Everything's Coming up Pickett

C.J. Box talks Pickett premiere in the Platte Valley and the growing fanbase for the fictional game warden

On June 4, "Joe Pickett"-the Paramount+ series based on the titular character-premiered its

second season with two episodes. While most fans may have watched from their home, a

number of Saratoga and Platte Valley residents gathered at the Platte Valley Community Center

(PVCC) the premiere on the big screen.

Based on the book series written by Chuck "C.J." Box, the streaming series follows the

Wyoming Game Warden as he navigates family life, his role with the Wyoming Game and Fish

Department and local politics. The second season opens up with the Picketts each dealing their

own way with the one year anniversary of the attack on their family in season one.

Something for the Public

The idea to hold a watch party of the premiere began months before its release. Box serves on

the PVCC Foundation Board, which had discussed scheduling more events for the public.

"It's a very busy facility but we thought it would be kind of cool to do something," said Box.

The author proposed to Joe Glode, chairman of the PVCC Joint Powers Board, and Joe Elder,

PVCC director, a premiere showing of the second season.

"Even though the books are in fictional Saddlestring, everybody knows it's based on the Valley,"

said Box. "One reason that we didn't make a huge deal out of it, publicize it, is that I wasn't

positive that I would have advance copies to show. I wasn't sure if they were going to do one

episode or two and when the premiere date was up until about two weeks ago. They were

bouncing it around and, finally, when they established it we thought 'Let's give this a try.'"

It just so happened the premiere of "Joe Pickett" was on the same night the Denver Nuggets, of

whom Box is a fan, were facing the Miami Heat during the NBA Finals. Taking into account the

finals and the premiere being on a Sunday, the author was pleased with the attendance. It was

a unique experience for Box to watch the premiere at the PVCC, not only because there have

been many characters named after Valley residents.

"It was interesting because things like the elk scenes and the hunting scenes and all that, I knew

I was sitting in a building with a lot of people who knew that stuff intimately," said Box. "It's one

thing to see it on the tv screen, it's another thing to be there with people who can see it and go

'Elk don't look like that'."

In the first episode of the second season, Pickett and his new trainee are tasked with handling a

bull elk drunk from fermented apples. The end result is Pickett's truck being destroyed-a

running theme in the book series-by the inebriated ungulate.

"I know that the tv people have to do CGI. There's no such thing as a trained elk attacking a

truck so you know they're going to take liberties with that kind of digital stuff to make it work,"

said Box. "Overall, it looked pretty good and people I talked to who were there seemed to enjoy

it."

A Perfect Cast

On his social media accounts, Box has been vocal about his satisfaction with the casting for the

series. Going into the second season, the author is still satisfied, especially with the two villains

introduced in the premiere episodes: the Grimm Brothers. The second season is based, in part,

on "Nowhere to Run" which features the survivalist twins.

"It's based on a real game warden story. They look exactly like the photos the game wardens

took of those brothers," said Box. "The people who do the show had no idea those pictures

existed. So, we had a really weird moment in Calgary when they said 'Look who we cast for

these brothers' and I said 'Look at these pictures of the real ones'. They got it exactly right and

that was just weird, that was just based on the description in the book."

Another casting Box is still happy with is that of Nate Romanowski, played by Mufasa Speaks.

"He's very charismatic, he's a big guy. He's in a lot of season two, he's just barely in the first two

episodes," said Box. "He shoots a lot of guys with his big pistol."

Going Pickett's Way

After 28 books, things seem to be going Joe Pickett's way. Along with the premiere of the

second season, the most recent book, "Storm Watch", debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times

Bestseller list. While it's not the first book to debut in the top spot for hardcover, it is the first time

one of Box's books have debuted at No. 1 for both hardcover and digital.

"It was great. It hung on the list for seven weeks and on other lists even longer," said Box. "It

was the biggest selling book to date."

As with most of his books, Box weaves multiple storylines that involve and ensnare the Pickett

family. Somewhat prescient, considering the most recent winter, "Storm Watch" takes place

during a very long winter in which it never stops snowing. The storylines, meanwhile, include

remote bitcoin mining facilities on old gas well and anti-federal government extremism, which

reappears every few years.

According to Box, the double debut is a sign of how popular the series is becoming and he

believes the series on Paramount+ has helped with this. Unlike "Big Sky"-which has been

canceled by ABC after three seasons-"Joe Pickett" is more faithful to the source material, said

Box.

"They are taking actual lines of dialogue and big blocks straight from the books. So, of course, I

like it that they're staying close to the source material. The way we look at it is that the TV show

is 10 one-hour commercials for the books," said Box. "There are people who see it for the first

time, never even heard of it, look up the books and start reading them. It contributes a lot to the

sales of the books. It's hard to quantify other than anecdotally."

Growing Fanbase

With the second season of "Joe Pickett" now streaming, the fanbase for the fictional game

warden is likely to grow. As with any fandom, there tends to be some gatekeeping when it

comes to the world of Joe Pickett. According to Box, the biggest debate is how best to start the

series.

"The perennial thing is arguments between whether or not you have to read them all in order

from book one or you can bounce around or just read the last one. I always tell everyone, every

book is a standalone," said Box. "My wife will tell everybody you need to start with book one,

work your way through it and watch the family grow. So there's benefits to both."

For Box, there's a benefit to the growing fanbase beyond more people buying his books or

watching the series: tourism for Wyoming and Saratoga. One local business which benefits from

the books is The Hotel Wolf, owned by Doug and Kathy Campbell, which was featured in "The

Disappeared." Room No. 9, where Joe Pickett stayed in the book, has been renamed the Joe

Pickett Room.

"I never put in the books that I live around Saratoga or in Saratoga, but readers somehow figure

it out. There have been people who have booked the Joe Pickett Room from Australia and

came here and stayed there specifically for that," said Box. "The books also drive interest in

tourism in the state and in this area which I think is cool."

 

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