C.J. Box
March 9, 2022

Q&A

C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 30 novels including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Maltese Falcon Award (Japan), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, two Barry Awards, and the 2010 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award for fiction.

Interview by Pam Guynn

Q. Shadows Reel is coming out March 8th. For those that haven’t read it yet, what is Joe Pickett up to in this latest book and what was the inspiration for this one?

C.J.: Longtime Joe Pickett readers will know that I like to draw from current topics and controversies and build a plot around them. I’m always on the lookout for subjects that interest me and that I hope will compel readers as well. In Shadows Reel, there are two concurrent plot lines: one involving the mysterious arrival of an authentic photo album to the local library (where Marybeth is the director) and the other with a cross-country hunt for the man who stole Nate Romanowski’s falcons and roughed up his wife, Liv.

The photo album narrative is based on a real-life incident that occurred at a small library in Wyoming that fascinates me still. An elaborate photo album belonging to the number four or five Nazi official was “donated” under mysterious circumstances. The questions were and are who exactly owned the album for seventy-plus years, how did they get it, and why did they keep it under wraps for all of this time? And — who would want an album like this and why once they learned it existed? I took that actual incident and built a speculative (but, I think accurate) explanation for the object. In the book, two murderous East European brothers desperately want the album and their pursuit of it puts Joe, Marybeth, and the entire Pickett family in danger.

At the end of DARK SKY, the previous novel, Nate’s home is invaded by a younger, meaner, and more ruthless version of himself. Axel Soledad steals Nate’s falcons and vanishes. Nate, along with a roughhewn fellow falconer named Geronimo Jones, chases Soledad across the mountain west through cities (Denver, Seattle, Portland) in the throes of urban violence and mayhem. As they close in, Nate discovers Soledad’s motivation for being and knows he must stop him for himself and for countless others. 

Q. As the winner of multiple literary awards, is there one that stands out to you?

C.J.: Winning the Edgar Award for Best Novel for Blue Heaven was certainly humbling. It was my first pure stand-alone novel and the structure of it was especially challenging: it is told from seven points-of-view over forty-eight hours. I’ve appreciated all of the awards, though.

Q. Publishing has changed since Open Season when the first Joe Pickett novel was published in 2001. How has that changed your writing process?

C.J.: The marketing, promotion, and distribution of books has changed, but I’m not sure publishing itself has changed that much. After twenty-eight books, my writing process has streamlined but the basics remain the same. I find topics that interest me, I create characters that advance the narrative, and I go to work every day. I never think far into the future but concentrate solely on the book I’m writing so that I put everything I can into it. Social media didn’t really exist when I got started, and it has (somewhat) enabled me to interact with readers and derive feedback. 

Q. Some of your work has been adapted for television. What have you learned from this process and is there more on the way?

C.J.: I’m involved with two television series at the moment based on my novels: BIG SKY on ABC based on my Cassie Dewell novels and Joe Pickett on Spectrum (and soon to include Paramount Plus). I’m an Executive Producer on each show but I’m not involved day-to-day and I don’t want to be. My job, as I see it, is the provide the source material and be available throughout the process if needed and wanted by the show runners and producers. We’ve been very pleased at the success of both shows and they’ve certainly raised awareness of the novels themselves which has resulted in higher readership overall. We consider the television shows as one-hour commercials for the books, and we’re happy to say it’s turned out that way.

Q. What are you working on now?

C.J.: Two novels will be released in 2021. Shadows Reel, the 22nd Joe Pickett novel, will pub on March 8. Treasure State, a Cassie Dewell novel, will be released in late September.

Currently, I’m at work on the next Joe Pickett novel.

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Shadows Reel Western Thriller

Shadows Reel

Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s job has many times put his wife and daughters in harm’s way. Now the tables turn as his wife discovers something that puts the Pickett family in a killer’s crosshairs in this thrilling new novel in the bestselling series.

A day before the three Pickett girls come home for Thanksgiving, Marybeth Pickett finds an unmarked package at the front door of the library where she works. When she opens the package she finds a photo album that belonged to an infamous Nazi official. Who left it there? And why did they leave it with her?

She learns that during World War II several Wyoming soldiers were in the group that fought to Hitler’s Eagles Nest retreat in the Alps—and one of them took Hitler’s personal photo album. Did another take this one and keep it all these years? When she finds the name of a deceased local man who was likely in the unit, Joe visits the man’s son—only to find him brutally tortured and murdered. Someone is after the photo album—but why? And when a close neighbor is murdered, Joe and Marybeth face a new question: How will they figure out the book’s mystery before someone hurts them…or their girls?

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