Ridley Pearson, a New York Times best-selling author of more than two dozen novels including nine in the Lou Boldt series, is on a killer of a tear. His new series, set in Sun Valley is picking up considerable steam. The debut in "Killer Weekend" featured action in and around a conference not unlike the recently held Allen & Co. Conference. The new tome, "Killer View" is a cold, dark, wintry tale that takes the readers breath away as though standing outside in 10 below weather. This is what makes "Killer View" such a good antidote for hot summer days.
Pearson will return to Sun Valley for a book reading and signing, at 6 p.m. tonight, July 23, at the Community Library in Ketchum.
What makes the "Killer" series so addictive for Wood River Valley locals are the swift plot and characters. Many have familiar names: the protagonist hero is Sheriff Walt Felming; his friends are vets Randy and Mark Aker; a sheep rancher of note is James Peavy; his doctor is Royal McClure. And there are many, many more.
These characters, it must be said, are quite different from their real life counterparts, make no mistake.
"It's so fun for me to do that," Pearson said from a hotel room in Houston while on book tour. "So far no one's gotten upset. In the case of Royal McClure, and Jerry Fleming (Walt's father) after publication of the first book, they both said they heard from friends they hadn't seen in years."
Another fun aspect for Pearson is being able to write about his hometown. The Boldt series takes place in Seattle, where he's never lived but spent time for research purposes. By writing about Sun Valley and the region he is on very familiar ground.
"It's really satisfying to write about a place I know so well," he said.
Though he grew up in Connecticut, Pearson and his family have been residents of the area for many years.
"It's not as if I'm a big part of Allen & Co.," he said. "My experience in the valley went into this book in a way I just couldn't with the first one. I've been on search and rescue, and backcountry skied, and worked with cattle and sheep on my brother's ranch, so I am writing from things I know intimately rather than just from research. It's more comfortable.
"I was on a search and rescue, ironically under Walt (Femling), 15 years ago. Sixty of us spent hours scouring a mountain in a blizzard looking for a downed plane. It wasn't last week but....you don't forget that."
In "Killer View," Sheriff Fleming becomes embroiled in a case that plays very close to home. His friends may be involved, his children are affected and his relationships become severely strained. One of the Aker brothers is missing in the wilderness. There's been a nasty rape that seems connected. He's up for re-election and the feds are coming to call. As if that's not enough, his rich constituents want special treatment and seem to be covering up something. It's the Wild West in the aughts. Men can be lost in hundreds of miles of wilderness, while not far away water down stream of a nuclear facility may be poisoning livestock.
"The Lon Bernies of this world make their own laws," one of the characters tells Femling. "You and I both know a badge doesn't mean much in this valley. Ironic since we've both served the law ourselves. But it's different over here. You know that. If it wasn't for the vehicles, it could be a hundreds years ago."
Through these tribulations the reader gains a deeper sense of Fleming as a person.
"Having rich characters is so important in fiction," he said. "In thrillers the plot moves quickly but it's important to get in little things. The way a person walks, or sounds."
More details are revealed. Fleming is in the midst of a divorce. His deputy is shacking up with his ex. Pearson's Fleming is a very complex man with troubles a plenty.
"That's one of the jokes," Pearson said. "Walt has a great marriage and perfect relationship with his dad. But in fiction you have to have conflict."
Pearson is at work on the fourth in the series, and said the "next one (number three in the series) is a rip. Oh my gosh."
But that will have to wait.