Peter Heller and “The River” come to River Run


By Martin J. Smith,
GC Community of Writers

Author Peter Heller’s scheduled March 13th and 14th appearances in Grand County are a homecoming, of sorts, given his network of friends here and the county’s cameo appearances in several of his bestselling novels.

“Pete is just a delight to have around,” said longtime Heller friend Becky Arnold of Tabernash, 80, who first met Heller when her son brought his kayaking buddy home from Dartmouth back in the early 1980s.

Arnold remembers her son’s friend staying for three months, and the writer eventually moved to Colorado to pursue the adventurous life he craved: “He used to do so much adventure writing, and I remember he once said he decided to write novels because he was tired of knowing how the story ended.”

“The River,” a national bestseller and Edgar Award Best Novel nominee published by Knopf, is the story of two college students on a Canadian wilderness canoe trip–a gripping tale of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence. It’s the fourth novel by Heller, a longtime contributor to NPR, and a former contributing editor at Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. He also is the author of four books
of literary nonfiction. The New York Times described “The River” as “vivid and engaging … A suspenseful tale told with glorious drama and lyrical flair.”

Jack, one of the novel’s two lead characters, bears some resemblance to Heller himself. Although Heller grew up in Brooklyn and lives part-time in Denver, he often visits friends in Grand County, including Arnold. The fictional Jack grew up in Grand County and, like Heller, is an expert paddler and outdoorsman. Throughout the novel Jack name-checks local landmarks such as Devil’s Thumb, Tabernash Tavern, and the Granby Public Library.

Likewise, in Heller’s first novel, “The Dog Stars,” his main character Hig lives with his dog at a barricaded Erie airport and flies his 1956 Cessna 182 over the post-apocalyptic landscape of Winter Park and the Fraser Valley.

Heller will do a 30-minute interview starting at 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 13, on community radio station KFFR
(88.3 FM). The public event from 6-7:30 p.m. that same day will be in the events center at River Run Resort. Copies of “The River” and previous Heller books will be available for sale and signing after the event.

Tickets for the Friday night event cost $15 benefiting Grand County Library Foundation and are available through March 13 at Grand Mountain Bank (now United Business Bank) locations in Kremmling, Granby, Grand Lake, and Fraser.

In a private event on Saturday, Heller will deliver a craft talk he calls “Five Things to Think About When Writing” to members of the Grand County Community of Writers, followed by a potluck dinner. His appearances were arranged by the Community of Writers in partnership with the Grand County Library Foundation.