C.J. Box: An interview for ENDANGERED

ENDANGERED, the latest Joe Pickett novel by C. J. Box is, in my opinion, the best yet of the series.  There are all the cj-boxright ingredients: a realistic plot, well developed characters, a vivid setting, clear prose and ratcheting tension. Box merges vivid descriptions of Wyoming’s landscape, western culture, and the personal drama regarding Pickett’s family into a thrilling action packed novel.

Elise Cooper:  In the beginning of the book, there are some very potent scenes regarding April.  You refer to it as ‘a parent’s worst nightmare.” Please explain.

 C.J. Box: This is the first time in the series where one of Joe’s daughters is severely injured in a very violent way. I wanted parents to understand the tension Joe must go through when receiving the phone call. I know what my reaction would be.

EC:  There are a number of sub-plots in the book.  One deals with Joe’s stepdaughter having a brain injury.  Did you do any research on this issue?

 C.J.: Like Gabby Giffords April had a medically induced coma. I had a doctor give me their opinion on how to write these scenes.  People are put in a coma until the brain swelling goes down. Sometimes they fully recover and other times they could have brain damage.  Readers will find out what happens by the end of the book.

EC: You refer to things getting western including a discussion of rodeos.  Are rodeos a favorite sport of yours?

 C.J.: I have been involved with the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo for twenty-five years. It’s the largest outdoor rodeo. I got to know rodeos, rodeo riders, and their code. I wanted to work into my plot a rodeo since I first stated the series.  Some of the scenes were based on the rodeo champion Ty Murray when he was almost arrested for bull dogging elk.  Since my book has a western atmosphere I put in rodeos because they are to Western states what Nascar is to Southern states.

EC:  Another of your plots involves the endangered species, the sage grouse bird.  Did you want to make a point about endangered species?

C.J.: It is a big deal for Wyoming because if the bird is declared an endangered species there will be an impact of the state’s economy. It is very much on the mind of those who live in the Western states. The largest population of the species exists in Wyoming. If the declaration comes down it will put a grinding halt to energy, including private lands.  All the parts of the book discussing the federal pressure and the states versus the feds are true.  I hope readers understand the controversy of the studies regarding this bird, since it is not a black and white issue.  The decline in their population can be attributed to the energy development, hunting, and the impact on their territory while other studies say the decline is due to cyclical history. It appears that any decision is based on political and not scientific or biological reasons.

EC:  You have written in the past about states rights versus the federal government. Please explain?

C.J.: This controversy fuels many of my Pickett novels. Think about how much of the western states lands are controlled by the federal government.  For example, 50% of Wyoming is federal land so this state really does not have autonomy.  There is a movement going on that has started in Utah where the state legislatures are demanding the Federal government sell their land back.


EC:  There are a number of quotes in this book about the dangers of big government.  Is that your feeling?


C.J.: I’ve met some government employees with the attitude that they can do anything and never have to worry about losing their job. They start to think of themselves as officials instead of what they truly are, servants of the people. This attitude runs amuck now.  I wanted to show how a bad egg, maybe someone with a chip on their shoulder, who works for the Federal Government can make life hell for someone else.


EC:  The Cates Family is very dysfunctional led by the mother, Brenda.  She is logical in a psychotic kind of way.  Do you agree?


C.J.: I think she makes the novel sing because she is such an unorthodox bad person. She is manipulative and off her rocker in a pragmatic way. There is some deranged logic to what she says.  She has her reasons for what she does, which makes her a terrifying character.

EC:  Can you give a heads up about the next Joe Pickett book?

 C.J.: It is tentatively called OFF THE GRID It will be centered on Nate.  The book starts off with Nate hiding out, off the grid.  He is found by a clandestine federal agency, which guarantees the charges against him will be dropped if he helps them out with this one off the books controversial assignment.  I try to make each Joe Pickett book focus on a different character.  ENDANGERED has a lot about Joe and his family while the next book will concentrate on Nate.

EC:  Can you describe Nate?

C.J.: Nate has his own sense of justice. He is willing to do some things Joe would not do. His feelings on right and wrong are based on the Falconer’s code and the mindset that goes with it.  So far I think he makes the right choices.

EC:  What about the book coming out this summer?

 C.J.: It is called BADLANDS, a sequel to THE HIGHWAY. It takes place in the North Dakota oil fields where Teddy Roosevelt had his ranch.  It is based on a true story of how gangs fight each other to control the drug trade in that area.