On Self-Reliance, Mormonism and DIY Punk Culture: An Interview with Writer and Book Publisher Nathaniel Kennon Perkins
When I first met Nate Perkins I was giving a reading in a garage in a punk rock farmhouse way out east of Denver, in Brighton, where it’s more Great Plains than mountain country. Perkins was wearing tan Carhartt overalls. He approached Adam Gnade and me after the show and asked us if we had anything to submit to the press he was starting out of a bookstore in Boulder.
Since 1979, that shop, Trident Booksellers and Cafe, has been located on Pearl Street, what might be some of the priciest real estate in one of Colorado’s richest communities. It’s a classic storefront, one that calls to mind bookstores like Shakespeare and Co. in Paris. And like that legendary place, as well as the famous San Francisco bookstore City Lights, Trident is becoming a publishing house and indie book shop, beyond its role as a coffeeshop (with booze) and used bookseller. Walk inside and you’ll find titles from indie lit writers like Scott McClanahan, Mallory Whitten, Sam Pink and Lucy K. Shaw.
Behind the counter you’re likely to find Perkins, the bookstore manager and publisher of Trident Press. But Perkins is more than just a bookslinger. He’s also a writer. His most recent short novel, Cactus, is a spare, quick-moving account of a correctional officer and ex-punk rocker slowly unraveling a mystery in the desert.
I recently sat down with him at the shop over coffee to talk indie lit, book publishing, and writing about the West.
Why do you think the American West is a compelling place to set your stories in?
I grew up mostly in the American West. I’ve mostly spent the past twenty years living between Utah and Colorado and New Mexico. Cactus is set in and around Colorado Springs, where a bunch of my family lives. It’s compelling to me because that’s what I’m familiar with, and that’s what I love. Although I sometimes flirt with the idea of moving to Europe or back to Central America, I can’t imagine myself really ever moving out of the Four Corners states for any significant period of time. I’ve just spent so much time out in the desert, and the culture is so much what I know and who I am. So that plays into both what I’m interested in writing about…