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Dig up some clues about the treasure?

SANTA FE, N.M. — Expect no new clues if you attend Forrest Fenn’s public appearance at the Collected Works bookstore next week.

The author of “The Thrill of the Chase,” now in its fourth printing after soaring off the shelves, will appear at 6 p.m. Wednesday with friends and novelists Michael McGarrity and Douglas Preston.

The Santa Fe art and antiques dealer says he hid a treasure chest spilling over with gold, precious gems and pre-Columbian objects somewhere in the mountains. He offered hints as to its whereabouts in the book through a poem in his self-published memoir.

If you go
WHAT: Forrest Fenn in Conversation with Michael McGarrity and Douglas Preston WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday WHERE: Collected Works, 202 Galisteo St. CONTACT: 988-4226

That was about three years ago, but Fenn’s treasure hunt has become a national sensation in recent weeks. A Feb. 27 piece on “The Today Show” resulted in an avalanche of sales of his book at Collected Works.

“At that moment we started selling books at the rate of 25-30 a minute,” co-owner Mary Wolf said. “So we ran out of books that day.”

Now Fenn and his literary pals will face the public at the bookstore. The event is billed as “Treasure, Mystery, Adventure.”

Hopeful treasure hunters shouldn’t expect much help, apparently.

For this story, Fenn would only respond to questions via email, citing a hearing problem. Most of his answers were limited to “Read my book.”

Asked why anyone should believe a man known for embellishment, he fired back, “I gifted all the books to the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe so no one would be tempted to say the treasure story is a hoax to make money on book sales. I don’t get any money from the sales, not even my publishing costs.”

Will he offer any new hints about the treasure’s location to his growing fan base next week? “No new clues on Wednesday,” he responded.

Preston reaffirmed that he learned about Fenn’s treasure trove some 20 years ago.”He brought me into his vault,” Preston said . “He said, ‘I’m not kidding about this.’ ”

“It was an old Renaissance or Medieval chest,” he continued. “It’s incredibly heavy – 40 or 50 pounds. The inside was filled with gold coins and gold nuggets and jewels. One was the size of my fist.” He also spotted pre-Columbian artifacts and ornaments.

“He’s not the kind of person to pull a hoax,” Preston said. “I think he’s just having fun.”

“He had cancer and he thought he was going to die. He wanted to be found with the treasure and challenged anyone to come raid his tomb.”

But he lived.

Collected Works’ Wolf said 10 percent of the book’s proceeds will be set aside for an unnamed cancer patient’s expenses. A panel of oncologists will decide who needs the funding the most, she added.

“I know he’s sincere,” she said of Fenn. “I could only be more sure if I could find the damned treasure, which I can’t.”

Most of the bookstore’s staff have attempted to locate the chest, she said, adding the hunt taps into the child in us all.

Source material

Preston also became part of the story when famed movie producer Linda Obst (“Contact,” “The Fisher King,” “Flashdance”) called and asked him if he had any ideas. The two went to school together.

“I said, ‘Wait, I have an idea,’ ” Preston said, “about a man who decides to take it with him – he buries himself with all his money.”

“She said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s a movie.’

“So I wrote a treatment.”

The movie was never made, although the treatment generated a huge check, he added. Eventually, with Fenn’s permission, Preston wrote 2005’s “The Codex,” about a rich Santa Fe collector who challenges his three worthless sons to find his ashes with his treasure.

“Forrest is a lot nicer than this guy,” Preston said.

“That became a best-seller, so I’m very grateful to Forrest for giving me such a great idea. It should be a fun evening.”

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