DEA agent Scott’s first novel, The Far Empty, blends the classic western with a modern noir sensibility.

What research did you have to do while writing The Far Empty?

I wanted to get the Big Bend right, so I researched that quite a bit—the geography, the history. But I lived in El Paso and worked in all these areas while writing the book, so most of the narrative was pulled from my own experiences and impressions.

What inspired the character of Sheriff Stanford “Judge” Ross, who seems to have sprung out of Texas mythology?

Sheriff Ross is as ruthless and unforgiving as the terrain itself. He is the “Old West,” believing in some warped way that he’s the keeper of that flame, when he’s really only a relic of a world that no longer exists. Although he doesn’t see himself as evil, just necessary, a force of nature, it’s clear he lost his humanity long ago.

And Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Cherry is the guy who returns home, despite formidable obstacles, to restore order.

Chris Cherry is a classic western hero, even in spite of himself. A former high school football star, he’s unsure of what to do, very self-conscious, and in many ways not actually that great a lawman, at least for now. I wanted a protagonist who wasn’t perfect and didn’t have all the answers, someone we could watch learn and grow into his badge and gun. If Judge Ross is the Old West, Chris is the new world.

What’s the role of America Reynosa, whose friendship is so important to Judge Ross’s troubled 17-year-old son, Caleb?

When all is said and done, this is more America’s story than anyone else’s. She is its center of gravity, and so much tougher in many ways than either Caleb or Chris. This book is actually only the beginning for her.

How did you show the characters dealing with personal tragedy?

In the wake of their respective tragedies, Chris, Caleb, and the others are all lashing out at the world. The entire book is spun around the consequences of these choices: how they reverberate through these characters’ lives and ricochet off each other.

The drug cartels loom in the background, but you stick mostly above the border. Will you be going down into Mexico in future books?

Short answer, yes. I’ve always had a very specific narrative arc in mind, and all roads eventually lead south of the Rio Grande and beyond.