MONROE — There was no need for Monroe County Library System leaders to think outside the box when it came to selecting this year’s featured author for the 14th Annual Writers on the River weekend.
C. J. Box, a New York Times best-selling author of 16 novels, is best known for his Joe Pickett crime series which features a Wyoming game warden as the book’s protagonist. Residents of southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio know a thing or two about the outdoors.
“Sounds like my kind of place,” Box said in recent phone interview.
The Ellis Library & Reference Center, 3700 S. Custer Rd. Monroe, will host “An Evening with C.J. Box” at 7 p.m. Friday. The author will speak about his life, career, and writing process, and will field questions and sign books. The event is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Monroe County Library System and the Friends of Ellis. Doors open at 6. Copies of Box’s books will be available for purchase. For more information, call 734-241-5277.
A native of Wyoming, Box has worked as a ranch hand, a surveyor, and a fishing guide, but he credits his first job out of college as a reporter for a small-town newspaper for his start as an author.
“The protagonist turned out to be a game warden primarily because of my job at the newspaper,” he said. “I had been doing ride-alongs with a local game warden and saw how because of their unique abilities and duties that that would a be a really good person to put in the middle of this story.
“It wasn’t really strategic thinking on my part for a long series, but it’s worked out really well because I do write about outdoor issues, energy development, that kind of thing — all things that a game warden or the game and fish [department] in Wyoming would somehow be involved with. [My novels] are different. They’re not private investigator novels or detective novels. They’re almost all outdoor based, but luckily they’ve caught on really well.”
Bill Reiser, Ellis Library manager, believes there’s more to it than Box penning modern-day Westerns.
“While Box’s books are set a few time zones away and paint vivid portraits of life in the American West, the characters grapple with the same universal truths, and untruths, we all do,” said Reiser, who said he’s a big fan of Box’s work. “They’re thrillers, no doubt about it, but the scenes between the gun play and treachery are what have hooked so many readers.
“I’ve never been to the parts of the country in which he sets his stories, but I feel like I know them. And, especially in the Joe Pickett series, the characters are more real to me than a lot of the folks I see in the flesh every day. He’s easily the author I’ve recommended to patrons more often than any other since I landed here at the library.”
Box’s Blue Heaven in 2009 won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. He has picked up other numerous awards for his crime fiction and his short stories have been featured in America’s Best Mystery Stories of 2006. Three books — Open Season, Blue Heaven, and Nowhere to Run — have been optioned for film. He also has two novels set for release next year.
“It’s really amazed me I think, and the publishers, how well the books have done in places they assume, I never did, but they assumed there weren’t a lot of readers,” Box said. “The last book, Force of Nature, debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times and they just sell all over the country, and they do really well in rural areas as well.
“I’ve been to Michigan seven or eight times and there have always been very good crowds. There are a lot of outdoors-oriented folks that come and it’s fun to meet them.”
Friday night’s event is just the beginning of a busy weekend for the library. “Writers on the River 2012” takes place at Ellis from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday and will feature local and regional authors of all different genres. To see a complete list of authors in attendance, go to tinyurl.com/ch8cczu.
Contact Bob Cunningham at email@example.com or 419-724-6506.