A Mysterious Photo Album Fuels C.J. Box’s Latest Novel



Since 2001, C.J. Box has put out a thriller about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett every year. Then he started a second series with his Cassie Dewell books. With March’s Shadows Reel (which includes a subplot based on a real-life WWII German photo album found in a Wyoming library) marking the 22nd Pickett novel and a new Pickett TV adaptation coming on Spectrum, the Cowboy State native is bigger than ever.

Men’s Journal: Why so long to make a Joe Pickett series?

C.J. Box: The very first novel was optioned for a movie, so this has been going on and on for years with people who had their own ideas about how Joe Pickett should be portrayed. This is the first time I felt like they got it. They’re gonna go every novelist’s dream: book by book.

Were you happy with ABC’s Big Sky, the first TV series based on your work?

The story lines are loosely based on the Cassie Dewell books. When I watch it, I recognize certain lines of dialogue as mine. There are decisions I wish I had made, there are times I wonder what the hell they’re thinking. The best thing about it is that it’s created a lot more readers. We saw sales of the Cassie Dewell books spike by 30 times. It’s a one-hour commercial for a book each week. That’s all right!

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Book that reads Shadows Reel
“I love writing the first draft more than anything on earth.” Courtesy Image

Fair to say a theme of the Pickett series is “Nature is remarkable; people are a pain in the ass”?

That’s pretty fair. Nature is not benevolent. But if you’ve read the books, you know most of the trouble comes from outsiders coming in [to mountain country] with some kind of agenda.

Is it tough shifting between the two book series?

It is difficult to go back and forth. I agreed to do another Cassie Dewell book and that’s what I’m writing now. I love writing Joe Pickett books. I’d drive my wife crazy if I wasn’t working on something.

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You’ve been billed as selling 6 and 7 million books. Which is it?

My agent has tried to track the sales. But what’s really difficult is foreign sales. There’s no real reporting feature. You can only guess, kind of.