Shots Fired

Shots Fired  by C.J. Box

This short story collection is centred upon the US West and Mid-western regions, primarily in the states of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, and the people to be found there. C.J. Box is the author of the popular Joe Pickett series, also set in the same area. Pickett appears in a number of the tales included in Shots Fired, although one story is set in the mountains of the 1800’s, and another is based in France.

I enjoy Box’s style. He has a casual approach to story-telling. He is someone obviously in love with his home state of Wyoming. His depictions of life there, and most especially his descriptions of the wilderness, are sufficient to make me want to pack up my belongings in Ireland, buy a mule, and go and live in the Bighorn Mountains.

He is patient and thorough in his portrayal of the way of life to be found in such remote and sparsely populated areas. I have learned quite a bit about how it is for the locals, and I respect any author who can impart such information in an attractive manner.

On the downside, I get the feeling that Box has adopted the role of a tough, no nonsense Cowboy, with little interest in the injustice meted out to indigenous people by the arrival of the white settlers, Irish among them. He does not seem to indicate, through his books, that there was any real crime in the theft of land and lives from the First Nations, although I concede that I am basing this upon his fictional writing, and the little titbits that he has added by way of introduction to Shots Fired. He repeatedly refers to the indigenous tribes as ‘Indians’. Although a foreigner, I was of the opinion that such a term is now outdated and deemed offensive. Box appears to be someone who does not care.

In Shots Fired, there are 10 stories which include such surprizing additions as Saudi royals, French Arab rioters, Nazi pronghorns and Czech immigrants turned robbers. There’s never a dull moment in Box’s books. The tales create a nice mix, even if Box does appear to have learned about foreigners by watching nothing but Fox News. His portrayals can be a tad naive at times, yet his story-lines are interesting.

C.J. Box was always going to win me over. His settings are inherently attractive to me as someone who grew up upon a diet of westerns (or as we refer to them in Ireland, ‘Cowboy films’). All he had to do was ensure that his standard of writing remained high and consistent. It does. I expect that in the future I will find something more to rail about regarding his questionable views on the indigenous people, but for now I will hold fire.

I should mention that in these stories there is not a computer whizz-kid nor a hacker to be seen. Thank holy fuck for that. We do, however, have Nate Romanowski, a former member of US Special Forces and now a Master Falconer. There are not many books that have a character such as a Master Falconer. There should be more Master Falconers than computer hackers, in my opinion, and the world would be a better place for it.

Nate is very dangerous. He comes across as a white Kung Fu type. Any of you old enough will recall Caine, the Shaolin monk who travelled the US Wild West saving stuff (and people). Damn but I loved that badass monk and his big flute… oooh eerr… that sounds rude and so I would like to withdraw that… oops… there I go again… accidental I can assure you. Anyhoo,  Nate is like a settled Caine, with his philosophizing and fighting and nature-loving. Nate deserves his own T.V. show.

In previous reviews, I have mentioned such tough guys as Win, from Harlen Coben’s novels and Roarke, from J.D. Robb’s novels. Now we have Nate to add to a growing collection of super-tough dudes with kind hearts. So I have to wonder, who would emerge victorious in a battle to the death, Win… Nate… or Roarke. Fans of the books should petition the authors to arrange a Battle Royale. I bet that would make them a shitload of cash. Place your bets, please.

Sult scale rating: 6.5 out of 10. Quick to read and it won’t give you indigestion.