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Los Alamos

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I chose to set two of my books—A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only—in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s a remote, lovely picturesque place set on the edge of mountains full of hummingbirds, ponderosa pine trees, stunning views of the Rio Grande Valley, and air perfumed by a mix of mountain and desert scents. Los Alamos was home to The Los Alamos Ranch School, a boarding school where boys—like writers Gore Vidal and William S Burroughs—mixed academic life with outdoor activities such as hikin,’ fishin’ and camping, (which I believe should be outlawed). Then, in 1942, Los Alamos was taken over by the US Army and became the site of the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. government base of nuclear research and development. Fat Man and Little Boy, the first nuclear bombs were developed and built in Los Alamos. Los Alamos is now home to five large, modern hotels (free WiFi!) so camping is no longer necessary.

While no longer a secret US Army installation, the pretty little town is now the home of the Los Alamos National Lab, a Nuclear Research facility. Los Alamos still has restricted areas where hush-hush nuclear experimental stuff goes on. As well, the town is home to the highest concentration of PhDs per capita in the USA. I chose the town as a setting because of its dichotomy, that is, it’s beauty and history of secrets, and for all those people with doctorates who live there. I also chose the town because there’s a Starbucks and, you know, COFFEE.

The Los Alamos high school (home of the Los Alamos Hilltoppers!) was used as a filming location for the 2010 vampire film Let Me In, the American remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In. On screen snowdrifts surround the high school in Let Me In. That snow is all fake. Or at least it started out as fake. There was a nice little blizzard after the snow was manufactured. I know the snow was fake because I was in Los Alamos during the filming of Let Me In. I had to shovel the real snow out a driveway and dig a path to the post box—five times.