I don't commonly venture to write about a fiction authors after just one book. I'm on my 5th or 6th Brad Thor novel and still percolating on what I want to say about Scot Harvath. However, after completing Long Range by CJ Box, I did feel inspired to get a few words out to intellectual ether of the internet.
Why break that convention? I'm glad you asked.
The Alter Egos
Many people write aggrandized versions of themselves in fiction. Gemini in Gunfighting Wizards? Me. Fixer in The Sixty? Me. I do it, too. In fact, I think it's somewhat difficult to NOT do that. Perhaps that's my own shortcoming, I'm not much of a fiction writer. I'm much worse - an amateur critic (cue dry heave sound effects).
Lee Child is as inseparable from Jack Reacher as Stephen Hunter is from Bob Lee Swagger, as Brad Thor is from Scot Harvath, as Brad Taylor is from Logan Pike, as Jack Carr is from James Reece, etc.
CJ's fictional version of CJ is a man named Joe Pickett. Joe's been in 22 published books of CJ's, with another set to release in 2023. The book I picked up was the 20th in the series, in which Joe was an established pillar in his state with comfortable habits and an empty nest. That isn't the sort of setup you'd expect for a typical action hero, which fits the bill, because Joe isn't. That is what I liked in such a manner to compelled this article.
Especially with the "I used to be a cool guy" authors, sometimes I get the feel of their characters being written a tad too superhuman. The world has a way of aligning for them. Things just work out. That's something I don't find to be the most interesting in fiction. An example of this is in the Terminal List when James is able to recon and infiltrate a bad guy's apartment without much difficulty. Everything goes as planned, and he drives away calmly in his unique and cool Land Cruiser. After that part, I thought to myself, "well, that could have been two paragraphs of exposition." Instead, we followed a few hundred words of things just going James' way. Meh.
I thought of that scene again when reading Long Range. There's a portion in the book where he's working hard on a case after getting ripped from being knees deep in a prior one already, he doesn't have his own truck, and then he gets a phone call that - of all things - his mother in law is making a visit. Ugh. Everything goes wrong for Joe if and when it can, but Joe pulls through not because he's some mythical and all-capable man with the skills of a sniper, ninja, and physicist combined. Joe is a principled man who keeps good relationships with good people, asks for help when he needs it, and does the hard things first.
How could you not root for this guy? My Bad
I apologize immediately for this article on a website named "Tactical Tales," because this isn't an action book and it's not at all tactical. It's truly a mystery novel in a neo-western setting.
One that I think I was culturally destined to be into. My parents have backgrounds on the ranch and farm, I was raised rural, and I've been through my fair share of Louis L'amour material. To boot, I've been living on the plains side of Denver long enough now to realize the stoic cowboy mythos is alive and well outside the blue counties.
I'm not a practiced reader of mystery, I'll admit. CJ does a great job with foreshadowing, but not revealing the meaning of an introduced element until it needs to be pertinent. Maybe this is mystery 101, I wouldn't know.
In line with his style, the specific mentions of guns are low on any real meat. The story heavily relies on long range shooting skills, but the info included would be interesting only to the most uninitiated of shooters. Especially compared to something like Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter, this ain't really a gun guy's buffet of depth.
The real shining star of the style is in dialogue. Joe has an internal candor that matches what he presents to others, and that tonal consistency between the show and the tell makes for incredible perspective. You very much feel as thought you're along for the ride with the main character as opposed to just hearing observations of their exploits.
Should You Read It?
That depends. If you're a hardcore military action guy, this may be a fun detour for you at best.
If you're a fan of Kevin Costner movies, you'll find a lot to like with Long Range. This book reads like watching Silverado feels in many ways.
Some of you reading may know my work from a certain other blog. If you're of that ISG mindset, you'll find that Joe Picket reminds you of some of the old guys around that server in ways. A bit larger than life seeming from afar, but ultimately approachable and human.
I'm not sure I'll be visiting many other works of CJ, he just ain't my genre, but I'm glad to have read this book if only for he class in how to write a character that reads as earnest and familiar.
Until next time.