Howard Frank Mosher and The Kingdom: Background information when reading The Great Northern Express

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The Great Northern Express

A Writer's Journey Home

by Howard F. Mosher

The Great Northern Express by Howard F. Mosher
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Howard Frank Mosher and The Kingdom

Print Review

Howard Frank Mosher The place with which Howard Frank Mosher is most associated is not actually his native home. Born in the Catskill Mountains in 1942, he moved to Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom" (or as he calls it, "The Kingdom") as a newlywed in 1964 to take up his first teaching post. According to the NEK (Vermont's Northeast Kingdom) website, The Kingdom "comprises the three northeastern-most counties of the state - Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans countries." This territory has strong ties to Canada and a rugged regional character linked to forestry and harsh winters. The woods and rivers, and even "the scent of varnish from the furniture factory," reminded Mosher of the Catskill and North Country New York towns where he grew up, and he decided to stay. He has built his literary career around the landscape and historical character of The Kingdom, carving a niche for himself as a modern-day regionalist.

Regionalists, or "local color" writers, are known for giving a literary voice to the unique dialects, jokes, and characters of specific geographic areas of the U.S. As one of the many New England regionalists, Mosher is in fine company; Sarah Orne Jewett is famous for her novels of Maine and New Hampshire, Harriet Beecher Stowe's stories of the Northeast helped to reshape abolitionist America, and Robert Frost's lyrical depictions of rural New England made him one of the country's most famous poets.

Northeast Kingdom field map of the Northeast Kingdom the Iron Bridge

Mosher is the author of ten works of fiction, most of which have some tie to Vermont and are deeply embedded in the local culture. A Stranger in the Kingdom, winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction in 1991, tells the story of a murder that disrupts the fabric of small-town life. In Northern Borders (1994), Mosher inhabits the personality of a middle-aged Vermonter retelling the events of his early life and describing the small-town culture that shaped him. His most recent novel, Walking to Gatlinburg, takes up the turbulent years of the Civil War. A young Vermont man fails to help a runaway slave escape to Canada, and his grief launches him on a journey south to find his brother in the Smoky Mountains.

The Great Northern Express is Mosher's second work of nonfiction. The first, North Country (1997), is a similar mix of travel and memoir, as Mosher sets off to trace the northern perimeter of the U.S. and explore the distinct regional culture and history of the borderland known as the "North Country."

Four of Mosher's novels have been made into movies by Vermont filmmaker, Jay Craven. A fifth, Northern Borders, is currently in production. Click on the video below to watch the author and filmaker discuss the interesting process of converting novels to film (recorded in 2011 at Marlboro College).

Photographs by Patmac13; point your cursor over a picture for a second or two to see a description.

This article was originally published in April 2012, and has been updated for the March 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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