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Local Writer Pens Prep-School Novel

State of the Arts


Published October 22, 2008 at 6:38 a.m.

When Jesse Mattson crashed his car in an alcohol-induced blackout in August 2007, his father pulled him out of Norwich University to get sober at home in Essex. In between attending support meetings for his alcoholism and biking to work at the Polo outlet, Mattson did something one might not expect from a former prep-school lacrosse player. He wrote a novel.

Into the Den chronicles the life of 19-year-old Sam Conway, a recent graduate of tony boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall, as he struggles with drugs, alcohol and the deaths of multiple friends.

Mattson, 24, drew closely from his own life to create Sam in this coming-of-age tale. Like his character, he moved to Vermont from California when he was in third grade, and graduated from Choate.

Initially, writing was a form of therapy for Mattson, and he preferred to keep it to himself. “Partially, I was embarrassed that it’s not the most masculine of talents,” he says. But after he received an offer to publish Into the Den from a friend of a friend’s mother who works at a small press in New York, he decided to go public. Next Thursday, Mattson will read from his debut book at Barnes & Noble. Blue blazers not required.