One of the best things about living in Leadville is walking outside each morning and seeing the majestic Collegiate Peaks to the west.

Wait a minute.

Collegiate Peaks?


For true Leadvillians, this amounts to heresy. Of course the Collegiate Peaks aren’t visible from Leadville. If you’re looking west, you’re probably admiring Mount Elbert, Mount Massive or both. And both are worthy of admiration as the highest and second highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains.

The Herald Democrat frequently gets copies of newly published books that are totally or partially about Leadville. Some are factual; others are fiction. Some come from publishers; others are self published. Some of them are good.

The recently published book that inspired this particular column is one I’m not going to name. It was not written by a Leadvillian and only a few chapters take place in Leadville. If you had never been to Leadville or never heard of our little city, you might be fine with this book. It isn’t badly written (except for the author insisting that plurals are created by adding an apostrophe and an “s” to various words), and if you are fond of historical romances, this might be your thing. Hard to say.

But twice in the Leadville chapters of the book, the heroine and a man (actually two different men) take a walk north of town where they gaze at the Collegiate Peaks in wonder. They’re not wondering how the Collegiate Peaks somehow ended up in Lake County. Just garden variety wonder. And admittedly the Collegiate Peaks are extremely attractive mountains. They’re likely one reason Buena Vista was called Buena Vista.

Another thing that jumped out at me is that during one of these walks the heroine fails to see the rattlesnake coiled up in her path, causing her male companion to come to her rescue and shoot the snake. She was no doubt looking in wonder at the Collegiate Peaks at the time instead of checking the path ahead.

For some of us who live here, the fact that Leadville’s altitude is too high for rattlesnakes is one of the selling points. We’re a tourist town — or at least we’ll soon return to being a tourist town. And although the tourist publicity doesn’t tout Leadville as having no rattlesnakes, perhaps it should. A person can look up at the mountains and admire Colorado’s bluebird sky without having to worry about snakebite. No small thing.

In another chapter of this unnamed book, the heroine and a male friend visit the Tabor Opera House for a performance, and the author got the facts about the opera house right.

However the two attended a performance by Charles Vivian at the opera house. Yes, Vivian, who founded the Elks Lodge, was an entertainer and he did actually live in Leadville at the end of his life. However the book in question takes place in 1888 and Vivian died in 1880 at the age of 37. By 1888, Vivian was at rest in the Leadville cemetery. (Nor for long, though, as his body was moved to Massachusetts the next year.)

Here’s the thing. If you’re going to write a story about Leadville, even if it’s fiction, you ought to get the details right. How do you do this? Well, one way is to visit the town. Another is to look it up online and research what actually is here.

Or there’s always Plan B. Rename the town, rename the mountains, rename the buildings, and it can be anything you want.

Martinek can be reached at

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