CASPER, Wyo. – To dedicated fans, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett feels as real as the Wyoming wind.
“His characters are real, they have real problems and real issues,” said Heidi Greet. “You can relate to the characters very easily.”
“A lot of the stories, when they describe certain areas we know exactly where he’s talking about,” adds her husband, Shane. “It’s fun.”
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The Greets drove from their Kaycee home on Monday evening to pack into Frontier Brewing Company in downtown Casper for a book signing event with author C.J. Box. His latest novel, “Long Range,” is the 20th featuring his character Joe Pickett.
Shane, a Johnson County sheriff deputy, relates to Box’s Joe Pickett character, who is a game warden officer in a fictional Wyoming town.
“I just wish I could do everything he can and get away with it,” joked Shane.
The authenticity of his characters and environment is part of what makes a new C.J. Box release something of a special event in his home state.
“It amazes me that the series has run 20 books,” said Box in an interview before his book signing. “It continues to do very well, each book has outsold the previous one.”
That fan base has long expanded past the region. He’s been on the New York Times best seller list numerous times and has won several prestigious awards.
Last month it was announced that David E. Kelley, one of television’s most successful producers, picked up Box’s book “The Highway” for development.
Retitled “The Big Sky,” it will air on ABC Television this fall and is just starting production next week in New Mexico.
Box said he was immediately impressed with Kelly’s script for the pilot episode.
“It’s fantastic, he’s a great writer,” said Box. “I thought he kept the essence (of the book) and added things that I thought were brilliant and never would’ve thought of.”
In addition, Box said his iconic character Joe Pickett will get his own series. The first 10 episodes are currently in early development by Paramount Television. Plans are for it to air exclusively on cable provider Charter Spectrum in their Spectrum Originals series before moving to other digital platforms.
For “Long Range,” Box meticulously studied the emerging technology of long range shooting. The plot revolves around an assassination attempt on a prominent judge gone wrong, leading to the wounding of his wife. The perpetrator used a long range weapon to attempt the murder “from a seemingly impossible distance,” according to the book description.
“I always start with the issues and controversies,” said Box when asked about his writing process.
“In this book with long range shooting, that has become quite a thing in the West,” he said. “The other thing that captured my attention last year was the grizzly bear attack where a local guide was killed, so I took those two elements and started in my mind weaving the way to get the reader through those plot points in an interesting way.”
“For me it’s really important that the books are authentic, that people in Wyoming and the Mountain West who read them find them authentic,” he said.
Box touched on the backlash surrounding Jeanine Cummins’ “American Dirt,” a book about a Mexican mother and her son attempting to escape a violent cartel, that was strongly criticized by many Latinx writers for relying on racial stereotypes.
“I really shy away from that new thing where unless you’re in that identity group, you can’t write about it,” said Box. “My other series is written from the point of view of a woman, and I’m not a woman. I don’t think that precludes me from writing those books.”
As for Joe Pickett, Box sees no immediate end to the possibilities with stories and his characters.
“All I have to do is look around Wyoming, there are plenty of ideas,” said Box.