Noted Young American Author Wins Evil Companions Literary Award; Colorado Review, Tattered Cover, Oxford Hotel Give Annual Prize

Note to Editors: To arrange an interview with novelist Mona Simpson, call Carrie Schafer at Colorado State University, (970) 491-6432, before March 31.

Mona Simpson, heralded as one of the nation’s best young American authors, is the winner of the 1997 Evil Companions Literary Award.

Simpson, author of three critically-acclaimed novels including her latest work, "A Regular Guy," will receive the award at a special reception April 10 at the Oxford Hotel.

Simpson will read from "A Regular Guy" at the award event from 6-8 p.m. April 10 at the Oxford Hotel on 17th Street in Denver. Tickets are $35 per person or $60 per couple and include a one-year subscription to the Colorado State’s literary journal, the Colorado Review. All proceeds from the event benefit the journal. The Oxford Hotel will provide hors d’oeuvres for the Evil Companions event and the nearby Wynkoop Brewing Co. will brew a special Evil Companions Ale. Tickets are on sale at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, the Oxford Hotel and the Colorado Review office at Colorado State. To order, call (970) 491-5449.

The award, which annually goes to a writer living in, writing about or with ties to the West, is presented by the Colorado Review in collaboration with the Oxford Hotel and the Tattered Cover Book Store. The award is named for the self- proclaimed Evil Companions, a group of Denver journalists who gathered in the 1950s and 1960s to drink, socialize and discuss writing.

Like the Evil Companions group, the event offers food, drink and a gathering place to socialize about literature.

The idea for the event was spawned by a conversation several years ago between Colorado Review Editor David Milofsky and Tattered Cover owner Joyce Meskis about starting a signature literary award in Denver. The Oxford Hotel got involved, along with Wynkoop, and from there it blossomed into a major Denver event.

"It has now been five years since we started Evil Companions, and it continues to grow each year," Milosfky said. "This is an excellent opportunity to meet a best-selling author and help promote literature in Colorado." Simpson, 39, earned national acclaim for her three novels, all of which illustrate portraits of families whose members search for meaning in each other and in themselves. Her first two novels, written in first-person narrative, detail the life of a young girl in search of a father she’s never known and a mother who has abandoned her emotionally. Her latest novel, "A Regular Guy," also delves into the strained relationships of a scattered family, but in a third-person narrative that literary critics agree works well.

About the quirky families that dominate all three of her novels, Simpson explained in a 1996 interview with Publisher’s Weekly: "What else is there but families? There is a sense now that it is intriguing to write about some of the more modern forms of family that are extreme. But actually, I’m interested in the more subtle things, too."

Evil Companions organizers hope Simpson’s wide appeal and writing style will draw an even larger crowd than in years past, said Milofsky.

"Families are one of the great subjects of literature, which I think is why her writing style works so well," Milofsky said of Simpson’s work. "She has the common touch in the sense that she speaks to everyone but has a very sophisticated framework that sets her apart."

Simpson was born in Green Bay, Wis., but moved to Beverly Hills with her mother as a teen-ager. After graduating from high school, she headed to the University of California at Berkeley to pursue a writing degree. She later moved to New York and enrolled in the graduate writing program at Columbia, writing poetry before turning to fiction short stories.

Her first book, "Anywhere But Here," defied literary expectations for a first novel, selling 25,000 copies in hard cover and 200,000 in paperback, according to the Publisher’s Weekly interview. The sequel, "The Lost Father," attracted similar acclaim.

A New Yorker for several years, Simpson now lives in Southern California with her three-year-old son, Gabriel, and her husband, Richard Appel. Appel left his job as a federal prosecutor in New York to write full-time for the TV comedy series "The Simpsons." Simpson returns to New York to teach at Bard College each fall semester but lives in Los Angeles the rest of the year.


  • The Evil Companions Literary Award is given each year to a writer living in, writing about, or with ties to the West. The winner this year is Mona Simpson, whose latest book, "A Regular Guy," has won critical acclaim. The event is 6-8 p.m. April 10 at the Oxford Hotel in Lido.
  • The award is sponsored by the Colorado Review, Colorado State’s literary magazine; the Oxford Hotel; and the Tattered Cover Book Store. Tickets are $35 per person and $60 per couple, and available at the Colorado Review Office in Fort Collins. Call (970) 491-5449 for ticket information. Tickets also will be available at the door. All proceeds go to support the Review, which publishes twice a year and features short fiction, poetry, essays and reviews.
  • The Evil Companions were a group of Denver journalists in the 1950s and 1960s who would get together to drink. Although some discussion centered around the art of writing and journalism, the gathering was mostly social in nature. Organizers of the event try to maintain the same environment, offering food, drink and a noted author with whom to discuss good literature. This is the fifth annual Evil Companions Literary Award event at the Oxford.
  • The format is fairly informal–the winner reads from his or her work, then answers questions. The atmosphere is more like a cocktail party than a strictly literary gathering. The Oxford Hotel provides great food (hors d’oeuvres) and the Wynkoop Brewing Company brews a special Evil Companions Ale to mark the evening. (Matt McAleer at the Wynkoop describes the Evil Companions Ale as a dark American lager with a nice amount of hoppiness–a perfect complement for this event.)


  • Simpson, 39, has published three novels, "Anywhere But Here" (1986), and "The Lost Father" (1992). Her most recent work, "A Regular Guy," was released in 1996 and has since played prominently on national best-seller lists. Simpson was named one of 20 best young American novelists by the literary magazine, "Granta," on the basis of the first chapter of her latest book.
  • Simpson’s work has been translated into 14 languages. She is recipient of a Guggenheim grant, the Whiting Writer’s Award and the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University. Since 1988, she has taught at Bard College during the fall semester, where she is now the Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor of Languages and Literature.
  • Simpson lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Richard Appel, and her toddler son, Gabriel.


  • 1996–Novelist Robert Boswell
  • 1995–Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Colorado State University alumnus
  • 1994–Poet and writer James Galvin
  • 1993–Novelist Joanne Greenberg