJB: They wouldn’t complain, for sure.

HH: They wouldn’t complain. So you’ve given a Nate Romanowski at the same time, so you’re able to sell your two main guys in the same book along with some interesting, very interesting stuff. But you’ve got to tell people what ASAP is before the break, because that is fascinating to me.

CJB: Oh, the little publisher?

HH: Yeah.

CJB: Yeah, it’s a little publisher in California that they specialize in limited edition short stories.

HH: Never heard of this ever until I read your book.

CJB: Beautifully bound, the stories are illustrated. There’s only usually 250 copies, and then there’s a special edition in a big clamshell box where I think they only sell 20 of those, and then they go strictly to collectors. And the collectors, you know, will have hundreds of copies of these books.

HH: There’s a book collector in this collection.

CBJ: Yes.

HH: And we’ll talk about it at some point. But there are so many winks at the audience here, that if they read your introductory note at the beginning, and then they go back and read it again, they won’t get everything you say in your introductory note until after. Then to go back, you’ve provided genealogy of story, and there’s always a story behind every short story. That’s why I think it’s like having Mark Twain tell you about why he wrote what and when he wrote it.

CJB: Well, the thing is, one of the questions that always comes up at every book signing, and constantly every year, where do you get your ideas. It’s the hardest thing to answer, and so what I tried to do was go through each story and say here’s where the idea came from, here’s why it came about, and here’s how I did it, and then let the reader put that all together.

HH: Now I’m curious, you’ve got some very smart readers. Greg Schallor is a professor here at CCU. I was at his home last night smoking a cigar…

CJB: Just met him.

HH: Just met him. He’ll be bringing some books in for you to sign. He’s a huge, he didn’t know you were coming. He’s just as excited as could be, as is everyone who will be at the Tattered Cover tonight at Highlands Ranch. Nevertheless, when we got to talking, we talked about Joe Pickett like he was a real guy. And how much does this happen to you?

CJB: Well, quite a bit. And sometimes, it’s a little bit unnerving when people are asking very personal questions about Joe Pickett that I don’t know the answer to. And I should. But it’s also great that readers invest so much of themselves in the characters.

HH: Did you ever, and I couldn’t remember this, we’ve got one minute to break, did you ever give us Joe Pickett’s, I know you gave his high school story. Did you ever give his young story, his, you know, when you start remembering things, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9?

CJB: Only a little bit. There’s still some hints. Most of those are in the Yellowstone book, Free Fire, because when he goes there, he recalls going there as a child. And he had a rough childhood.

HH: Right, his dad’s in Free Fire.

CJB: Yeah, and he used to, I think there’s a reference to him sleeping outside at night reading a magazine and seeing an ad for a game warden, you know, learn to fish and hunt and sleep under the stars.

HH: That voice you hear, a regular visitor in the summer, C.J. Box. His stories from Joe Pickett country, Shots Fired, in stores everywhere, available at www.amazon.com. I have it linked at www.hughhewitt.com. If you’re in Denver, you ought to go meet him, get it signed, Tattered Cover tonight at Highlands Ranch, and you got to www.cjbox.net and you’ll see where he is all the rest of the days you’re on tour, I assume.

CJB: That’s right.

— — – – —

HH: And it’s different from any of the other previous C.J. Box books, because it’s short stories. And let’s talk about One Car Bridge for a second. It’s based on a character so tough that his legacy still hovers over the land like a black cloud. So you had a dinner conversation about a man’s grandfather.

CJB: Right.

HH: And it ends up in this book. And by the way, I noticed that Lamar Dietrich, Fritz Engler, Darrell Heywood, they’re all rich guys that invade the land. And you do not much care for them.

CJB: You know, I never really thought about that until you just brought it up, but yeah, they’re all powerful guys. And in this case, it’s, all of these stories have some kind of real seed to them. And there is a landowner in the Saratoga, Wyoming area where I used to live and I still fish that was notorious, because his land is filled with signs that say in Wyoming, you’re allowed to float on the waters. It’s considered public. But if you so much as drop an anchor, you are trespassing. And nobody had more signs up and did more prosecuting of even, in one case, a bunch of boy scouts that crashed their boat and had to swim to shore. He took them in and got them, and charged them with trespassing. And so I mean, he was so nasty, it was almost funny. But I started with that and built the story.

HH: And that’s a Joe Pickett story. And so Joe is back. He’s also back, and this is really one of the themes I noted that, but there’s a theme here about Indians.

CJB: Right.

HH: There are lots of Indians in here. And I always hesitate to use the term Indians except in the context of Cleveland Indians…

CJB: Right.

HH: …because I always assume that Native Americans would rather be called Native Americans. But I think from you, I’m learning no, they’re Indians, and you can call them Shoshone and Cheyenne or Lakota or all the various tribes that you have here. By the way, do the two tribes, the Northern Arapahoe and the Shoshone share a reservation?

CJB: They do share a reservation?

HH: They really do?

CJB: Yeah, they were lifelong enemies. They were given a temporary arrangement on the Wind River Indian Reservation that is still going on hundreds of years later. But the fact that I’ve, you know, I know American Indians, and I’ve yet to meet one who said please call me Native American. They refer to themselves as Indians.

HH: Do you get any static for that at all?

CJB: No, I’ve had a couple editors make the change to make it more politically correct, and I’ll go back and say no, that’s not what they prefer to be called. And on the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, the newspaper they put out themselves is called Indian Country News.

HH: Okay, my friend, Jonathan, came in and I said where’s Greg Schallor? He’s supposed to be in here with us listening to this conversation. You tell him he’s more than welcome. And C.J. is always interested in meeting readers, especially smart readers who read closely.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: So I wanted to find out about this Indian thing. The first Indians I met were in Gallup, New Mexico in 1978 when Rob Guinarri and I, my car broke down, and we spent the night in Gallup against our will. We weren’t planning to stay there. And the reservation’s nearby, and we went into a bar. And some of the toughest looking guys in the world, and the barman told us leave those guys alone, they’re from the reservation. And they’re not for you. And so that comes across, both in the funny side of the Paris story, but again and again, a tough life on these reservations. How do they react to your stories?

CJB: You know, I have never had a negative reaction, and I think also, like especially in the Master Falconer, there’s that quirky, comical side, very humorous side to the Indians that really exist, of the ones I know. A lot of times, you know, that stern face is just kind of putting on a show, and that there’s really a lot of joking going on, and they enjoy it. But the American Indians I have talked to who have read the books and the Joe Pickett books all agree, no one has said that it’s not realistic.

HH: Dull Knife is deeply sympathetic, without being fawning. It’s respectful without attempting to be PC. It is hell on wheels on this one character, Darrel Heywood, who has sort of a Ted Turner, I guess it’s not Ted Turner, because he never wanted to be, wasn’t a wannabe Indian, but who’s that based on? Is there somebody in the back of Chuck Box’ mind that is Darrel Heywood?

CJB: I’ve met some of those people…

HH: Wow.

CJB: …again, back in the old tourism days. Sometimes, we would tour Europe with American Indians from the reservation who were promoting tourism, and there was just this certain little subgroup of kind of hangers-on who would show up and just want to hang around the Indians and act like they were part of the tribe. And in some case in Germany, they’d come up and start speaking Shoshone. And our guys, our Shoshones, couldn’t understand them very well.

HH: You know, the contempt you convey, it’s communicated very well in this story, for the posers, and the people who don’t want to help but who want to pity, and Joe makes a little statement. Joe doesn’t do much politics, but he said to give alcohol to an alcoholic, they’re happy for a little bit, but you haven’t helped them. And then he talks, if you don’t give someone, and they’re talking about a tragic character, the most tragic character in this series. And I was trying to remember if she’s been in a previous book.

CJB: I based a character on that character.

HH: Okay, so that’s why it was echoing, but I couldn’t remember.

CJB: Which is again based on a real athlete in Wyoming who was a spectacular athlete, Indian athlete, who went bad.

HH: Yeah, I can’t remember which book that was in.

CJB: I’m trying to remember myself.

HH: Well, I’m glad to know it’s not just regular readers of the Joe Pickett novels. I’m talking to C.J. Box. You can follow C.J. Box on Twitter @cjboxauthor. That’s his handle. I sometimes make a mistake and put out @cjbox. There must be an @cjbox then, right?

CJB: Yeah, but I think it’s in Japan or something.

HH: Then they must be getting all these weird tweets.

CJB: Yes.

HH: And their tweet feed is all messed up, because I always forget to do it, and I’ll bet you I’m not the only one. How many people talk to you via Twitter now, Chuck?

CJB: Oh, you know, it really depends if books are out or whatever, but right now, when I can have the least amount of time to keep up with it, I get the most queries and comments.

HH: Of course.

CJB: But I do try to keep up. You know, dozens…a lot of people just put statements out. They don’t so much ask questions or do messaging.

HH: And you’re using #shotsfired. Okay, that’s interesting. Is that working?

CJB: I don’t know.

HH: Not your job?

CJB: I think so.

HH: You write the stories?

CJB: That’s right.

HH: Now if this is successful, people will want more short stories, just like they want more of The Highway. I don’t ever want another serial killer book. I really don’t. I like Joe. I mean, they could be a serial killer, but I want Joe involved. By the way, how is that transition from The Highway to this?

CJB: Well, this one, it was certainly a lot lighter, that’s for sure.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: It’s been interesting how much The Highway has resonated with readers, and you know, just, even though I’m on the road with this short story book, most of the questions are about The Highway.

HH: People will never forget The Highway if they’ve read it.

CJB: That’s what I’m finding.

HH: They will never wonder if there’s a backstory that they’re not recalling.

CJB: Which is great for an author, and plus, the paperback sales on it are just tremendous.

HH: I’m sure. It’s something you can pick up and go on an airplane. When we come back from break, Yellowstone – is it going to blow. And there’s a Yellowstone story, America. I know you go oh, my gosh, C.J. always writes, here we go again when the buffalo…I saw the picture of the buffalo leaving.

CJB: Yeah, that was a fake story.

HH: That was not a fake story. They know. They know Yellowstone’s going to go. C.J. Box and I were brought together by the imminent disaster that is Yellowstone, the end of civilization event that is Yellowstone. There is a Yellowstone short story which we’re going to talk about after the break and a couple more.

— – – –

HH: It’s about to get Western here, because C.J. Box is in studio with me in the West. I was up in Conifer, Colorado last night, and where the guns are plentiful and the steaks are large.

CJB: Good.

HH: And we got Western talking about C.J. Box stuff. And that brings me to the epitome of the West, Wyoming. And my friend, John Andrews, was in here earlier, and he said, “Wyoming is what America used to be, Wyoming people say – self-reliant, limited government, respect the land, but use it.” And I’m wondering if you agree with John Andrews.

CJB: Yeah, I agree with both of those statements. Yeah, absolutely.

HH: Because I thought maybe Colorado would have a little indifference to Wyoming, and Wyoming might have big brother envy.

CJB: Not really. I mean, the state slogan of Colorado is you know, Colorado, just south of paradise.

HH: (laughing) That’s pretty good. All right, back to the stories of Yellowstone. Yellowstone is the largest, you say in this story, (bio) Pirates of Yellowstone, that there are 10,000 breaks in the Earth’s crust in Yellowstone…

CJB: Right.

HH: …through which the Earth, the volcanic core bubbles up.

CJB: In one way or another – mud pots, geysers or fumaroles, or steam vents.

HH: So it is a bubbling cauldron of disaster?

CJB: Of potential disaster.

HH: Of potential disaster. But what I did not know, and had never read about until I read (bio) Pirates of Yellowstone, is that there are people who go in there to capture microcosmic organisms that can be found nowhere else. What do they do with them, Chuck?

CJB: They try to sell them. You know, it’s very, I did get into this a little bit in the book, Free Fire, but actually, Pirates of Yellowstone came first. That’s where I first learned about it. There is one specific spring in Yellowstone Park, and I know exactly where it is, but they’ve taken the sign off of it now, so they don’t want anybody to know where they found what they call thermophiles, bacteria unique to that one spring, hot springs, that has certain properties in it that sped up DNA testing. You know how it used to be when they’d say hey, in two weeks, we’ll know if this is a match? And now they can say we’ll let you know in an hour if this is the one? So there’s properties within that thermophile that scientists found that would speed it up.

HH: How did they ever discover that?

CJB: They’re constantly in there, and that’s the very weird thing. This is a national park. You’re not even supposed to take a stick out. But the Park Service actually has contracts with bioengineering firms who come in and “mine” thermophiles, and mine the properties they’ve got.

HH: Now see, there are two aspect to bio pirates. There are two things I didn’t know about. I didn’t know that there were Europeans who ended up there expecting a job and not getting one, which leaves them, as you say in your forward note, sort of at sea, right? And you saw a group of, were they German teenagers? Do you know who they were? That’s what…

CJB: I think they were Czechoslovakian.

HH: Hanging around, they’re going to get into trouble, right?

CJB: Smoking, wearing black leather, in Gardiner, Montana. They stuck out.

HH: They stuck out. And they probably fell into one of those pot-belly things that burn you up and leave just the bones in Yellowstone. That happens. Why I’m not going there is that buffalo fall in and they come out looking like a sparrow. But the second thing I didn’t know about was this biological thing, and that they mine this stuff. So do they actually have bio pirates? Or have you introduced a concept that might attract people to it?

CJB: No, there have been a few people arrested.

HH: Okay, that’s what I was…

CJB: And found, you know, with vials and instrumentation that shouldn’t be there, just getting the water, the run off from certain little springs. I do know of a place in Yellowstone where once a month, a little truck rolls up and they take a bunch of vials like out of a certain hot spring that has the thermophiles in them, put them in cases and then ship them to Switzerland. That’s their deal with the Park Service.

HH: My gosh. You wonder, that’s actually great investigative journalism. It’s not fiction. That’s a lead for a great interview, to go follow those vials and follow that truck and see where it leads. But the Europeans who come, they come to work in the hotels. They are often promised jobs. And I ran into this as a private resort off the coast of Lake Erie where everyone on the island is from abroad.

CJB: Yeah, it’s very common.

HH: They come in for five months from the beginning, before the season through the end of the season, and then thy go back to Europe on a work visa.

CJB: Yeah, it’s very common all over the West, especially. Guest ranches, national parks, national forests, that’s their seasonal help.

HH: Now I’m surprised that Americans don’t object to that. Those are jobs that Americans will do, aren’t they?

CJB: The biggest problem is that most of the Americans, the kids, in fact, my daughter was one of them, have to go to college. They have to leave before the job is over. And that puts the concessionaires in a real bind. So they have to get people who can be there four and a half to five months.

HH: What do they pay? Do they pay minimum wage?

CJB: They don’t pay much of anything.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: The people who come mainly want to be in the park.

HH: And at the end of (bio) Pirates of Yellowstone, we’re not going to say anything other than this, a character feels a part, finally, of Yellowstone.

CJB: Yes.

HH: It was a very odd thing. And is that how you feel about Yellowstone? Should I…

CJB: No, I love Yellowstone. We need to go there soon.

HH: No, no. You know me. You know what I think about Yellowstone. When we come back, America, we’re going to go back oh, about 200 years to the Wyoming River Range, the Powder River, what is it?

CJB: The Wind River Range.

HH: The Wind River Range, Wyoming territory, 1835. And I don’t know how Chuck imagined this, but it’s pretty wild. Stay tuned.

— – – – – –

HH: I defy anyone to read this and not like it. Now I said about his last book, The Highway, that some people would be so creeped out by it, it was so good, that they might not like it. And I’ll tell you, there are a couple of stories here where you write for a mature adult audience…

CJB: Right.

HH: …that is not for kids.

CJB: Right.

HH: So you’ll want to read it first, and there are some things in here which are not for kids, because they’re very bracing, but they’re very real, like a good writer. Before I go and talk about…you did ice fishing, the only outdoor sport I have ever actually done is ice fishing. And you have an ice fishing thing.

CJB: Right, you know, that’s called Dull Knife, and it’s based from Dull Knife Reservoir in the Bighorns. And yeah, Joe Pickett’s sent out to investigate a mysterious glow beneath the ice. So he goes out on the ice and finds out that a truck has crashed through and is sitting on the bed of the lake.

HH: And that’s just the beginning. He’s go this Sorel Pac boots on.

CJB: That’s right.

HH: You used to talk about Cinch Jeans, and you’ve always got the local gear down, and the gun that Nate carries.

CJB: Right.

HH: So I’ve never heard of Sorel Pac before.

CJB: Sorel.

HH: Sorel?

CJB: Yes.

HH: Okay, I’ve never heard of them.

CJB: They’re Canadian.

HH: Okay.

CJB: But they’re very…

HH: Joe is wearing Canadian boots?

CJB: Oh, everybody wears those. I mean…

HH: There aren’t any American boots to wear?

CJB: There are now, but traditionally, the Pac boots, so it’s thermal winter Pac boot were Sorel boots.

HH: See, I had no idea about that, but I cannot believe, because I have been ice fishing, and I did not obtain an ice fishing license. Warden Joe Pickett goes out to check, this is the beginning of the story, so I’m not giving anything away, to check the fishing licenses of four guys who are out on the ice, father and son duos, good little scene within a very, the movie, the story’s got nothing to do with it. Do they really have ice fishing licenses?

CJB: Well, they just have, they need fishing licenses.

HH: To do ice fishing?

CJB: Yes.

HH: That seems hardly fair.

CJB: If…it’s your fish.

Duane: You didn’t need it, because you didn’t catch anything.

CJB: (laughing)

HH: I did. I got a pike. That’s true, I think. They really wouldn’t have called that fishing.

CJB: They knew he was harmless.

HH: Let’s give a…(laughing) oh, that’s brutal. Oh, we’re going to throw the book at you, the C.J. Box book. C.J. Box, give us the update on TV, because a lot of people have been rooting for a Joe Pickett series for a long time. They want like McCloud meets someone with a gun.

CJB: Yeah, there finally is some movement on that front. An offer has been made to create a one-hour Joe Pickett series, drama, from CMT/Viacom. And Robert Redford is the executive producer. So we’re negotiating right now, because they’ve got to nail down the character rights with me first, and then they’ll move on to the rest of the producers etc. So I don’t have any idea about air dates or who’s in it or anything else, but it’s, I’m happy that there’s finally some interest and movement that way.

HH: You know, if that becomes a really big hit, your books are already huge sellers, but if the show drives sales like Game of Thrones has driven…

CJB: Oh, geez, yeah.

HH: George R.R.R. Martin, then this book that you signed to Dennis Harnish will really be worth a lot of money.

CJB: If he ever gets it.

HH: And I still won’t give it to him.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: He’s not going to get it, but that’s how much I like this book. I’m going to torture him for a very long time. All right, I want to talk about the look into publishing. That interesting little five page intro, there was a good and brilliant man in the world of book sellers, his name was David Thompson. He dies and all the rights get mixed up.

CJB: Right.

HH: I mean, this is the weird kind of thing you learn reading this.

CJB: Yeah, he was a great guy in Houston, and he was the marketing director for a bookstore down there, Murder By The Book, and he started putting out anthologies. And he was so popular with all the authors, that we would all contribute whatever he asked, because he was just a great guy, and young guy. And he was putting together a book called Geezer Noire, about old people.

HH: And this old people turns into the Wyoming River Basin, 1835.

CJB: Right. He was pretty surprised to get a historical piece.

HH: Was he?

CJB: But he really liked it. But before, or like before the book came out, he died unexpectedly, suddenly, shockingly, and then the rights were all over the place, and I never actually saw the book.

HH: And so you’ve managed to track them down. Now rights acquisition, you didn’t do that. Somebody at the publisher did that, right?

CJB: Well, they reverted, the rights reverted back to me after a certain period of time.

HH: Okay, so then that was a pretty easy one. How did you imagine the details of the Wyoming territory in 1835 in the middle of a terrible snowstorm with a couple of guys who’ve done pretty well with their beaver pelts, but with a bunch of Indians below?

CJB: Right. You know, I’ve read a lot about the mountain man era. I’m fascinated by it. And someday, I’m going to write a mountain man book. I swear. But so I know a lot about the detail stuff, and what kind of entrepreneurs they really were. But I could just only, when you see some of those old cabins up in the mountains, and you realize how tiny they are, I mean, they’re the size of a modern day bathroom, and you think of two guys spending months together as the snow piles up, and you know, what if they don’t get along?

HH: Attempting to chink the wood with grease fat, only to find that the grizzlies are knocking on the wall hard enough…

CJB: And sticking their tongues through…

HH: That is, how did you imagine that? Had you read that somewhere?

CJB: I did read something about that, that that was an experiment, that somebody tried, grease fat should be great chinking, except the animals ate it out.

HH: And it was grizzly…

CJB: Yeah.

HH: And that would be a very horrific experience. Well, this is kind of a horrific story, but it’s completely unexpected, because it’s 200 years ago. You’ve never done anything like that.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: That’s what I guess short stories are like, not a lot of investment of your time. How long does it take?

CJB: Oh, it really depends, but I mean, I don’t want to say I can knock off a short story in a few days, but usually, I’ve been thinking about it for months, and sometimes years, so it does go quickly. But the one thing with a short story is I just constantly keep trying to make them shorter. I keep paring them away.

HH: There’s a thousand word story here.

CJB: Right, which is ridiculous, and a multigenerational story that’s probably one of my favorites in the whole book. It actually makes people cry.

HH: You know, I don’t know if you remember, that’s one I haven’t read. It’s at the end. Rorke Denver, who’s a Navy SEAL who’s retired now, wrote Damn Few, starred in Act of Valor, his brother has a collection of short stories out that are only one thousand words.

CJB: Oh, wow.

HH: And that’s what he works on. He believes in trying to deliver a product in a thousand words. I can’t imagine doing it. I can’t write a column, I have a 600 word limit for the Washington Examiner, and I break it every week.

CJB: It is very difficult, and especially with a fictional short story, because you’ve got to introduce the world and the characters in basically four pages of type.

HH: And then when we come back in our last segment, I want to talk a little bit about Hook, Line and Sinister, and some of these other, I mean, what a weird world publishing is.

CJB: It is a weird world.

HH: I’m only in the non-fiction/political or Christian living segment. It’s not like this. This is really weird stuff, and there are all these, Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York, and unofficial czar of the mystery book universe.

CJB: He’s probably listening right now, actually.

HH: Otto, if you are, you should come on, because if you are the unofficial czar of anything, you’re always welcome on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

— – – – –

HH: I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about Nate Romanowski and the very rich Saudi prince. Is it true that the Rocky Mountain Peregrine is the deadliest of falcons?

CJB: It’s the fastest. It’s the fastest animal/bird in the world.

HH: Okay.

CJB: And it’s one of the deadliest, because unlike most falcons who either tend to just hunt terrestrially or in the air, peregrines will kill anything – in the air, on the ground, they’ll…

HH: I’ll go with deadliest. Now this is your last appearance on the Hugh Hewitt Show, given what you said, so you might as well tell people what you said during the break.

CJB: (laughing) I thought I was being nice. I said thank you for having me on the pre-show, Hugh.

HH: And Generalissimo thought that was great. But of course, it does lead, there are consequences to everything. I want to read this paragraph before I run out of time. The impetus for the tale, which is the one I have not yet read, because I have two more to go for two more nights of entertainment, “The impetus for the tale comes from an experience of my own many years before when I worked summers on an exploration survey crew based out of Casper, Wyoming. Our job, I was a lowly road man, was to resurvey corners and benchmarks in the practically roadless Powder River Basin near Pumpkin Butte. It turned out the location for the stake we needed to drive into the ground happened to be exactly beneath the only manmade structure within sight, a sheep wagon. The odds against something like this happening were incredible. Nevertheless, it was my job to approach the lonely wagon of a sheepherder who had likely not seen another human in weeks and knock on the door.”

CJB: Right.

HH: That’s really creepy.

CJB: Yes, and when I, I can’t remember how I used this in the story, I think I might have, as I approached that sheep wagon on foot by myself, because the surveyor sent me, wouldn’t go with me, I could hear like jokes and a punchline and wild laughing. But it was in Basque. It was in Spanish.

HH: Oh, because…

CJB: So I though, no, there’s two of them.

HH: Okay.

CJB: So I knock on the door, and only one guy opened up and looked out.

HH: Is that in the story?

CJB: Yes, he was telling himself jokes and laughing. But we did finally convince him what we needed to do.

HH: That was a lot like Greg Schallor last night, but we was telling the jokes and people were laughing. That’s, last thing I’ve got to talk to you about, there’s a story, Every Day Is A Good Day On The River.

CJB: Right.

HH: And I’ve been on the Madison, fished it out completely.

CJB: Yes, that’s what I understand.

HH: But I traumatized a couple of guides, and this is really creepy. But old high school wounds when reopened are ugly.

CJB: Yes, they are.

HH: So this is a theme for all seasons.

CJB: Yes, it is, and yeah, that takes place on the North Platte River, which flows through Casper, Wyoming, fantastic fishing. You, not even you could fish that out.

HH: T. Jefferson Parker and you fish together.

CJB: Yes, we did. We just fished two weeks ago.

HH: Do you talk plot when you fish? Or are you just fishing?

CJB: You know, we mainly just fish, but late at night, after a few bourbons and cigars, we’ll start talking about books, more about books we’re reading than books we’re writing.

HH: I’ve got to get you both in the studio together at the same time.

CJB: That would be fun.

HH: …on the pre-show.

CJB: Yeah (laughing)

HH: C.J. Box, have a great book signing tonight in Highlands Ranch at the Tattered Cover, 7pm. Shots Fired: Stories From the Joe Pickett Country linked over at www.hughhewitt.com and in bookstores everywhere. You will thank me, America, you always have whenever I have…

CJB: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: Thank you, Chuck.

End of interview.
HH: You’re in for a treat. I’m live in Denver at the campus of Colorado Christian University. And I’m here for the Western Conservative Summit. I’ve been leading all week the Young Conservative Leadership Conference. I’ll continue to do so from this campus. My friends at 710 KNUS taking care of me, but just by happenstance, I’m here with C.J. Box, just one of my favorite people in the world, happens to be in Denver to sign his brand new book, Shots Fired, a collection of marvelous short stories which include three about Joe Pickett. WWJPD is the new thing. I just tweeted it out, or about to. C.J. what do we call these things? Decals, right? What do we call these?

CJB: I just call them decals, yes. That’s what, one of the daughter’s projects.

HH: This is a terrific project. This is like a secret signal for Joe Pickett lovers. Welcome. You’re going to be the Tattered Cover in Denver, in Highlands Ranch tonight at 7pm.

CJB: That’s right. Yup, I was in Phoenix last night, Denver tonight.

HH: Now I did not know I knew Bret Harte. I did not, Bret Harte’s one of the great short story writers of the West about to turn to the last century. And all of a sudden, along comes my Shots Fired, and I have been, this is actually a joy to read, and I’m not shining you on. If I was teaching high school or college kids how to write, because they won’t read a novel, I would give them this book along with your introductory note on inspiration, and I’d say start with short stories, because this is amazing.

CJB: Well, thank you. I really appreciate it. I love to read short stories, and obviously, I like to write them. But you know, there’s a lot of people who shy away from them. I don’t know why exactly, why they’ll wait for an entire full-length novel when short stories are available. But a short story is actually, I think, harder to write than a novel, because there’s not enough room to paper over things. You’ve got to get right to it, create a whole new world, create new characters, and tell the story in a very few pages. And it’s challenging.

HH: I am not normally a consumer of short stories. And so when Shots Fired arrived, and I saw that a few of them had appeared very idiosyncratically…

CJB: Yeah.

HH: I mean, this is the most idiosyncratic collection I’ve read in a long time. Three Joes, one Nate Romanowski, maybe a laugh out loud, I tweeted this out this morning, I was reading, I’m not going to try the French, the Novel Savage.

CJB: Right.

HH: But it’s got French…how do you pronounce that in French?

CJB: I can’t pronounce it, either.

HH: Le Sauvage Nobel, whatever it is.

CJB: That’s from Rousseau.

HH: Rousseau, and that, I was laughing out loud until I wasn’t laughing out loud.

CJB: Yeah, that takes a turn for the worse, doesn’t it?

HH: Yeah, but it was, it is fall down funny when two Lakota Indians in Paris, tell them how they get to Paris. We can tell them that much.

CJB: Right, and it’s based on fact. It’s based on something I experienced. I used to be, before I was a full-time writer, I was involved in international tourism promotion. And part of my job was to go over to Europe, and we would, we did a reception at the American Embassy for French tour operators, travel agents, journalists. And while we were there, we got our hats on and that whole thing, and there was just a parade of states that do this kind of thing. And while we were there, I noticed that there were two American Indians in the room who were not with us, in full regalia. And I thought that was pretty odd, and I went over and talked to them, and they were from Oklahoma, not from Wyoming or Montana or any of our states. And I asked them why they were there, and they said well, they had found out several years ago that French women liked to take Indians home with them. And so they were just kind of making a career of it. And they thought it was pretty funny, but then they’d go right back into the grim face so that they would look authentic. And then the very next night, I went to the Wild West show at Disneyland Paris.

HH: Which I did not know existed until I read your short story. I did not know there was a Wild West show at Disneyland.

CJB: It’s wildly popular, and the people who work there are all recruited from the Rocky Mountain states. Disney will come over and hire real cowboys and real Indians, and take them over there, and they’ll work that show. And it’s amazing to see something like that in France.

HH: Well, it’s funny that the most in demand gigolos are Native Americans. That’s itself funny. But you have an eye for France, and this goes to actually what a short story allows you to do. You might not want to work this for a whole novel.

CJB: Right.

HH: You might not want to talk about Paris for a whole novel. Paris, “It takes a while for history to grow here.” Very keen observation on a basement in the American Embassy that was left in 1944 with Nazi stuff in it when they retreated, and that kind of eye for detail, but also, the Marine guard says I wish these dollies likes Marines the way they like Indians. Or it’s you can’t choose to be French in the way that you can be America. There are very, some sharp observations in this story as there are in all of these stories.

CJB: Well, I actually heard that quote about, from a cowboy, from a cowboy from Wyoming, who had been working in Disneyland Paris for I think six or seven years, married a French girl. And I was asking him how he liked it, and he said, he made that point. He said he liked it fine, but you can never become French. They just won’t let you.

HH: And so how long in the archaeology of a short story, how long do those bits and pieces lie under the ground until you dig them up and put them together in a fine story, and find someone who wants a story?

CJB: Oh, sometimes it’s years and years and years. And you know, to be honest, I mean, I’m a capitalist. I don’t write stories on spec.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: In every case in this anthology, I was asked to either contribute to another anthology, or to a magazine, and in one case, a newspaper. And there are three new ones written specifically for this once we decided to put it out and gathered them all up. But over the years, there are just certain little subjects that I knew could not be a Joe Pickett novel or a standalone, but that I wanted to flesh out.

HH: There are two I have not read, because I am here for two more nights, and I am reading one, and I said at the end, I’ve got enough to talk to C.J. for an hour about, and I’m not doing longer than an hour, and so I thought you know what, I’m just going to save this and enjoy these last two.

CJB: That’s perfect.

HH: Then I liked this book so much, I’m going to have you sign it to my friends, Donna Lauren and Dennis Harnish, and then I’m not going to give it to them, because I love to tease them. I’m going to say I have a signed C.J. Box book for you, and you can’t have it. And they will have heard this. And that’s how much I liked this book.

CJB: Good. Thank you.

HH: I’m going to use it to torment people that I like to torment.

CJB: And I would also compliment you on reading, you can’t make people read short stories the way, you know, people are going to read them the way they read them. But you’re doing it exactly the right way, and that is like one a night.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: Or take a little break between each one, because they don’t flow into each other. And it’s driven me crazy. The book’s only been out one day, but I talked to several people last night in Phoenix who said oh, man, I just got it, and I read it in six hours.

HH: Oh, no. No, no, no.

CJB: No, no, no.

HH: No, I had it last week in Naples, Florida, and I started from the number of days forward, because I like to finish a book the day before I talk to an author, do the outline for the interview and move forward. And so I had to start it earlier for that reason. You can’t read them back to back. I suppose you could read the three Joe Picketts, but that wouldn’t work, either, or the Nate Romanowski, you really, they’re not sequenced.

CJB: No, they aren’t.

HH: So they’re different times and places. When we come back from break, we’ll talk a little bit about Joe Pickett, because I’m sure your publisher is more than happy to have a Joe Pickett short story out there. They’d take all Joe Pickett, right?

CJB: They do.

HH: They probably want you to turn out two Joe Picketts a year, right?

CJB: They wouldn’t complain, for sure.

HH: They wouldn’t complain. So you’ve given a Nate Romanowski at the same time, so you’re able to sell your two main guys in the same book along with some interesting, very interesting stuff. But you’ve got to tell people what ASAP is before the break, because that is fascinating to me.

CJB: Oh, the little publisher?

HH: Yeah.

CJB: Yeah, it’s a little publisher in California that they specialize in limited edition short stories.

HH: Never heard of this ever until I read your book.

CJB: Beautifully bound, the stories are illustrated. There’s only usually 250 copies, and then there’s a special edition in a big clamshell box where I think they only sell 20 of those, and then they go strictly to collectors. And the collectors, you know, will have hundreds of copies of these books.

HH: There’s a book collector in this collection.

CBJ: Yes.

HH: And we’ll talk about it at some point. But there are so many winks at the audience here, that if they read your introductory note at the beginning, and then they go back and read it again, they won’t get everything you say in your introductory note until after. Then to go back, you’ve provided genealogy of story, and there’s always a story behind every short story. That’s why I think it’s like having Mark Twain tell you about why he wrote what and when he wrote it.

CJB: Well, the thing is, one of the questions that always comes up at every book signing, and constantly every year, where do you get your ideas. It’s the hardest thing to answer, and so what I tried to do was go through each story and say here’s where the idea came from, here’s why it came about, and here’s how I did it, and then let the reader put that all together.

HH: Now I’m curious, you’ve got some very smart readers. Greg Schallor is a professor here at CCU. I was at his home last night smoking a cigar…

CJB: Just met him.

HH: Just met him. He’ll be bringing some books in for you to sign. He’s a huge, he didn’t know you were coming. He’s just as excited as could be, as is everyone who will be at the Tattered Cover tonight at Highlands Ranch. Nevertheless, when we got to talking, we talked about Joe Pickett like he was a real guy. And how much does this happen to you?

CJB: Well, quite a bit. And sometimes, it’s a little bit unnerving when people are asking very personal questions about Joe Pickett that I don’t know the answer to. And I should. But it’s also great that readers invest so much of themselves in the characters.

HH: Did you ever, and I couldn’t remember this, we’ve got one minute to break, did you ever give us Joe Pickett’s, I know you gave his high school story. Did you ever give his young story, his, you know, when you start remembering things, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9?

CJB: Only a little bit. There’s still some hints. Most of those are in the Yellowstone book, Free Fire, because when he goes there, he recalls going there as a child. And he had a rough childhood.

HH: Right, his dad’s in Free Fire.

CJB: Yeah, and he used to, I think there’s a reference to him sleeping outside at night reading a magazine and seeing an ad for a game warden, you know, learn to fish and hunt and sleep under the stars.

HH: That voice you hear, a regular visitor in the summer, C.J. Box. His stories from Joe Pickett country, Shots Fired, in stores everywhere, available at www.amazon.com. I have it linked at www.hughhewitt.com. If you’re in Denver, you ought to go meet him, get it signed, Tattered Cover tonight at Highlands Ranch, and you got to www.cjbox.net and you’ll see where he is all the rest of the days you’re on tour, I assume.

CJB: That’s right.

— — – – —

HH: And it’s different from any of the other previous C.J. Box books, because it’s short stories. And let’s talk about One Car Bridge for a second. It’s based on a character so tough that his legacy still hovers over the land like a black cloud. So you had a dinner conversation about a man’s grandfather.

CJB: Right.

HH: And it ends up in this book. And by the way, I noticed that Lamar Dietrich, Fritz Engler, Darrell Heywood, they’re all rich guys that invade the land. And you do not much care for them.

CJB: You know, I never really thought about that until you just brought it up, but yeah, they’re all powerful guys. And in this case, it’s, all of these stories have some kind of real seed to them. And there is a landowner in the Saratoga, Wyoming area where I used to live and I still fish that was notorious, because his land is filled with signs that say in Wyoming, you’re allowed to float on the waters. It’s considered public. But if you so much as drop an anchor, you are trespassing. And nobody had more signs up and did more prosecuting of even, in one case, a bunch of boy scouts that crashed their boat and had to swim to shore. He took them in and got them, and charged them with trespassing. And so I mean, he was so nasty, it was almost funny. But I started with that and built the story.

HH: And that’s a Joe Pickett story. And so Joe is back. He’s also back, and this is really one of the themes I noted that, but there’s a theme here about Indians.

CJB: Right.

HH: There are lots of Indians in here. And I always hesitate to use the term Indians except in the context of Cleveland Indians…

CJB: Right.

HH: …because I always assume that Native Americans would rather be called Native Americans. But I think from you, I’m learning no, they’re Indians, and you can call them Shoshone and Cheyenne or Lakota or all the various tribes that you have here. By the way, do the two tribes, the Northern Arapahoe and the Shoshone share a reservation?

CJB: They do share a reservation?

HH: They really do?

CJB: Yeah, they were lifelong enemies. They were given a temporary arrangement on the Wind River Indian Reservation that is still going on hundreds of years later. But the fact that I’ve, you know, I know American Indians, and I’ve yet to meet one who said please call me Native American. They refer to themselves as Indians.

HH: Do you get any static for that at all?

CJB: No, I’ve had a couple editors make the change to make it more politically correct, and I’ll go back and say no, that’s not what they prefer to be called. And on the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, the newspaper they put out themselves is called Indian Country News.

HH: Okay, my friend, Jonathan, came in and I said where’s Greg Schallor? He’s supposed to be in here with us listening to this conversation. You tell him he’s more than welcome. And C.J. is always interested in meeting readers, especially smart readers who read closely.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: So I wanted to find out about this Indian thing. The first Indians I met were in Gallup, New Mexico in 1978 when Rob Guinarri and I, my car broke down, and we spent the night in Gallup against our will. We weren’t planning to stay there. And the reservation’s nearby, and we went into a bar. And some of the toughest looking guys in the world, and the barman told us leave those guys alone, they’re from the reservation. And they’re not for you. And so that comes across, both in the funny side of the Paris story, but again and again, a tough life on these reservations. How do they react to your stories?

CJB: You know, I have never had a negative reaction, and I think also, like especially in the Master Falconer, there’s that quirky, comical side, very humorous side to the Indians that really exist, of the ones I know. A lot of times, you know, that stern face is just kind of putting on a show, and that there’s really a lot of joking going on, and they enjoy it. But the American Indians I have talked to who have read the books and the Joe Pickett books all agree, no one has said that it’s not realistic.

HH: Dull Knife is deeply sympathetic, without being fawning. It’s respectful without attempting to be PC. It is hell on wheels on this one character, Darrel Heywood, who has sort of a Ted Turner, I guess it’s not Ted Turner, because he never wanted to be, wasn’t a wannabe Indian, but who’s that based on? Is there somebody in the back of Chuck Box’ mind that is Darrel Heywood?

CJB: I’ve met some of those people…

HH: Wow.

CJB: …again, back in the old tourism days. Sometimes, we would tour Europe with American Indians from the reservation who were promoting tourism, and there was just this certain little subgroup of kind of hangers-on who would show up and just want to hang around the Indians and act like they were part of the tribe. And in some case in Germany, they’d come up and start speaking Shoshone. And our guys, our Shoshones, couldn’t understand them very well.

HH: You know, the contempt you convey, it’s communicated very well in this story, for the posers, and the people who don’t want to help but who want to pity, and Joe makes a little statement. Joe doesn’t do much politics, but he said to give alcohol to an alcoholic, they’re happy for a little bit, but you haven’t helped them. And then he talks, if you don’t give someone, and they’re talking about a tragic character, the most tragic character in this series. And I was trying to remember if she’s been in a previous book.

CJB: I based a character on that character.

HH: Okay, so that’s why it was echoing, but I couldn’t remember.

CJB: Which is again based on a real athlete in Wyoming who was a spectacular athlete, Indian athlete, who went bad.

HH: Yeah, I can’t remember which book that was in.

CJB: I’m trying to remember myself.

HH: Well, I’m glad to know it’s not just regular readers of the Joe Pickett novels. I’m talking to C.J. Box. You can follow C.J. Box on Twitter @cjboxauthor. That’s his handle. I sometimes make a mistake and put out @cjbox. There must be an @cjbox then, right?

CJB: Yeah, but I think it’s in Japan or something.

HH: Then they must be getting all these weird tweets.

CJB: Yes.

HH: And their tweet feed is all messed up, because I always forget to do it, and I’ll bet you I’m not the only one. How many people talk to you via Twitter now, Chuck?

CJB: Oh, you know, it really depends if books are out or whatever, but right now, when I can have the least amount of time to keep up with it, I get the most queries and comments.

HH: Of course.

CJB: But I do try to keep up. You know, dozens…a lot of people just put statements out. They don’t so much ask questions or do messaging.

HH: And you’re using #shotsfired. Okay, that’s interesting. Is that working?

CJB: I don’t know.

HH: Not your job?

CJB: I think so.

HH: You write the stories?

CJB: That’s right.

HH: Now if this is successful, people will want more short stories, just like they want more of The Highway. I don’t ever want another serial killer book. I really don’t. I like Joe. I mean, they could be a serial killer, but I want Joe involved. By the way, how is that transition from The Highway to this?

CJB: Well, this one, it was certainly a lot lighter, that’s for sure.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: It’s been interesting how much The Highway has resonated with readers, and you know, just, even though I’m on the road with this short story book, most of the questions are about The Highway.

HH: People will never forget The Highway if they’ve read it.

CJB: That’s what I’m finding.

HH: They will never wonder if there’s a backstory that they’re not recalling.

CJB: Which is great for an author, and plus, the paperback sales on it are just tremendous.

HH: I’m sure. It’s something you can pick up and go on an airplane. When we come back from break, Yellowstone – is it going to blow. And there’s a Yellowstone story, America. I know you go oh, my gosh, C.J. always writes, here we go again when the buffalo…I saw the picture of the buffalo leaving.

CJB: Yeah, that was a fake story.

HH: That was not a fake story. They know. They know Yellowstone’s going to go. C.J. Box and I were brought together by the imminent disaster that is Yellowstone, the end of civilization event that is Yellowstone. There is a Yellowstone short story which we’re going to talk about after the break and a couple more.

— – – –

HH: It’s about to get Western here, because C.J. Box is in studio with me in the West. I was up in Conifer, Colorado last night, and where the guns are plentiful and the steaks are large.

CJB: Good.

HH: And we got Western talking about C.J. Box stuff. And that brings me to the epitome of the West, Wyoming. And my friend, John Andrews, was in here earlier, and he said, “Wyoming is what America used to be, Wyoming people say – self-reliant, limited government, respect the land, but use it.” And I’m wondering if you agree with John Andrews.

CJB: Yeah, I agree with both of those statements. Yeah, absolutely.

HH: Because I thought maybe Colorado would have a little indifference to Wyoming, and Wyoming might have big brother envy.

CJB: Not really. I mean, the state slogan of Colorado is you know, Colorado, just south of paradise.

HH: (laughing) That’s pretty good. All right, back to the stories of Yellowstone. Yellowstone is the largest, you say in this story, (bio) Pirates of Yellowstone, that there are 10,000 breaks in the Earth’s crust in Yellowstone…

CJB: Right.

HH: …through which the Earth, the volcanic core bubbles up.

CJB: In one way or another – mud pots, geysers or fumaroles, or steam vents.

HH: So it is a bubbling cauldron of disaster?

CJB: Of potential disaster.

HH: Of potential disaster. But what I did not know, and had never read about until I read (bio) Pirates of Yellowstone, is that there are people who go in there to capture microcosmic organisms that can be found nowhere else. What do they do with them, Chuck?

CJB: They try to sell them. You know, it’s very, I did get into this a little bit in the book, Free Fire, but actually, Pirates of Yellowstone came first. That’s where I first learned about it. There is one specific spring in Yellowstone Park, and I know exactly where it is, but they’ve taken the sign off of it now, so they don’t want anybody to know where they found what they call thermophiles, bacteria unique to that one spring, hot springs, that has certain properties in it that sped up DNA testing. You know how it used to be when they’d say hey, in two weeks, we’ll know if this is a match? And now they can say we’ll let you know in an hour if this is the one? So there’s properties within that thermophile that scientists found that would speed it up.

HH: How did they ever discover that?

CJB: They’re constantly in there, and that’s the very weird thing. This is a national park. You’re not even supposed to take a stick out. But the Park Service actually has contracts with bioengineering firms who come in and “mine” thermophiles, and mine the properties they’ve got.

HH: Now see, there are two aspect to bio pirates. There are two things I didn’t know about. I didn’t know that there were Europeans who ended up there expecting a job and not getting one, which leaves them, as you say in your forward note, sort of at sea, right? And you saw a group of, were they German teenagers? Do you know who they were? That’s what…

CJB: I think they were Czechoslovakian.

HH: Hanging around, they’re going to get into trouble, right?

CJB: Smoking, wearing black leather, in Gardiner, Montana. They stuck out.

HH: They stuck out. And they probably fell into one of those pot-belly things that burn you up and leave just the bones in Yellowstone. That happens. Why I’m not going there is that buffalo fall in and they come out looking like a sparrow. But the second thing I didn’t know about was this biological thing, and that they mine this stuff. So do they actually have bio pirates? Or have you introduced a concept that might attract people to it?

CJB: No, there have been a few people arrested.

HH: Okay, that’s what I was…

CJB: And found, you know, with vials and instrumentation that shouldn’t be there, just getting the water, the run off from certain little springs. I do know of a place in Yellowstone where once a month, a little truck rolls up and they take a bunch of vials like out of a certain hot spring that has the thermophiles in them, put them in cases and then ship them to Switzerland. That’s their deal with the Park Service.

HH: My gosh. You wonder, that’s actually great investigative journalism. It’s not fiction. That’s a lead for a great interview, to go follow those vials and follow that truck and see where it leads. But the Europeans who come, they come to work in the hotels. They are often promised jobs. And I ran into this as a private resort off the coast of Lake Erie where everyone on the island is from abroad.

CJB: Yeah, it’s very common.

HH: They come in for five months from the beginning, before the season through the end of the season, and then thy go back to Europe on a work visa.

CJB: Yeah, it’s very common all over the West, especially. Guest ranches, national parks, national forests, that’s their seasonal help.

HH: Now I’m surprised that Americans don’t object to that. Those are jobs that Americans will do, aren’t they?

CJB: The biggest problem is that most of the Americans, the kids, in fact, my daughter was one of them, have to go to college. They have to leave before the job is over. And that puts the concessionaires in a real bind. So they have to get people who can be there four and a half to five months.

HH: What do they pay? Do they pay minimum wage?

CJB: They don’t pay much of anything.

HH: Yeah.

CJB: The people who come mainly want to be in the park.

HH: And at the end of (bio) Pirates of Yellowstone, we’re not going to say anything other than this, a character feels a part, finally, of Yellowstone.

CJB: Yes.

HH: It was a very odd thing. And is that how you feel about Yellowstone? Should I…

CJB: No, I love Yellowstone. We need to go there soon.

HH: No, no. You know me. You know what I think about Yellowstone. When we come back, America, we’re going to go back oh, about 200 years to the Wyoming River Range, the Powder River, what is it?

CJB: The Wind River Range.

HH: The Wind River Range, Wyoming territory, 1835. And I don’t know how Chuck imagined this, but it’s pretty wild. Stay tuned.

— – – – – –

HH: I defy anyone to read this and not like it. Now I said about his last book, The Highway, that some people would be so creeped out by it, it was so good, that they might not like it. And I’ll tell you, there are a couple of stories here where you write for a mature adult audience…

CJB: Right.

HH: …that is not for kids.

CJB: Right.

HH: So you’ll want to read it first, and there are some things in here which are not for kids, because they’re very bracing, but they’re very real, like a good writer. Before I go and talk about…you did ice fishing, the only outdoor sport I have ever actually done is ice fishing. And you have an ice fishing thing.

CJB: Right, you know, that’s called Dull Knife, and it’s based from Dull Knife Reservoir in the Bighorns. And yeah, Joe Pickett’s sent out to investigate a mysterious glow beneath the ice. So he goes out on the ice and finds out that a truck has crashed through and is sitting on the bed of the lake.

HH: And that’s just the beginning. He’s go this Sorel Pac boots on.

CJB: That’s right.

HH: You used to talk about Cinch Jeans, and you’ve always got the local gear down, and the gun that Nate carries.

CJB: Right.

HH: So I’ve never heard of Sorel Pac before.

CJB: Sorel.

HH: Sorel?

CJB: Yes.

HH: Okay, I’ve never heard of them.

CJB: They’re Canadian.

HH: Okay.

CJB: But they’re very…

HH: Joe is wearing Canadian boots?

CJB: Oh, everybody wears those. I mean…

HH: There aren’t any American boots to wear?

CJB: There are now, but traditionally, the Pac boots, so it’s thermal winter Pac boot were Sorel boots.

HH: See, I had no idea about that, but I cannot believe, because I have been ice fishing, and I did not obtain an ice fishing license. Warden Joe Pickett goes out to check, this is the beginning of the story, so I’m not giving anything away, to check the fishing licenses of four guys who are out on the ice, father and son duos, good little scene within a very, the movie, the story’s got nothing to do with it. Do they really have ice fishing licenses?

CJB: Well, they just have, they need fishing licenses.

HH: To do ice fishing?

CJB: Yes.

HH: That seems hardly fair.

CJB: If…it’s your fish.

Duane: You didn’t need it, because you didn’t catch anything.

CJB: (laughing)

HH: I did. I got a pike. That’s true, I think. They really wouldn’t have called that fishing.

CJB: They knew he was harmless.

HH: Let’s give a…(laughing) oh, that’s brutal. Oh, we’re going to throw the book at you, the C.J. Box book. C.J. Box, give us the update on TV, because a lot of people have been rooting for a Joe Pickett series for a long time. They want like McCloud meets someone with a gun.

CJB: Yeah, there finally is some movement on that front. An offer has been made to create a one-hour Joe Pickett series, drama, from CMT/Viacom. And Robert Redford is the executive producer. So we’re negotiating right now, because they’ve got to nail down the character rights with me first, and then they’ll move on to the rest of the producers etc. So I don’t have any idea about air dates or who’s in it or anything else, but it’s, I’m happy that there’s finally some interest and movement that way.

HH: You know, if that becomes a really big hit, your books are already huge sellers, but if the show drives sales like Game of Thrones has driven…

CJB: Oh, geez, yeah.

HH: George R.R.R. Martin, then this book that you signed to Dennis Harnish will really be worth a lot of money.

CJB: If he ever gets it.

HH: And I still won’t give it to him.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: He’s not going to get it, but that’s how much I like this book. I’m going to torture him for a very long time. All right, I want to talk about the look into publishing. That interesting little five page intro, there was a good and brilliant man in the world of book sellers, his name was David Thompson. He dies and all the rights get mixed up.

CJB: Right.

HH: I mean, this is the weird kind of thing you learn reading this.

CJB: Yeah, he was a great guy in Houston, and he was the marketing director for a bookstore down there, Murder By The Book, and he started putting out anthologies. And he was so popular with all the authors, that we would all contribute whatever he asked, because he was just a great guy, and young guy. And he was putting together a book called Geezer Noire, about old people.

HH: And this old people turns into the Wyoming River Basin, 1835.

CJB: Right. He was pretty surprised to get a historical piece.

HH: Was he?

CJB: But he really liked it. But before, or like before the book came out, he died unexpectedly, suddenly, shockingly, and then the rights were all over the place, and I never actually saw the book.

HH: And so you’ve managed to track them down. Now rights acquisition, you didn’t do that. Somebody at the publisher did that, right?

CJB: Well, they reverted, the rights reverted back to me after a certain period of time.

HH: Okay, so then that was a pretty easy one. How did you imagine the details of the Wyoming territory in 1835 in the middle of a terrible snowstorm with a couple of guys who’ve done pretty well with their beaver pelts, but with a bunch of Indians below?

CJB: Right. You know, I’ve read a lot about the mountain man era. I’m fascinated by it. And someday, I’m going to write a mountain man book. I swear. But so I know a lot about the detail stuff, and what kind of entrepreneurs they really were. But I could just only, when you see some of those old cabins up in the mountains, and you realize how tiny they are, I mean, they’re the size of a modern day bathroom, and you think of two guys spending months together as the snow piles up, and you know, what if they don’t get along?

HH: Attempting to chink the wood with grease fat, only to find that the grizzlies are knocking on the wall hard enough…

CJB: And sticking their tongues through…

HH: That is, how did you imagine that? Had you read that somewhere?

CJB: I did read something about that, that that was an experiment, that somebody tried, grease fat should be great chinking, except the animals ate it out.

HH: And it was grizzly…

CJB: Yeah.

HH: And that would be a very horrific experience. Well, this is kind of a horrific story, but it’s completely unexpected, because it’s 200 years ago. You’ve never done anything like that.

CJB: Yeah.

HH: That’s what I guess short stories are like, not a lot of investment of your time. How long does it take?

CJB: Oh, it really depends, but I mean, I don’t want to say I can knock off a short story in a few days, but usually, I’ve been thinking about it for months, and sometimes years, so it does go quickly. But the one thing with a short story is I just constantly keep trying to make them shorter. I keep paring them away.

HH: There’s a thousand word story here.

CJB: Right, which is ridiculous, and a multigenerational story that’s probably one of my favorites in the whole book. It actually makes people cry.

HH: You know, I don’t know if you remember, that’s one I haven’t read. It’s at the end. Rorke Denver, who’s a Navy SEAL who’s retired now, wrote Damn Few, starred in Act of Valor, his brother has a collection of short stories out that are only one thousand words.

CJB: Oh, wow.

HH: And that’s what he works on. He believes in trying to deliver a product in a thousand words. I can’t imagine doing it. I can’t write a column, I have a 600 word limit for the Washington Examiner, and I break it every week.

CJB: It is very difficult, and especially with a fictional short story, because you’ve got to introduce the world and the characters in basically four pages of type.

HH: And then when we come back in our last segment, I want to talk a little bit about Hook, Line and Sinister, and some of these other, I mean, what a weird world publishing is.

CJB: It is a weird world.

HH: I’m only in the non-fiction/political or Christian living segment. It’s not like this. This is really weird stuff, and there are all these, Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York, and unofficial czar of the mystery book universe.

CJB: He’s probably listening right now, actually.

HH: Otto, if you are, you should come on, because if you are the unofficial czar of anything, you’re always welcome on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

— – – – –

HH: I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about Nate Romanowski and the very rich Saudi prince. Is it true that the Rocky Mountain Peregrine is the deadliest of falcons?

CJB: It’s the fastest. It’s the fastest animal/bird in the world.

HH: Okay.

CJB: And it’s one of the deadliest, because unlike most falcons who either tend to just hunt terrestrially or in the air, peregrines will kill anything – in the air, on the ground, they’ll…

HH: I’ll go with deadliest. Now this is your last appearance on the Hugh Hewitt Show, given what you said, so you might as well tell people what you said during the break.

CJB: (laughing) I thought I was being nice. I said thank you for having me on the pre-show, Hugh.

HH: And Generalissimo thought that was great. But of course, it does lead, there are consequences to everything. I want to read this paragraph before I run out of time. The impetus for the tale, which is the one I have not yet read, because I have two more to go for two more nights of entertainment, “The impetus for the tale comes from an experience of my own many years before when I worked summers on an exploration survey crew based out of Casper, Wyoming. Our job, I was a lowly road man, was to resurvey corners and benchmarks in the practically roadless Powder River Basin near Pumpkin Butte. It turned out the location for the stake we needed to drive into the ground happened to be exactly beneath the only manmade structure within sight, a sheep wagon. The odds against something like this happening were incredible. Nevertheless, it was my job to approach the lonely wagon of a sheepherder who had likely not seen another human in weeks and knock on the door.”

CJB: Right.

HH: That’s really creepy.

CJB: Yes, and when I, I can’t remember how I used this in the story, I think I might have, as I approached that sheep wagon on foot by myself, because the surveyor sent me, wouldn’t go with me, I could hear like jokes and a punchline and wild laughing. But it was in Basque. It was in Spanish.

HH: Oh, because…

CJB: So I though, no, there’s two of them.

HH: Okay.

CJB: So I knock on the door, and only one guy opened up and looked out.

HH: Is that in the story?

CJB: Yes, he was telling himself jokes and laughing. But we did finally convince him what we needed to do.

HH: That was a lot like Greg Schallor last night, but we was telling the jokes and people were laughing. That’s, last thing I’ve got to talk to you about, there’s a story, Every Day Is A Good Day On The River.

CJB: Right.

HH: And I’ve been on the Madison, fished it out completely.

CJB: Yes, that’s what I understand.

HH: But I traumatized a couple of guides, and this is really creepy. But old high school wounds when reopened are ugly.

CJB: Yes, they are.

HH: So this is a theme for all seasons.

CJB: Yes, it is, and yeah, that takes place on the North Platte River, which flows through Casper, Wyoming, fantastic fishing. You, not even you could fish that out.

HH: T. Jefferson Parker and you fish together.

CJB: Yes, we did. We just fished two weeks ago.

HH: Do you talk plot when you fish? Or are you just fishing?

CJB: You know, we mainly just fish, but late at night, after a few bourbons and cigars, we’ll start talking about books, more about books we’re reading than books we’re writing.

HH: I’ve got to get you both in the studio together at the same time.

CJB: That would be fun.

HH: …on the pre-show.

CJB: Yeah (laughing)

HH: C.J. Box, have a great book signing tonight in Highlands Ranch at the Tattered Cover, 7pm. Shots Fired: Stories From the Joe Pickett Country linked over at www.hughhewitt.com and in bookstores everywhere. You will thank me, America, you always have whenever I have…

CJB: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: Thank you, Chuck.

End of interview.

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