I first heard of C. J. Box on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. Hugh is the best interviewer in the business, and he loves to do long conversations with authors. That interview introduced me to Box’s Joe Pickett series, for which he is best known. Pickett is a Wyoming game warden who encounters violence and solves crimes out of all proportion–I hope–to a typical warden’s experience. I went on to read all of the Pickett books; one of my favorites is Free Fire, which takes place in Yellowstone National Park, where Joe is on special assignment.
I have no idea whether C. J. Box is a conservative, but, while his books are apolitical, he doesn’t seem to be any sort of a liberal. And in one of his books, as a tribute and inside joke, there is a Judge Hewitt who has a bailiff named Duane Patterson. So you have to like his sense of humor.
A couple of weeks ago I tuned in to Hugh’s show on the way home from work, and Box was on, talking about his latest book, Back of Beyond. Back of Beyond is not a Joe Pickett novel, but rather a stand-alone book whose main character is an alcoholic policeman named Cody Hoyt. The action takes place mostly in Yellowstone, where an outfitter leads a group of suspects and innocents on horseback, deep into the park in search of something…you don’t know what until very late in the game.
Back of Beyond is, I think, the best of Box’s novels that I have read. I really do recommend it. The plot is convoluted but not entirely implausible, once all the facts are known–the not-very-high standard that applies to thrillers–and the book is well written, with fun, colorful characters. And, of course, the great outdoors. If you figure out who the main villain is before the last 15% of the book, you are a better man (or woman) than me. So I really do encourage you to go to Amazon or your local book store and check it out.