14 October 2006

Guilty Pleasure

Last Thursday, I drove a bit over 300 miles to Beloit and Rockford in order to have lunch with a colleague near Edgerton, Wisconsin, see granddaughter Jaime and her parents, and pick up David to bring him home for mid-term break. I was going to have time Thursday night and Friday morning in Beloit, so I grabbed the third of C. J. Box's murder mysteries.

Nancy had "discovered" Box's books in a West Yellowstone bookstore, and the first two were pretty good diversions. They aren't great literature, but Box created some interesting characters and not everything works out well at the end of the ambitious and violent plots.

The "star" of these books is a Wyoming game warden who works in the north central part of the state. He's a straight arrow and a good guy, who is human enough to be tempted to respond in kind to the real evil he confronts. The plots have seemed realistic and authentically western. Dick Cheney would recognize these people and events, although he probably wouldn't like the political sentiments that are implied.

This book is Winterkill, and the plot centers on the actions of frustrated, crazy, and incompetent bureaucrats (mostly U.S. Forest Service and FBI in this book). Other players include a tribe of anti-government activists, a couple of corrupt judges, and a violent hermit with a conscience. The stories are so well-told that I was entranced. At one point, I was so wrapped up in the action, I was late meeting David after he turned in his last paper before break. I could hardly wait to get home so I could finish the book.

Now, I always feel a little guilty reading books like these. Shouldn't I be reading something more substantial? something deeper? Something like Old Jules that raises significant questions like the one Dan Conrad raised below?

Then I thought about alternatives to reading things like Winterkill. TV? Radio? Writing things myself? Surfing the Internet?

I almost never get as wrapped up in a television show as I get wrapped up in a book. These days I watch TV with a computer on my lap so I can look things up or play a game in those great gaps between those moments when paying attention is necessary. Radio? I drive with the radio on and rarely remember what was on. Books are still incredible. Even those action/adventure/mystery books that fall far short of being fine literature. If you want a good diversion and and action-filled (and violence-filled) story, check out C. J. Box's books. The first one was Open Season. The second was Savage Run. This one was Winterkill. It probably works best to read them in sequence, but it's obviously not necessary.

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