FAIRFIELD — Fresh from a few days of elk hunting, best-selling author C.J. Box was back at work Wednesday, writing a short story.
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, he’d just sent in his latest Joe Pickett effort, “Stone Cold,” before he left on his successful hunt, snagging what he called “a big one.”
Box, whose real name is Charles James and goes by “Chuck” at home in Wyoming, will be a featured speaker at the Solano County Library Foundation’s annual Authors Luncheon on Nov. 3. He’s best known for his mystery thrillers featuring Pickett, a Wyoming game warden who finds himself embroiled in local causes mirroring real-life issues and cases. His most recent Pickett novel, “Breaking Point,” is a prime example of entwining fiction with nonfiction in that the core plot involves a similar case to the real-life Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, Box adds the murder and mayhem that ensues in the fictional version.
“It’s something I try to do,” Box said of his issue-driven stories. “I write about things I’m interested in and try to present a balanced issue. I start with the issue and then write the plot around it.”
Ever the journalist – Box was a mass communication major and former newspaper writer and editor – he tracks certain issues and keeps files and clippings of topics related to resources that he might use in the future.
“I honestly think that journalism is a good background for a novelist, especially if you write in the genre I do,” he said. “They’re real-world issues.”
Box’s latest, “The Highway,” is a standalone. It debuted at No. 7 on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list. While most of the books are part of a series with Pickett as the protagonist, he’s done a handful of standalones. This novel features former police investigator Cody Hoyt, who made an appearance in a couple of other books of Box’s. It’s about a serial-killer truck driver.
Box said he was fascinated by that because of all the truck traffic that goes through Wyoming. It’s based on the Highway Serial Killings initiative borne from documented trends discovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“It’s almost the perfect crime,” he said. “The bad guys are five states away before (it’s realized anyone is missing).”
He said the book isn’t an “anti-trucker” book, but it’s managed to raise the hackles of some who decry over the book’s alleged gore and graphics. That puzzled Box.
“Some of the people who don’t like it talk about how graphic and violent it is but, actually, there is no actual graphic (details) in the book,” he said. “Part of the book is told from the part of the trucker . . . and I think that bothers some.”
Box said he intended to make it intense and that there was no way to write about the subject and “sugar coat” it. Despite its critics, the book has been his biggest-selling book in his 12-year Joe Pickett career.
That novel-writing career began while he was writing for a small local newspaper in Wyoming. He started writing a manuscript that took him 20 years to finish, he said. Starting a family and a business waylaid the project, but his new writing career was finally put into full gear after he attended a writer’s conference attended by a Penguin Putnam representative.
His first book, “Open Season,” was based on the Endangered Species Act. He started with a theme and actually ended up using a game warden as the protagonist on the third try. Pickett’s profession was followed by thoughts of using a local sheriff or a journalist.
“When the publisher picked up the book, they (optioned) two more with Pickett as the protagonist,” Box said.
As a reader, Box said that he knows full well that some writers should hang up their main character in a series sooner than they often do. He said he gets bored with characters who don’t seem to age. He credits the longevity of Pickett to the fact that his protagonist and his family age in real time like everyone else. Box said that it just made sense to do it that way.
“I hear a lot that some readers enjoy the family aspect of it as much as anything else,” he said.
He also attributes Pickett’s longevity to the fact he’s a “different type of character.”
“He’s more of a real person than a super hero,” he said.
Along with Box, the Authors Luncheon includes Mike Adamick, Karen Joy Fowler, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jessel Miller and Carolyn Singer. It will be held at The Clubhouse at Rancho Solano in Fairfield.
For more information, go to www.solanolibraryfoundation.org.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.