Mystery Man - University of Denver Alumni Magazine


By Tamara Chapman
A lifelong Westerner, C.J. Box (pictured) sets his novels in the landscape he knows best. Photo illustration by: Wayne Armstrong

Visit for more about C.J. Box, including a fan blog and calendar of upcoming appearances.

Charles James Box (Chuck to those who meet him face-to-face; C.J. to the legions of crime fiction fans who snap up his every release) often wears a black hat and black leather jacket. In the iconography of the wild and woolly West, that would make him one of the bad guys.

Box (BA mass communications '81) is far from that, but he can rustle up an evildoer and depict an evil deed with the best of them. Some eight years and 10 additional novels after the publication of his first page-turner, Open Season, he is hailed for his fast-moving plots, likable protagonists and surreal showdowns. He's also heralded as one of the literary world's foremost chroniclers of a modern-day West, one where avaricious individualists and deadly earnest do-gooders ride into town on their high horses.

"A crime novel peels away the culture," Box says, explaining why he works within the genre. "It exposes the culture in a way that other books don't."