Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Sandra Parshall

C.J. Box takes his bestselling Joe Pickett series in a new direction with FORCE OF NATURE, which focuses on Joe’s reclusive friend and sometime sidekick Nate Romanowski. Joe, a game warden, has never pried into the troubled past that drove Nate into a solitary life in the Wyoming wilderness, but now that past has followed him and it threatens not only Nate but the entire Pickett family.

In 1995, Nate was in a secret Special Forces unit abroad when a colleague did something terrible. Now high up in the government, the man is determined to eliminate anyone who knows about it, and Nate knows exactly how he’ll do it — by striking at Nate’s friends to draw him out. When the entire Pickett family is targeted, the only way to fight back is outside the law. Nate can do it, but he isn’t sure about his straight-arrow friend — and all their lives could depend on what Joe does.

This is Box’s twelfth Joe Pickett novel. In a starred review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY praised its “breakneck” pace and called it a “superior entry” in the series. LIBRARY JOURNAL’S starred review declared it “absolutely riveting.”

Box, also the author of four standalone novels, is a native of Wyoming and draws on personal experience as an avid outdoorsman to bring his setting to life. In addition to writing bestsellers that have been translated into 25 languages, he owns an international tourism marketing firm with his wife, Laurie.

Recently he talked with me about his new book.

Reviewers have noted that FORCE OF NATURE is different from other Joe Pickett novels, with more violent action. Do you see it as an action thriller?

It’s absolutely a different animal than past Joe Pickett books. Yes, it’s an action thriller because… it’s about Nate.

Nate’s past life has been a mystery since he became part of Joe Pickett’s life in WINTERKILL. Why did you hold it back for so long, and what inspired you to devote a book to it now?

It wasn’t a strategic decision to hold back. I wasn’t sure if Nate could carry a book — I thought his character was best in short, violent doses. But the time seemed right to tell Nate’s backstory. I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, and when I read a particular passage in the Pulitzer Prize winning book THE LOOMING TOWER (Lawrence Wright) it all came clear.

The vast, underpopulated west seems a perfect place for broken people to hide out. Do you believe other Nates are out there now, wishing for nothing more than to be left alone?

Yes. I’ve met some of them.

You established Joe as a flawed hero in your first book when a man he’d been tracking took his gun away from him. Why did you decide to write him as an imperfect man rather than an invincible, larger-than-life type?

I think it keeps Joe Pickett real and that’s very important to me and I think readers appreciate that. It also heightens the tension and suspense at times when you know Joe might screw up, or might not be able to connect all the dots. Joe is very flawed, but aren’t we all?

How has Joe changed since you began writing about him? Do you think he’s tougher now?

He’s ten years older with ten years more experience and he’s been through a lot, so yes, he’s changed somewhat. His skin is a little thicker and his outlook a little darker. But he’s still Joe.

Joe’s family has been endangered in more than one book, and the villains go after them again in FORCE OF NATURE. Have any of your readers, especially women, complained about that?

Since Joe is close to his family and his family are very much a part of the series, it’s natural they will be involved — and threatened, at times. Joe will do anything to protect his family. I’ve not received many complaints because I think the family aspect of the series involves readers emotionally and they want to root for the Pickett family.

How do you explain the international appeal of your books? Do you think the enduring fascination with the old wild west is part of the attraction for readers in Italy, France, and other countries?

Yes, that’s part of it, I’m sure. But I think the modern setting has appeal as well. Wyoming and the mountain west are exotic locations, and readers in different parts of the world are attracted to quirky and unique settings in novels. I know I am. I try to present the contemporary west in a realistic way, and I’m thrilled and surprised readers in 25 languages seem to enjoy it.


C. J. Box is the New York Times best-selling author of fifteen novels, including 12 in the critically acclaimed Joe Pickett mystery series. Set in Wyoming, this series is unique in taking on a wide variety of timely and controversial issues involving the environment, ranging from wind energy to animal rights to biotech mining. And the sense of place that informs these Wyoming novels stands apart from anything else being written today, either in the crime genre or any other area of literature.

Box’s last Joe Pickett novel, COLD WIND, was published in March of 2011 and debuted at #10 on the New York Times best-seller list, while a stand-alone thriller, Back of Beyond, was released in August of 2011 and debuted at #15 on the Times list. His new Joe Pickett novel, FORCE OF NATURE, will be published on March 20, 2012.

To learn more about C.J., please visit his website.

Sandra Parshall
Latest posts by Sandra Parshall (see all)