Box's Short Stories Are Worth a Shot

By Rogstad, Jodi | Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY), July 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Box's Short Stories Are Worth a Shot


Rogstad, Jodi, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY)


If you go A new book by Cheyenne author C.J. Box, "Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country," will be released Tuesday. Monday evening, you can buy a copy for Box to sign at the library. He also has three book-signings scheduled during Cheyenne Frontier Days. Monday, 7 p.m. at the Laramie County Library, 2200 Pioneer Ave. 634- 3561 July 21, 23 and 25, 3-5 p.m. at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, 4610 Carey Ave. 307-778-7290 This year's summertime read by C.J. Box is something a little different - a collection of short stories.

Before you dismiss this approach as a cop-out, an easy way to cash in on his bestselling status, think again.

Yes, all but four of these stories have appeared elsewhere, in anthologies and such, and have been written over the past 10 years.

But the short story is a high form of the art of fiction writing. With only so much space to create a little world, everything - plot, characters, resolution - has to work together extremely well to be satisfying.

In a short story, flaws are obvious and unforgiveable. There's no time, as in a novel, to dilute the poison. The question here is does Box make it work? For the most part, he does. Four of the tales bring back the familiar characters of the Joe Pickett series. One of the downsides of reading Pickett in the short-story format, though, is it takes a bit of getting used to.

The first story, "One Car Bridge," has our precocious game warden trying to mend a conflict with a ranch manager who is about to be fired by his boss - saying he's a tough old bird who doesn't compromise for anything is an understatement. As we wait for the appearance of mean old Lamar Dietrich, there is, as always, that delicious tug of suspense that keeps the reader turning the page.

Everything is set up, including the hook in the reader's mouth. But the tale, instead of unfolding over an evening or two of reading, is all neatly tied up in a couple pages ... and it's done. Even though these are short stories, Box goes big with surprises and twists and turns, just as he does in his novels. When the landing is solid and flawless - characters and conflict converge with this satisfying kaboom of an ending - it works.

This is the case in "Pirates of Yellowstone," "The Master Falconer" and especially "Pronghorns of the Third Reich," which surprises the reader with a fascinating little tidbit of Wyoming history. …

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