The Newest Book Releases From Local Authors

Authors Ted Conover, Erika T. Wurth and Dale Bridges release new books set in Colorado that are definitely worth a read.

"The Mean Reds" book cover.

“The Mean Reds” by Dale Bridges

Sam Drift is a THC-, alcohol- and whatever-else-he-can-get-his-hands-on-dependent college dropout who spends his days writing dark-humored movie reviews and watching old noir flicks in the company of his cat, Audrey Hepburn. The charmingly unreliable narrator is ironically enough, a journalist, who, typically does a great job of avoiding his responsibilities at the local newspaper. Then one day, his editor assigns him a story about the death of an exotic dancer outside an unpopular strip club. It’s big news for the small, well-to-do town of Mountainview, which is based on the town of Boulder. Can Sam dig into the seedy underbelly of the yoga cult community? Can he do it all while an international film fest brings his ex-girlfriend and ex-best friend back to town after they stole Sam’s script and made it big in Hollywood?

“My head was buzzing with the drugs and my nerve endings had finally shut down. I was numb to the world, and it felt right. It was time to shoot the end of this movie.” P. 172

Can you tell me about your connection to Colorado and your decision to base your book in “Mountainview” or Boulder?
I have deep roots in Colorado. I grew up in Yuma, which is in the northeast corner of the state. I lived there until I was 18 and then I enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where I obtained a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in literature. After that, I lived in California for a few years and spent a year in Prague. When I moved back to the U.S., I landed in Boulder for five years, where I worked at the Boulder Weekly as the A&E editor. During that time, I spent a lot of time reporting on the arts and music scene in Boulder and Denver. The novel is based on my experiences living in Boulder in the early 2000s, with references to the Pearl Street Mall, Boulder Theater, CU, Boulder International Film Festival and the city’s unique culture.

- Advertisement -

Why does Boulder make the perfect setting for your book?
It really is a book that only fits in Boulder in a lot of ways. It’s such a unique and interesting place being a small/midsized town that has gotten into the national narrative as this liberal hippie enclave. I like to play with my dark humor here, like the line, “She was surprisingly strong for such a small woman, no doubt the result of yoga, kale, and the blood of gluten-free babies,” or “The theater was originally an opera house constructed in 1896, but when the popularity of people screaming at one another in song unexpectedly dwindled in the 20th century, owners were forced to sell.” Boulder felt like a cultural bubble, somewhere someone like Sam could get trapped. And the nightclub from the story is based on the Nitro Club on Pearl Street. Living there in my late 20s I used to go out drinking three or four nights a week and everywhere else closes at midnight, but the strip club stayed open till 2 a.m. I would go there and chat with the managers and bartenders while I had a few more drinks. I wrote a story about the club’s openings so I never had to pay the cover charge. 

What is the meaning behind the book’s title?
The Mean Reds is how Holy Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” describes her mood. It’s not like the blues—it’s more aggressive. I always thought this was a good way to describe depression which I struggle with a little, so did Sam’s mother and I think Sam quite obviously is battling his own demons with bipolar disorder.

In what ways are you Sam? In what ways does the character depart from you
When I started writing, Sam was entirely me. But then, I got to where Sam gets his backstory and the audience finds out what happened to his mother. I had the book nailed down plot-wise, but this was when I found the novel’s emotional center. At first, I kept writing my backstory for Sam—growing up in a small conservative town with a fundamentalist preacher for a father who only allowed me to watch the old movies—and it just kept landing flat every time. That’s when I realized I had to let go of the idea that Sam is me and let him be his own character. From there, I took his character further into the imaginary world in which he was living and let him get completely lost.

Who would play Sam in the movie?
In the book, Sam thinks it should be Jake Gyllenhaal or Ryan Gosling. He says, “Jake Gyllenhaal maybe. Or Ryan Gosling. Yeah, Gosling, with that lopsided grin, and those sad, uneven eyes, like someone had made his face out of Play-Doh and accidentally squashed one side. There was something real about him, something that hinted at complicated motivations and inner depth.” But in reality, those guys are too cool. That is just who Sam wants to play himself. Really, I think a young Tobey Maguire or Michael Cera would do a great job. Even though Sam really wants to be the charismatic leading man, he’s at best a character, maybe even just an extra. We are all the heroes of our stories, but Sam isn’t even the hero here, the other journalists who stepped up to finish his story are.

Does Sam go to Hollywood in the end? [spoiler alert]
In the end, Sam is a coward. Faced with his true nature, he abandons his article and gets lost deeper in his own world. I tried writing it several different ways, more upbeat ways, but it’s odd, even though I wrote the ending, it’s like Sam made me. It couldn’t end any other way. He does not go to Hollywood because that would be too big of a risk for him—the same reason he didn’t go the first time. He would have to give up his self-pity act, which he can’t do. His cat, Audrey Hepburn, is the only living thing that stays with him throughout the book. She chooses him and continues to come back, mothering him. But in the end, even she is tired of Sam’s treatment of both her and himself and leaves him.