| TOKYO, April 12
TOKYO, April 12 The writer Howard Frank Mosher
has lived for nearly half a century in such a remote part of the
northern U.S. state of Vermont that Internet connections are
very slow and even landline phone reception can be terrible at
Yet the area known as the "Northeast Kingdom" - the three
northeasternmost counties in the state - proved to be such a
fertile source of inspiration that Mosher, born in 1942 and with
12 books behind him, has ended up spending most of his life
In fact, his one try at leaving after settling there in
1964, to attend graduate school in California, ended rapidly
Realizing he was unhappy and taking a drive with his wife to
think things out, he was stopped by a red light at a crossing in
downtown Los Angeles, which he called "probably the least
inspiring place I've ever been."
"I've always figured that if the light had been green, the
arc of my career would have been entirely different," the
award-winning author said in a telephone interview.
"But it was red, and a telephone truck pulled up beside. The
driver must have seen our green Vermont license plate because he
rolled his window down and quickly called out to us, 'I'm from
Vermont too, go back while you still can.' So we realized that
was the voice of the muse, and we turned around and went back."
Born and raised in the Catskill mountains of New York,
Mosher relates in his new memoir "The Great Northern Express"
how he and his wife came up to interview for teaching jobs in a
local high school and fell in the love with the Northeast
Kingdom, hooked by natural bounties that included plentiful
trout streams and rugged, beautiful scenery.
Even more appealing was the essence of the place itself.
"What we discovered very soon after we moved here that this
Northeast Kingdom - what I call Kingdom County in my novels -
was just a goldmine of stories that no writer had ever told
before," he said.
"That was the sheer luck, finding a place like this that was
just loaded with folklore, and semi-mythology and history, and
just good, old-fashioned stories. With people who dated back to
the Depression era and Prohibition who had lived very
hardscrabble lives and often had to get by by making moonshine
or running whisky, like people in Kentucky or West Virginia."
After his abortive foray to California, Mosher returned to
Vermont, where he took a job with a local logger for a season
and began to write. This led over the years to 10 novels and two
memoirs as a writer whose rooting in place brings to mind
William Faulkner and his fictional Yoknapatawpha County.
"I grew up in this distinctive little woodworking community
over in the Catskill mountains. And although that was not a
wealthy area, far from it, the people who lived there had a
strong sense of the place where they lived," he said.
"A strong sense of themselves being shaped by that place
where they fished, they hunted, they trapped, they worked in the
mill. So I grew up with that sense of place and it's always
deeply fascinated me."
Not all of the stories are happy. One novel, "A Stranger in
the Kingdom," is based on how the first black family to move
into Mosher's town was driven out within weeks by people who
shot at their house and used trumped-up legal charges in ways
Mosher says were more reminiscent of Mississippi in the 1920s
than Vermont in the 1960s.
Mosher also acknowledges that in many ways, the strongly
independent-minded area can be a hard place to live, mainly due
to diminishing economic opportunity. When he first moved to the
area there were 680 dairy farms in his county, but now there are
under 60, meaning that most young people have to leave.
He said that author Wallace Stegner once said of a town in
Saskatchewan that it was "a grand place for a boy to grow up but
a hard place for a man to live," adding that this was probably
true of the Northeast Kingdom as well.
"I think that if I had not been a writer, we would not have
continued to stay here," he said.
"But it's not a decision we regret. This place has become
home - with all of its imperfections."
(Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Paul Casciato)