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Aspen Remains a Literary Muse for Writers of All Genres

Andrew Travers | August 14, 2019 | People

From weekend getaways to full lifetimes, authors use their time in Aspen as a way to tell stories.

Aspenite Catherine O’Connell

A weekend trip to Snowmass for an endurance race. A one-year stint as an Aspen Daily News columnist. A few decades as a local observing ski patrollers at work.

Authors’ inspirations for using Aspen as a setting in a spate of recent novels are as varied as the stories they’ve set here. This summer, three novelists inspired by their Aspen time have new and recent titles worthy of adding to the bookshelf.

“There have been so many books written about Aspen, and it’s really a tricky subject,” says longtime Aspenite Catherine O’Connell. “How does one play up the beauty and culture and people without turning the glitz and abundant wealth into the primary focus?”

She published four novels before she could set one in Aspen. Her new book, First Tracks ($29, Severn House Publishers), out this month, centers on Aspen Mountain ski patroller Greta Westerlind and a murder by avalanche. O’Connell first wrote about Aspen in the 2018 mystery The Last Night Out ($21, Severn House Publishers), which opened with a scene set in the Benedict Music Tent. When her editor mined for ideas for a new original series, the women of Aspen ski patrol popped into O’Connell’s mind.

Erie, Colo., resident Carter Wilson

Bestselling mystery writer Carter Wilson’s The Dead Girl in 2A ($11, Sourcebooks Landmark), also released this month, is a twisty psychological thriller about a chance meeting on a flight to Denver and a woman’s plot to kill herself at the Maroon Bells. Erie, Colo.-based Wilson is the author of disturbing and nonformulaic pageturners such as Mister Tender’s Girl ($11, Poisoned Pen Press), published last year. As he was working on what would become The Dead Girl in 2A, Wilson road-tripped to Snowmass Village to compete in the Tough Mudder race, a weekend jaunt that confirmed his decision to bring his tale to the high drama of the twin peaks often called the Deadly Bells.

New Yorker Leslie Cohen, who lived in Aspen in 2006 and 2007

Leslie Cohen wasn’t looking for novel fodder when she moved to Aspen, at 22, in 2006, but a decade later, it provided the backbone for the main character in her debut novel.

A New York City native, Cohen landed her first bylines here as a music columnist during a one-year postcollegiate stint as a local. She lightly fictionalized the experience for her protagonist, Eve, in her 2018 debut novel, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct ($16, Gallery Books). It’s a tale of two millennial 20-something New Yorkers navigating love, work and adulthood that’s drawn comparisons to Nora Ephron. Eve is returning to the city following a three-year run as a music writer in an unnamed small town in Colorado, writing for a fictionalized Daily News about concerts at a fictionalized Belly Up (Eve calls it “a somewhat well-known venue”).

“Looking back on it,” says Cohen, “it was the foundation for everything that was to come. It was such an impulse decision, to move there, and so many of my friends and family had no idea what I was doing. And to be clear, I had very little idea myself.”


Photography by: carter wilson photo by Elke Hope Photography