America’s favorite fictional game warden is back for his 19th adventure this spring in the latest novel by Wyoming writer C.J. Box.
In “Wolf Pack,” which continues the story of game warden Joe Pickett, technology clashes with nature and outsiders cause disruptions.
Box is set to make a visit to Laramie as part of his national book tour. He’ll be doing a reading and book signing at noon Wednesday at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. The event is free and open to the public.
“Wolf Pack,” published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, was released earlier this week. At the close of the previous installment, “The Disappeared,” Pickett was sitting in the back of a Wyoming Highway Patrol vehicle on the way to Cheyenne, where he was presumably going to lose his job.
The book opens with Pickett in the field, his job restored. He joins fellow game warden Katelyn Hamm in investigating a drone that’s harassing wintering wildlife, even causing a group of mule deer to panic.
“They’re trying to find out who’s responsible for that because it’s stressing the animals,” Box said.
While drones have been used to gather more accurate estimates of a wildlife populations and look out for poachers, researchers are also finding that unmanned aerial vehicles can stress or kill wildlife if operators aren’t careful. Wyoming, like many states, has laws on the books intended to deter such behavior.
“It’s very difficult for law enforcement to figure out who’s using them unless they catch them in the act,” Box said.
The investigation that Box and Hamm undertake into this new technology leads them to a mysterious character who’s new to the area, and whose son happens to be dating Pickett’s daughter.
Meanwhile, a group of assassins working for a Mexican drug cartel are on their way to Wyoming with a target in mind.
“Of course, it will all intercept in this book,” Box said.
Box said he modeled Hamm’s character after game warden Kim Olson, who is based in Baggs and is one of a handful of female wardens in the state. He rode along with her as she worked and interviewed her about what it’s like being a woman in field dominated by men, where many of the people she encounters are also men.
“It was very interesting getting her perspective on the job and her duties,” he said.
When Box began the Joe Pickett series with “Open Season” in 2001, he said, he had no idea the series would continue this long.
Back then, Pickett was in his late 30s. These days, as the series has continued in real time, the game warden is now in his 50s. He’s maintained his marriage to his wife, Marybeth, while his three daughters have grown from children to adults.
In “Wolf Pack,” their youngest daughter, Lucy, is a senior in high school looking forward to attending the University of Wyoming, while Joe and Marybeth are preparing for an empty nest.
“Joe and Marybeth are both a little excited and scared to see what it’ll be like with all the girls gone,” Box said.
A Wyoming native, Box is an avid outdoorsman. His books have topped best-seller lists and won statewide and national awards. He’s currently at work on another Joe Pickett novel, while a stand-along book, “Bitterroots,” is due out this summer.
He said he enjoys his regular visits to Laramie during his book tours, where he’s expecting a full house.
“It’s a great stop,” he said.