The Back of Beyond

Finished CJ Box’s very Hillerman-ey Back of Beyond. Like everything else of his so far, I really dug it, though this one’s a lot more straight-ahead thriller than mystery, which is where he usually writes. I’d say it’s a (Crais) Hostage, just rural instead of urban. Just as well-paced, though, and very well-written this time, too. Glad he’s branching out from the Joe Pickett stuff more and more. I mean, I love Joe, but like Box says at his readings, there’s only so much that can believably happen to a guy in one county, right? Or in one lifetime, anyway. It’s hard to make Jack Bauer real on the page, I mean. Anyway, if I could be any writer — not just cash their checks, but write where and how they write — I’d be either Box or Joe R. Lansdale, for sure. Though, as Lansdale plays across all the genres and mediums, I’d probably sidle his way a bit more. Or, with Box, it’s got to feel a little constrictive, I suspect, writing for a mystery audience demographic that you can so well guess the politics of (I’m not generalizing about all mystery readers, of which I’m one, but about his mystery readers (of which I’m also a rabid one)). And, if you want to keep those book buyers, you agree with them rather than challenging them, yes? You have to appear to have the same values, anyway — just small stuff, like, in this novel, how the old cowpoke is the obvious good guy, and smarter than the rest in a Matlock kind of way. It’s totally fun and completely effective and likely an accurate rendering of the way things are, but I suspect it’s also comforting to a certain set of readers. In a way that makes them come back to that part of the shelf. But, like Palahniuk and Ellis aren’t appealing to their set audiences either, right? You do what you do to sell books, and if it ends up selling books, I don’t see how it can be wrong.

Author: SGJ