Geologist/best-selling writer

Earth & Environmental Sciences Geosciences
February 1, 2016

As a hydrogeologist, Sam Marquis ’83 uncovers the histories of interlayered rock strata. As a best-selling author, multi-layered plots are at the heart of his thrillers.

For more than twenty-five years, Marquis has worked as an environmental consultant and expert witness at impacted sites in his home state of Colorado and all over the country, cleaning up the environment by getting rid of contamination in water. His books are cleaning up, too. Marquis is a Denver Post #1 bestselling author for his two series of suspense novels, and his second book, geo-thriller ‘Blind Thrust,’ was an award-winning finalist at the USA Best Book Awards.

He considers himself to be an author first and foremost. “I wrote my first novel in high school (don’t ask), co-founded The Denison Journal of Geosciences in 1982 and wrote its first article, on Charles Darwin.”

“Now I have two bestselling thrillers and an award-winning novel, yet I’ll probably never be able to quit my day job. Everyone knows that only 1% of authors make any money, so I’ll probably have to keep working as a hydrogeologist until I’m 70.”

“It’s been fulfilling to practice hydrogeology and to be engaged in cleaning up the environment for the past 25 years, but I would rather be dazzling the world with memorable suspense tales that also make people laugh.”

When asked about what excites him about his day job, he replies “Cleaning up the Earth every day and being paid to do it; and working as an expert witness in large-scale groundwater modeling and remediation court cases that are reminiscent of John Grisham novels. In Hollywood terms, think ‘A Civil Action,’ ‘Erin Brockovich,’ and ‘Michael Clayton,’ but without quite the melodrama.”

While he has always loved writing and telling stories, Marquis pursued a degree in geology after taking his first geo class with Emeritus Professor of Geology Kenneth Bork. Bork’s fascination with the history of geosciences aligned with Marquis’ love of history. The two are still in contact today. Marquis sends Bork signed copies of his novels.

“Dr. Bork was the best professor I ever had. I never would have become a geologist, or written my semi-autobiographical Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series if not for Dr. Bork sparking my interest in geology.”

In “The Slush Pile Brigade,” Marquis’ first novel, his character Nick Lassiter discovers that his unpublished novel, “Blind Thrust,” has been stolen and turned into a screenplay for an upcoming blockbuster movie. With tongue firmly in cheek, Marquis then wrote “Blind Thrust,” which follows environmental geologist Joe Higheagle on his quest to find out the source behind a series of devastating (fictional) earthquakes in Denver. He has since followed up with a new book, a standalone political thriller titled “The Coalition,” which was just released in January 2016.

“The bottom line is that I’ve always loved history, especially the underdogs and iconoclasts of American history. Because of my passionate interest in the Plains Indian Wars, World War II and espionage, I am always working these subjects into my books, along with geology and paleontology.”

A coda to our story: Marquis and his work have been recognized by the Beverly Hills Book Awards. The honors he gathered:

  • The Coalition - Winner of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards in the Political Thriller category
  • The Slush Pile Brigade - Award-Winning Finalist of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards in the Mystery category
  • Blind Thrust - Award-Winning Finalist of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards (Suspense category) and 2015 USA Best Book Awards (Thriller/Adventure category); Award Finalist for the Foreword Reviews' 2015 Book of the Year Awards (Thriller & Suspense category)