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Flat Tops inspire new mystery novel

April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

A day-long horseback ride on the Flat Tops proved more than just a scenic ride for a former Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News reporter.

Mark Stevens, a reporter for 20 years and now Greeley-Evans School District public relations director, was visiting Glenwood Springs and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area when inspiration struck.

He wasn’t moved to hunt elk or scan the skies for red-tailed hawks, and a relaxing day of fishing hardly crossed his mind.

Stevens’ scenic horseback ride motivated him to write a book.

“That day, I was completely, utterly having that feeling of having your breath taken away,” he said. “It’s so lush and so different than the Rocky Mountain fourteeners.”

From his experiences ” including a second trip with the same outfitter ” Stevens penned his first published mystery novel, “Antler Dust,” released last month. The book is set on the Flat Tops and in Glenwood Springs, with a female hunting guide, a notorious outfitter and an animal rights group serving as main characters.

“It was a combination of a stunning and dramatic setting and meeting a female hunting guide,” he said. “I was absolutely amazed by her abilities. Here was this young, very outward woman ” a vet student at CU (University of Colorado) at the time. As a former reporter, I hounded her with questions all day.”

During his research, Stevens turned to outdoors publications to educate him on hunting for the book’s accurate details.

“I read a bunch of hook and bullet magazines,” he said. “I did a ton of research, read books to learn about the sport.”

Approaching the writing process, Stevens’ experience with hunting was limited.

“I’ve never pulled the trigger of a gun,” he said. “It seemed like a challenge. But I was as challenged by the beauty and the drama of the scenery as not being a hunter.”

Since its release, Stevens’ final hard-bound product has garnered raves from The Denver Post, The Rocky Mountain News and The Aspen Times. The book has also garnered compliments from fellow mystery writers.

The experience has humbled Stevens.

“I always hoped it would happen ” it was sort of a hobby,” he said. “You tell yourself if nothing ever happens, at least I completed it and some of my friends read it. This just sort of raised up out of the blue. I had just enough encouragement to be dangerous.”

On April 1, “Antler Dust” reached No. 2 on Denver’s local list of bestsellers. No fooling.


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