Sun Valley is the Locale of Authors' New Thriller
Photography: Courtesy Ridley Pearson
Author Ridley Pearson
(page 1 of 3)
As the turboprop makes its descent over the Valley and before it glides onto the landing at Friedman Airport, I take in the high-desert-to-alpine scenery below, the likes of which this Jersey-girl-turned-Californian has never seen before, and only one thing comes to mind: Ridley Pearson has come home to kill.
The truth is, Pearson, who has lived in the Valley at least part of the year for the past 27 years, has been plotting murder and mayhem here that whole time. Pearson first came to the Valley to live and work on his writing in 1980; over the years he has published more than 20 crime novels, a trilogy prequel of novels about Peter Pan with best friend Dave Barry, and several children’s books on his own. In his new series, however, Pearson uses the real people and places of the Valley as the backdrop and some of the characters in his fiction.
I show the woman sitting across the plane’s aisle my dog-eared copy of Killer Weekend, the first in Pearson’s new series released last summer, and tell her I am making my first trip to Sun Valley to profile Pearson.
“Be careful,” the attractive woman of about 50 with blonde hair and delicately made-up features tells me. “This place has a way of sucking people in.” She doesn’t offer her name and I don’t ask, but she explains that she first came here from Seattle in the ’90s to ski and eventually bought a condo in Ketchum. She only comes in on winter weekends.
I recognize the small airport from the description in one of the first chapters of Killer Weekend: “bland—like a one-story brown shoebox—when compared with its extraordinary backdrop.” I wonder just how much the rest of the Valley will seem familiar to me having recently read about it.
The protagonist in the book, Sheriff Walt Fleming, is modeled after Walt Femling, who has been Blaine County Sheriff for more than 20 years. Femling and Pearson have known each other for just as long, and Femling willingly gave Pearson permission to model the sheriff in his fictional Sun Valley after the real one. Sheriff Fleming has his hands full in Killer Weekend. Local billionaire Patrick Cutter has brought together some of the world’s top players in banking, entertainment and politics for his Cutter Communications Conference, “C3,” and on the eve of the over-the-top luxurious event (where both Sumner Redstone and Bill Gates are among the attendees) he doesn’t want the sheriff’s caution about evidence indicating the presence of an assassin among them getting in the way of his three-day extravaganza. To make matters worse, Fleming’s estranged father Jerry, a former special forces agent with the FBI, is in on the security detail around Attorney General Liz Shaler, the expected target of the assassin, who is set to announce her candidacy for president during her Sunday morning keynote.
All the action in the book happens in Pearson’s beloved Valley and when the author picks me up at a hotel in Hailey the next morning for a tour, he clearly can’t wait to show off the real people and places in his book. His long-time assistant Nancy Litzinger, a native of the Valley who lives in Boise, gets behind the wheel of a mid-size sedan and Pearson insists I sit in front to get the best view. >>>