Last month, C. J. Box was the guest of honor at Sleuthfest, the writers’ conference sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America.
Box, as usual, charmed his audience with tales of how he got into writing, book tours, and his background. I also moderated a panel with him and Neil Nyren, executive vice president, associate publisher, and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Our panel was about the writer-editor relationship.
One of the tidbits that Box mentioned during Sleuthfest was that a television series based on his character, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, was in the works.
Many of us were thrilled with the idea of Joe Pickett, and the novels’ supporting characters, being the basis of a television series. Box’s series is tailor-made for film.
The stories are involving and the characters appealing and easy to relate to. And the scenery is highly visual—the wide open spaces of Wyoming, wildlife, and blue skies.
But just a couple of weeks ago, Box announced via Facebook that the Joe Pickett TV series is dead.
“For those interested in seeing a Joe Pickett television series: there won't be one. We have withdrawn the project from the producers who were in charge of developing and placing a series,” wrote Box.
“Why? We didn't like the direction they were going. It is of paramount importance that if a Joe Pickett series is ever produced and broadcast that it maintain the characters, story lines, sequence, themes, location, and narrative integrity of the books. Naming actors ‘Joe Pickett’ or ‘Marybeth’ or ‘Nate Romanowski’ and creating wholly new personalities and motivations for them in a faux-Wyoming location won't cut it.
“If and when there is ever a Joe Pickett television series we owe it to our readers and ourselves to present a quality product based on the unique world of the novels—not shaped by the brand of the network or the predilections of the producers. We want to be proud of the end result,” he added.
Good for you, Chuck Box! We’ve all seen our beloved mystery characters turned into weak shadows in a film or TV series.
While I am always happy to see mystery novels make it to the small—or big—screen, I also am pleased to learn Box felt the integrity of his novels was paramount. For me, films are a nice bonus but books are more important.
And Box agrees, apparently, adding, “A television series (or movie) is not the be-all and end-all for a novelist.”
Box added, “What is the be-all and end-all? Meeting the expectations of enthusiastic and dedicated readers of the Joe Pickett series book by book. We don't want to let you down. And we can hold out until we're absolutely assured it will be done right.”
Readers also apparently agree with Box’s decision. In an email, he told Mystery Scene that he has been “very pleasantly surprised how supportive readers have been in regard to the decision. Not only on Facebook but in person during the Off the Grid tour. Readers have very strong feelings about Hollywood screwing up books and characters—and strong feelings toward authors who allow it to happen.”
Again, good for Box. I think Joe Pickett would have made a terrific TV series. Netflix has done justice to Longmire, based on Craig Johnston’s Walt Longmire novels. And Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch has a second life on the very good Amazon Prime series Bosch.
Joe Pickett’s appearance on the screen—if it ever does happen—will be worth the wait.