Hollywood screenwriter Daniel Pyne mines the Colorado Rockies in a new novel
For Colorado native and Hollywood screenwriter Daniel Pyne, writing a little Wild West thriller set in mining country in the Rockies is like a vocational vacation. The book in question, A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar, was inspired by a thread of truth -- Pyne's brother once bought a gold mine off eBay on a lark -- and the spirit of the West, with all its quirky characters. Along with a sibling relationship that's central to the theme, the novel also contains a cantankerous small-town mayor, a pair of misplaced Pakistanis and some dangerous troublemakers.
Pyne will present and sign the book at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch. We recently had a chance to ask Pyne a few questions about the book and his respite from the Hollywood grind.
Westword: What made you decide to spin a novel out of this narrow core of reality?:
Daniel Pyne: Three things: First, I grew up in Littleton, so I wanted to write something about the West. Second, my brother -- who still lives in Denver -- bought a mine on Independence Pass. I came out and witnessed what he was doing, and I was extremely amused by it. Third, I already had two characters in my head who were brothers, and I wanted to find an environment in which to explore their relationship, with its inherent themes -- loyalty, reality, greed and so on. Not much of it is based on my actual relationship with my brother, but I did poach details from his life and from the mine. But the brothers themselves are complete creations, although hopefully, they feel like real people.
How much of it is real?
A lot of the details about opening the mine -- what it looked like, finding it -- were things that my brother either told me about or that I saw myself. For instance, I was astonished to learn that mines are wet. All the mines I'd seen in movies were dusty, dry things. But when we opened my brother's mine, water drained out of it for a while. He had terrible problems -- inside, it was filled with weird muck that he had to clean out. Groundwater collects in the cavities, and it clung to the walls and floor. I went in there a few times with him, and the description of the mine is the way I remember it. I also did a lot of research about modern gold mining.
A lot of the stories in the book are tall tales that I embellished. I love old Western Colorado characters.