CJ Box "Blue Heaven" has just been released in the Italian edition as Un angolo di paradiso (Piemme linea rossa). This is the first of his work to appear on the Italian market. A big Thank You to CJ for having the patience to respond to our questions, and best of luck on the Italian market!. The Italian version of this interview is here.
Q.: Please introduce yourself for your new Italian readers
CJ: (From my bio):
I'm a New York Times bestselling author of thirteen novels including the Joe Pickett series. I won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (BLUE HEAVEN, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, the Barry Award, and the 2010 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award for fiction. My short stories have been featured in America’s Best Mystery Stories of 2006 and limited-edition printings. 2008 novel BLOOD TRAIL was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin (Ireland) Literary Award. The novels have been translated into 25 languages. BLUE HEAVEN and NOWHERE TO RUN have been optioned for film.
I'm a Wyoming native and have worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor. I've hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. I live in Wyoming. I'm very excited the novels will FINALLY be published in Italy. I've been to the country several times and love it.
Q.: Blue Heaven has some Really Bad cops, not just the corrupt kind, but the dark, violent, power drunk kind, with loud echoes of James Ellroy. Like many, I suspect, I first heard about cop retirement communities at the time of the OJ Simpson trial. How long has this novel been in gestation? How much is it inspired by real facts?
CJ: I was at a book signing in Los Angeles four years before I wrote BLUE HEAVEN when a member of the LAPD came to the signing. He mentioned that many of his fellow cops had retired and had moved to "Blue Heaven." I hadn't heard the term before so I followed up with him. I was fascinated by the concept of a thousand big-city cops moving to a very rural section of Idaho. I figured if there were a thousand ex-cops, a few of them were probably bad people. I flew to North Idaho and interviewed locals and a few of the ex-cops, and the story developed from there.
Q.: This is true of all your work, I think, but Blue Heaven in particular reads sometimes like a modern western. How important is the myth of the west for you?
CJ: I was born in the west and live there, and the myth of the west is all around. I don't really think about writing modern westerns, but I know that's how they seem to come out. In the U.S., the western is our history and culture and it defined our sense of self. A lone good man trying to do the right thing against power and corruption is a story worth retelling time and time again.
Q.: In particular, reading Blue Heaven Jess Rawlings reminded me of the “Brave Cowboy” Jack Buns. What do you think of Ed Abbey?
I'm a fan of Edward Abbey and I read the novel in college. It probably got into my blood.
Q.: Self reliance, solidarity in small community, distrust of government intrusion and bureaucracy are common themes in your books, yet your heroes (from Joe Pickett to Villatoro in Blue Heaven) are still devoted public servants. Does this represent for you the cultural dilemma of the West?
CJ: Yes, one of them. And like you asked earlier, it goes back to the western themes of a sheriff or lawman up against powerful forces outside the law. Sometimes, though, it's hard to justify who is good and who is bad, and I try not to make the answer too simplistic.
Q.: Much in the same way, your heroes often struggle to find a compromise between the ways of the past and the inevitable change in Blue Heaven brought in by resettling and development, or state politics like in Cold Wind. Joe Pickett struggles to reconcile nature preservation, hunting and recreation in nature. Do you think this compromise is possible?
CJ: Yes I do, although the struggle to get there isn't easy. In my books I try to present a balanced portrayal of many controversial issues. My hope is readers on both sides of the issue may see that there is another side and perhaps the other side isn't completely unreasonable or evil. I've had readers tell me their opinion of some controversies changed -- or was softened -- by being exposed to the other side. It's rewarding when that happens.
Q.: How much of Joe Pickett is there in you?
A little, certainly. I have daughters and a wife and I'm very devoted to them. But Joe Pickett is a fictional character and I'm not.
Q.: Big oil (Big gas? Fracking?) might change the face of your home state. Will Joe Pickett take them on?
CJ: I explored aspects of this issue in TROPHY HUNT and BELOW ZERO, but I'm sure it will be explored more in future novels. It's the classic dilemma: jobs and development set against shrinking communities and an older economy of agriculture and tradition. There are benefits and threats depending on which way it goes. There is a reasonable middle ground, I hope.
Q.: How do you divide your time? Do you intentionally take a break between episodes of the Joe Pickett series or do you just do that to follow up on ideas that do not fit in the saga?
CJ: Some stories and themes simply can't be Joe Pickett books, so that's why I write stand-alones as well. Plus, I know a series of twelve books can be daunting to a first-time reader and they may want to see what kind of novels I write by trying a stand-alone first. I love to do both, and I plan to continue to write both the series and stand-alone books.
Q.: Can you tell us something about your evolution as a writer?
It took twenty years to get a book published, and when it finally happened I felt unleashed. I still feel that way. I love to explore the themes and issues I write about, and I'm very grateful the books have been embraced all over the world.
Q.: Your 3 favorite books in the thriller/mystery/noir genre?
CJ: This is an impossible question to answer and sure to get me into trouble. How about three favorite authors instead?
1. Michael Connelly
2. Denise Mina
3. John Sandford
Q.: Your 3 favorite books in any genre?
1. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
2. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris
3. The novels of Thomas McGuane
Q.: What’s next for CJ Box?
I just finished the first draft for a new stand-alone novel called THE HIGHWAY. It's about a long-haul truck driver who is a serial killer. It scares me to death. Next month, my twelfth Joe Pickett novel will be out. It's called FORCE OF NATURE, and it's about Joe Pickett's outlaw friend Nate Romanowski. I think it's a very good one.