Ray Walsh: Short stories by C.J. Box are just too good to miss
“Shots Fired” by C.J. Box (Putnam, $26.95) is an excellent anthology of atmospheric short stories by the author of the popular Joe Pickett series and other crime novels.
The award-winning, best-selling author doesn’t disappoint his legion of fans; he showcases his talent with a sparkling collection of 10 stories mostly set in Wyoming.
Four of the tales feature his major characters, Pickett and/or Nate Romanowski; the opening story, “One-Car Bridge” and the title story appear here for the first time.
Box provides a brief introduction delving into the background of these stories, answering the ever present question that readers always have regarding the origin of plot ideas. He also offers a tough-to-obey spoiler alert about not looking early at the last pages of “Pronghorns of the Third Reich,” which was based on an actual situation.
Strong characterization abounds, including those of business partners in “The End of Jim and Ezra,” set in a bleak and foreboding 1835.
“The Noble Savage (Le Sauvage Noble)” takes place mostly in France; it offers an unusual and sometimes humorous view of American Indians and their intriguing relationships with French women. It first appeared in a small, signed limited edition, as did “The Master Falconer,” a story about Romanowski, his beloved birds and much more.
“The Blood Knot” is the shortest story in the collection, running only a thousand words. It’s a previously unpublished, powerful, emotional piece with an unexpected ending.
“Dull Knife” deals with the fate of a former high school basketball star who had come back to take care of an aging relative.
“Pirates of Yellowstone” focuses on a pair of Eastern Europeans who hope to get hired at the national park but are put on a waiting list. They get into trouble, but see a way out; things definitely don’t go as they planned in their new country.
“Shots Fired” is the last story in this collection; initially Pickett tries to figure out who’s been shooting at a vehicle. He’s involved in a deadly confrontation with nasty burnt-out characters, getting into a challenging struggle for survival.
Box’s latest release is too good to miss; it’ll serve as a great introduction to the talented writing of one of America’s best crime novelists.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels regularly since 1987.