Explore Booksellers to host Jerry Earl Brown reading
If You Go …
Who: Novelist Jerry Earl Brown, reading and talk on “Bedeviled Sea”
Where: Explore Booksellers
When: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 5 p.m.
How much: Free
More info: http://www.explorebooksellers.com
Jerry Earl Brown came to Aspen in 1967 in search of adventure and material for a novel. His grand ski town book hasn’t landed between two covers yet, but Brown did find a career writing science fiction.
His latest, “Bedeviled Sea,” is a paranormal-tinged adventure tale about salvage divers searching for treasure on the floor of the Caribbean. Brown will read from and discuss the new book Wednesday evening at Explore Booksellers.
“I wanted to be a writer before I got out of high school,” Brown, 75, recalled in a recent interview. “But I realized that every time I tried to write something, I didn’t have a hell of a lot to day. I needed some experiences.”
An East Texas native, Brown was inspired early on by the sea tales of Joseph Conrad, the adventure stories of Jack London, the lyricism of William Faulkner and the classic science fiction of Jules Verne. His thirst for material brought Brown into the Marine Corps, where he served for four years. In 1967, he recalled, a friend came rapping on his door at Texas Tech University, saying he was leaving for Aspen. He’d heard a bit about the far-flung mountain town, and arrived over Independence Pass in a Pontiac convertible that June.
“I just went, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going back to Texas,’” he said.
Brown worked in construction, then as a logger for the old mill in Lenado, hauling logs from Larkspur Mountain and taking notes on the characters in the mill and those living off the grid in the hamlet above Woody Creek.
Hoping to get serious about writing, he matriculated at the University of Colorado for a few semesters, while bouncing between Boulder and Aspen. Then a friend got a job with the Aspen Police Department, which would draw Brown back full-time.
“None of us really had any interest in professional law enforcement,” he said. “But it was the best job in town for blue collar types.”
In October 1970 – as Hunter Thompson’s campaign for sheriff was upending the Aspen old guard – he joined the APD. Two positions had opened up, Brown recalled, when a pair of officers inspired by Thompson’s call to disarm law enforcement, refused to wear their guns and were fired.
Ever the restless writer, he didn’t remain a cop for long. Brown quit, he said, after less than two years and one too many clashes with City Hall. He went back to Boulder, and got serious about his fiction.
While studying creative writing at the university, Brown started selling short stories and adventure articles to magazines, eventually becoming a full-time fiction writer (he also eventually taught creative writing at Boulder). He published his first novel, “Under the City of Angels,” a science fiction tale about a future California under water, with Bantam Books in 1981. Other science novels included “Darkhold” (1985) and “Earthfall” (1990).
Brown currently splits his time between Snowmass Village and Evergreen. For decades, he’s been tinkering with a novel based on his time as a cop in Aspen, about a local officer tracking a murderer and shady land developers probing for esoteric energy in the mountains. He was at work on that book, he said, when “Bedeviled Sea” took hold.
A certified scuba diver himself, Brown grew fascinated with the world of deep sea salvage divers after seeing a television documentary about them.
“I was fascinated with their work, the risks they take with their lives, the adventure of it,” Brown said.
Peculiar parts of the trade – like the fact that salvage divers often need to fight in court to claim their deep sea treasures – got his imagination going. He started taking notes and constructing a story about a diver named Kyle Dawton with a sixth sense for finding old shipwrecks, set amid the lawless landscape of the high seas.
“I pushed the Aspen book aside once more and it took off,” he said of what would become “Bedeviled Sea.”
Brown’s five previous novels were bought by traditional publishing houses. “Bedeviled Sea” is his first foray into self-publishing. He’s still learning the ropes of 21st century self-promotion, he admitted.
“Like most writers, a lot of this social media stuff, I have no time for it and don’t have a penchant for it either,” he said. “I guess I’m still in the growing pains of self-publishing with this book.”
Along with self-publishing’s uncertainties and uncharted territories, Brown is finding a freedom in it. He’s returned to “Under the City of Angels,” which earned him a Locus Award nomination for Best First Novel more than three decades ago, and is revising it for a new generational audience. When that’s finished he said, he’ll turn his attention to another long-gestating story.
“I do want to get back to the Aspen book,” he said.
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