history a mile high
August 24, 2010 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Looking for books about, or set in, Denver, Colorado. Movies, too!

My buddy's moving to Denver, and I'd like to send him a housewarming gift of a few books. I'm looking for a good history of the city (or the entire state), as well as novels set in the city (graphic novels would be great too).

...and as I was writing the question, it occurred to me that it would be fun to toss a movie or two into the mix as well. So, film recommendations as well, please!
posted by the bricabrac man to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Significant parts of On the Road are set in Denver. There's also a whole crime novel series by Stephen White that's set primarily in Boulder, but there are usually quite a few jaunts over to Denver as well.

Apparently Battlefield Earth is also set in Denver in the year 3000, which is a little weird. So you could throw that one in as a joke. I was not expecting that answer when I googled for "books set in Denver."

Be sure to tell him to check out the Tattered Cover Bookstore as soon as he's read all the books you give him.
posted by lilac girl at 7:12 AM on August 24, 2010

James Michener's Centennial.
posted by pickypicky at 7:30 AM on August 24, 2010

Also, Manuel Ramos has written several mystery novels set in Denver. He's also an attorney, so he's kind of a local John Grisham.
posted by pickypicky at 7:36 AM on August 24, 2010

Good idea.

Michael Connelly's The Poet

this might be interesting
or this

website with books about colorado

movies: Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead, Vanishing Point (from the 70s)
posted by KogeLiz at 7:58 AM on August 24, 2010

Vanishing Point is set in Denver only for maybe the first five minutes of screen time. It is a pretty cool movie featuring the American West in the early 1970s, though. If he's not from that part of the country, it might be a good one to include.

Make sure he knows that, whenever you see the skyscrapers and office buildings in South Park, that's a representation of the Denver skyline.

Almost Blue was shot in Denver. Haven't seen it, so I can venture no opinion on the quality.

You didn't ask about songs, but when Tom Waits growls "Maybe you're standing on the corner of 17th and Wazee Streets, out in front of the Terminal Bar, there's a Thunderbird moving in a Muscatel sky" in "Nighthawk Postcards (from Easy Street)" he's talking about Denver. And there's always "Get Out of Denver."
posted by Joey Bagels at 8:22 AM on August 24, 2010

John Dunning's mystery series (starting with The Bookman's Wake) are set in Denver.
posted by zooropa at 8:26 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

The old Woody Allen movie Sleeper is also set in the Colorado of the future, and features a lot of 70s-futuristic architecture from Boulder and around the front range.
posted by farawayfrom at 9:07 AM on August 24, 2010

'77: Denver, The Broncos, and the Coming of an Age. The author's argument is that 1977, the first year the Broncos went to the Superbowl (no need to remind me of the outcome curse you, Cowboys!), coincided with the moment that Denver really started its social/economic/political transformation from overgrown cowtown to a more modern urban city. I haven't read it myself (yet!) but it's gotten good reviews, and having grown up in Laramie/Ft. Collins/Denver, I can attest that there's been a fundamental transformation in Denver (beyond just population growth) from what it was 20+ years ago to what it is now.

If you think your friend might enjoy a historical high society scandal/murder set in old Denver, there's Murder at the Brown Palace that gives a sense of what the city was like 100 years ago.
posted by scody at 9:30 AM on August 24, 2010

Ink (IMDB) was filmed in and around Denver.

Suburban/Measuring Dan was filmed just west of Denver in Arvada.
posted by jazon at 9:44 AM on August 24, 2010

I just read Bayard Taylor's "Colorado: a Summer Trip" a little while ago. It is essentially a series of letters or journal entries Taylor wrote to his readers as he traveled from Denver across the front range, into the Gore Range, down into the Arkansas river valley, across South Park, and back to Denver during the summer of 1866. It was an eye-opening glimpse of how the area has changed in the past 150 years, and is a thoroughly enjoyable read. See if you can find a reprint from the University Press in Niwot (it has an unmistakable orange cover).
posted by dilettanti at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2010

the submerged city in Waterworld is Denver.
posted by muta at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2010

Again as a joke suggestion, certain seasons of Dog the Bounty Hunter were filmed in Denver. I always got a kick out of watching him and his brood chase junkies down my commute to middle school.

A book he'll see often on Denver coffee tables (and perhaps want for his own) is Colorado, 1870-2000. It has gorgeous photos of locations in Colorado taken in 1870 and then in the exact same location in 2000. The Denver ones are pretty astounding, and it's a good overview of what Colorado has to offer in any case.
posted by libertypie at 11:23 AM on August 24, 2010

One the other futuristic buildings in Sleeper is a McDonalds on Alameda. The UFO building is outside of Golden, CO.

About Schmidt has some scenes in Denver.

There's lots of cheesy "Ghost towns of..." and "Mining Tragedies" of Denver. The cheesiest, if you excuse the pun, would be one about the cemetery that used to be where Cheesman park is. Legend has it, they never exhumed the bodies.


The dumbest stupidest most amazingly horrible movie -

That movie would be called, "Cliffhanger" has scenes in Denver and in the mountains. None of it was shot here... I don't think any of it was shot in the states. The ridiculousness starts, when they go to the Denver *mint* to pick up *paper* money.

It goes downhill from there.

Completely required viewing. Like, Dumb and Dumber is more accurate.
posted by alex_skazat at 11:53 AM on August 24, 2010

Okay, here are some of the better histories. although some really tend toward the academic:

Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis is the standard history, which has more coverage of the post-WWII city (and its suburbs) than most histories of Denver (but it really needs to be updated)

The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent covers Latino activism in Denver in the 1960s-1980s, particularly the work of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, one of the city's most well-known activists

Creating Colorado - about the state as a whole, obviously, but there's a lot in there on the economic and cultural development of Denver through the 1940s. Written by a geographer.

The City and the Saloon - a drinking history of early Denver, with lots o' gossip.

If your friend is at all interested in architecture, he needs to get Buildings of Colorado, which is one of the best guides to the city's architecture (as well as that of the state as a whole)

The Broncos book that scody recommended is good, too -- it's pretty evocative of one of the worse decades in the city's history, and you can tell that the author had a really good time at various drinking and entertainment establishments in the late 1970s. I personally find Phil Goodstein's "Ghosts of..." books, mentioned above, a little frustrating to read(the man needs an editor, bad), but they're full of information that you won't get elsewhere, and are pretty interesting.

There are many others, but this is what I could come up with off the top of my head. MeMail me if you want: I'm a Denver historian, more or less....
posted by heurtebise at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

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