Bookworm: Wide-open of Wyoming; a gritty book with range of emotions

Terri Schlichenmeyer
"Long Range" author C.J. Box.

"Long Range"

  • By C.J. Box
  • c. 2020, Putnam
  • $28, $37 Canada; 357 pages

Someone is out to get you. There's a target on your back, a big bull's eye on your chest, and a dozen possibilities why. Jealousy, for one. Sport, money. Revenge? You don't know what's going on, but the fact is that someone's out to get you – unless, as in "Long Range," the new novel by C.J. Box, you get them first.

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Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett hated having to ride a mount he didn't know.

But there he was, astride a quarter horse named Peaches, three horses behind his friend Mike Martin, and looking for the body of a hunting guide that'd been mauled by a sow bear. At least, that was the story the big-city hunter told.

"Long Range" by C.J. Box.

Joe had big doubts about the far-fetched tale, but it would be awhile before he'd find out the full story. Judge Hewitt called Joe back to Twelve Sleep County for a drop-everything meeting, and Hewitt was serious.

He had reason to make the meeting an emergency: someone had taken a long-distance shot at him and missed. Instead, the bullet slammed into Hewitt's wife, Sue.

Because of the deaths of several important people in Twelve Sleep County's law enforcement and judicial offices, solving this crime wouldn't be easy. Joe missed those folks who died on the courthouse steps not long ago; he didn't think much of the new Saddlestring Police Chief and he downright disliked the new county sheriff, Brendan Kapelow, who immediately took charge of the investigation. An ex-military, by-the-book, no-emotion man, Kapelow only seemed to want to further himself, politically. Joe hated that.

Far back from Nate Romanowski's house, a gunman sat, watching. Romanowski had been instrumental in the killing of the gunman's protege some time before and though Nate worked hard to go straight after a lifetime of dangerous living, that didn't matter to the gunman. His bosses wanted Romanowski dead.

And in the meantime, someone also had Joe Pickett firmly in their crosshairs...

Ah, you really have to love a book that starts out on the back of a trail horse, ends with a trailing thread, and slams you around from mesa to hillside to canyon and every which where in between – which is to say, you're going to love "Long Range."

And it's not just for the scenery, either. Yes, it's true that author C.J. Box places his story in the wide-open of Wyoming, but that land makes the characters what they are. We know that a city-Joe-Pickett wouldn't be nearly as grizzled or grounded. We understand that Nate in a suit would be all kinds of wrong. We instantly see that bad-guys like those inside this book don't belong anywhere else but in an arroyo, rifle in hand. And reading even just a few pages of a Joe Pickett novel makes you see how “Box” makes that work.

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"Long Range" is the latest in a series that goes way back, but don't let that deter you: you can read this novel first, last, or standalone. Just know that you should be out to get it.

"The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison"

  • By Jason Hardy
  • c. 2020, Simon & Schuster
  • $27, $36 Canada, 271 pages

Applause, applause. Give the man a hand. Clap like your life depended on it, tell him with noise that he did well and that you want more. Give him a hand, let him hear your approval; roar, if you want, and encourage him. Give the man a hand or, as in the new book "The Second Chance Club" by Jason Hardy, give the man a hand up.

"The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison" author Jason Hardy.

Jason Hardy didn't quite know what to do. After graduating from college, he taught high school but he "lacked [the] aptitude for the work." He returned to school to get a graduate degree which "did nothing to improve ... job prospects ... " He tended bar, waited tables, sold watches, and made just enough money to pay utility bills when he heard that the City of New Orleans had job openings in probation and parole. The "barriers to entry were low," he says, and he was hired.

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Being a PO (probation officer) fit with Hardy's ideals then. He imagined himself making a difference in the lives of his fellow citizens, and the New Orleans judicial system was on the cusp of change. Rather than putting people in jail for minor offenses, POs were charged with doing "community supervision." Drug possession no longer meant immediate jail time; in fact, POs were encouraged to try to keep offenders out of jail as much as possible through levelheaded judgment calls, home visits, an array of programs, and ample opportunities to go straight. People who "clicked out" got mental-health assistance. Drug addicts were offered treatment. Jail was a last resort.

"The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison" by Jason Hardy.

But funded programs and the human touch weren't always enough – although they did help 18-year-old Sheila hold a job separate from her "ride-or-die" drug don boyfriend. They helped Hard Head decide that he wanted to be clean. They helped Ronald get the funds he needed to stay at home. They helped Kendrick get the mental intervention he required.

But they didn't help Travis. Or Damien. Or even Hardy himself, when the system didn't work ...

Statistics, of course, show that mass incarceration of African American men is extremely high and common-sense says that something needs to be done about it. The rate, says author Jason Hardy, is excessive even in New Orleans, which he mentions but doesn't belabor because race is a factor but not the focus in "The Second Chance Club." Indeed, there are times here when racial identity is untold, and left to the reader to infer because the bigger issue – the reason for the book – is that of hope within a new kind of judicial system.

That comes as a pleasant surprise, one that could spark change elsewhere. It's a story that's sometimes gritty, sometimes funny, often grateful and, while also frustrating and desperately sad, includes some good news, and real people you'll genuinely pull for.

Surely, this is a book you can't look away from, and for justice reformers or anyone at any point within the court system, it's impressive. For you, "The Second Chance Club" is one to get your hands on.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.