Monday, March 28, 2011

9mm interview with CJ Box

Welcome to the fifth instalment of Crime Watch's exclusive 9mm author interview series for this year, and the 49th instalment overall. You can check out some of the previous author interviews by clicking on an author's name on the sidebar to the right, on '9mm' on the header bar above, or you can see the first 44 instaments here.

But for now it is time to once again polish off the gun and point it towards a creator of tales mysterious and thrilling. Thanks to everyone for their comments and feedback on the series so far - I really appreciate it, as I know many of the participating authors do as well.

For those new to this rodeo, 9mm consists of the same 9 Murder Mystery questions put to a variety of New Zealand and international crime, thriller, and mystery authors. It’s been fun seeing the variety of answers the authors give to the questions - both in terms of great personal anecdotes and insights, and comparing the influences etc that many authors share. I hope you have all been enjoying the series as much as I (and the authors) have been. Suggestions are always welcome as to who else you'd like to see interviewed. Upcoming interviews include the likes of Kathy Reichs and Robert Crais, amongst others.

But today I am very pleased to share the thoughts and answers of Edgar Award-winning author CJ Box, creator of the terrific Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett series, along with some outstanding standalones, such as BLUE HEAVEN, which won the Edgar Award in 2009 and was one of my 'crime picks of 2010' for the Herald on Sunday (the book was released in New Zealand last year). For that article I described BLUE HEAVEN as: "An absorbing tale of frightened children on the run after witnessing four corrupt policemen gun down a man in rural North Idaho. Something of a crime fiction and classic Western love-child, this is a gripping, intelligent thriller with complex characters, a beautifully-evoked setting, and a ferocious conclusion."

In January I read my first Joe Pickett novel, IN PLAIN SIGHT, and enjoyed it greatly. You can read more about CJ Box at his website here. For those in the UK, you have an opportunity to meet him later this year when he is a guest at the terrific Harrogate Festival (yet another reason to make that event a must-attend). His newest Joe Pickett novel, COLD WIND, isc scheduled for release in the US later this month, and a standalone thriller called BACK OF BEYOND will be released in August 2011. But for now, CJ Box stares down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I'm a fan of John Sandford's Lucas Davenport, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, and Denise Mina's Paddy Meehan -- although I think she's discontinued that series.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller was the book that turned me all around. I'd read plenty up to that point, but Catch-22 made me realize for the first time that a book could rattle the reader to the core and make him think differently about... everything. I've since re-read it four times and get something new out of it every time.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I was a newspaper journalist prior to writing fiction. The newspaper I worked for was a very small Wyoming weekly, meaning I did everything -- features, sports, investigative, outdoor, a column, etc. It was the best training ground I can think of for what I do now because it exposed me to every level of small-town life from billionaire ranchers to low-rent survivalists.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I love to fly-fish. And hunt. And ski. Outdoor stuff. But I'm passionate about fishing and I've been able to fish some of the best trout waters in the U.S. and blue-water ocean fishing outside the U.S.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn't initially consider?
We live outside Cheyenne, Wyoming, home of the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo which is the largest outdoor rodeo in the world. I'd encourage visitors to go to the rodeo grounds even then the event isn't taking place to soak in the magnitude, culture, and unique nature of the place.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? Ha! Any answer I could come up with would be ridiculous.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Very tough question, so I'll duck it. I'm very proud of OPEN SEASON because it launched my career. BLUE HEAVEN is a favorite because of it's structure and depth. It's a big story that is told in 60 hours of real time. NOWHERE TO RUN elicited some strong feelings from readers, and that's a good thing.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller's shelf?
I had three goals. One was to see my book in a library. The other was see it in a bookstore. The third was to see someone reading my book in an airplane. I'm happy to say all those goals have been achieved. I was thrilled...

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Every year, I sign books in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park. It's a humbling experience. Many people come to my table simply to get directions to the toilets or to ask when the geyser will erupt. A few years ago, though, a woman stood in line glaring at me. When she reached the table, she leaned over and spat, "I knew your first wife Linda, you bastard!" and stomped away. The thing is, I'm still married to my ONLY wife, Laurie. I have no idea who Linda is, or was.

Thank you CJ Box. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.


Have you read BLUE HEAVEN? Any of the Joe Pickett novels? What do you think of CJ Box's writing? Do you like crime fiction set in rural or wilderness areas?


  1. Craig - Thanks, as always, for sharing your interview. I happen to like C.J. Box's work, both his Pickett series and his standalones, quite a lot, so I was excited that you were able to get an interview. And anyone who likes Harry Bosch is a friend of mine ;-).

  2. I haven't read any of C.J Box but will be on the look out now. Great interview.

  3. Nice interview, Craig, I enjoyed it very much. I've read the first 7 Joe Pickett novels and can recommend them highly (Free Fire, the one I've just finished, is set in Yellowstone park so readers can find out more about Old Faithful and other park landmarks). I've also read Blue Heaven which I liked though it was a bit violent.

  4. I just finished reading "Cold Wind." Boy, can the man write. Thanks for the interview.

  5. I loved his books, particularly the outdoor settings. I liked your interview. He sounds like a nice man. He certainly can write.

  6. Enjoyed the interview. I'm not normally one for rural locations, but I think I'll give CJ Box a try.
    Geraldine Evans, British Mystery Author

  7. Thanks for the interview. I think C.J. Box give a real sense of place in his writing.

  8. I know I´ll have to try the Joe Pickett series so you can consider this a VERY expensive post, Craig! Eleven books!

    Well, all Maxine´s reviews may also have had a certain influence ;)

  9. yes, I enjoy CJ Box, although I do sometimes want to slap his hero Joe Pickett upside the head for how he treats his wife! Shows what a very believable character he is. The settings are superb too.