a guy simply needs a change of scenery.
was the case for C.J. Box, the Edgar Award-winning
novelist best known for thrillers that feature wily
Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett.
loves writing that series, which began with "Open
Season" in 2001 and has built a loyal fan base over
the years. Book No. 18 in the series, "The
Disappeared," will come out in March 2018.
there are some things I want to write that arenít
right for a Joe Pickett novel," Box says.
latest, "Paradise Valley," is that kind of
book. It takes place in North Dakota and Montana and it
involves the hunt for a cunning highway serial killer.
"Wrong state, wrong subject matter," Box says.
itís the right book for any reader daring enough to
spend a few unnerving evenings exploring the mind of a
chatted with Box about "Paradise Valley."
The book, being promoted as a standalone, is actually
the fourth in a series. Is it necessary for people to
have read the earlier books before picking up this one?
I didnít set out to write a sort of loosely connected
series when I wrote "Back of Beyond" (in
2012). But there have been four books now with what is
more or less the same cast of characters.
of them is Cassie Dewell, my protagonist in
"Paradise Valley." She was introduced in the
second book, "The Highway" (2013), and she was
the main character two years ago in
villain, whoís known as the Lizard King, was
introduced in "The Highway" as well. With this
book, I felt there needed to be a conclusion to the
tension and pursuit between Cassie and the Lizard King.
no, I donít think itís necessary to have read the
other books to be able to follow and enjoy this one.
"The Lizard King" is a piece of work. In this
book, he abducts people, fits them with dog collars
rigged with remote-controlled explosives and starts to
think of them as his new family.
The Pickett books have had some strange customers in
them over the years, but nothing on this scale.
lot of readers have had a visceral reaction to the
Lizard King and were very disturbed by him. I know this
because, at every book signing I do, somebody will ask
me about him.
this book will give those readers some satisfaction.
You quote Jim Morrison, aka the Lizard King, and the
Doors song "Riders on the Storm" ("Thereís
a killer on the road; his brain is squirming like a toad
Ö"). Was any of that in your mind when you
created the character?
Heís called the Lizard King because he preys on
truck-stop prostitutes and because truck drivers often
refer to these women as lot lizards. Thatís where it
I will admit the song did get stuck in my head from time
When you write about places and things in your books ó
like the rugged terrain at Yellowstone (where this book
ends), or the Bakken Oil Boom in North Dakota (a kind of
modern-day Wild West), or what itís like to live as a
long-haul trucker ó how in-depth does your research
When Iím setting a book someplace that Iím not that
familiar with, I make a point of personally going there
and experiencing whatís in the books.
example, several years ago, I wrote a book called
"Cold Wind," in which a body was left hanging
from one of the blades of a giant wind turbine. I wanted
to see what it was like to climb up there, just like the
character in the book, so I did.
this case, a few years ago, I rode cross country with a
married couple who were truckers. Iím no expert, but I
got a feel for what itís like to live as a long-haul
trucker. At night, I would stay in a hotel by the truck
stop, but they would stay in the truck. They literally
lived in the truck. Itís a unique lifestyle.