What really happened at Donnelly’s Corners in the spring of 1929? The question haunts Christopher Shaw’s exciting and thought-provoking novel, The Power Line, just released by Miller Pond Editions, Saranac Lake, and Outskirts Press.
The project began in the seventies, according to Shaw, when the guide and regional historian Abel St. Martin began recording the memories of old people around Saranac Lake and Lake Aurora. In the course of those interviews, many in their eighties referred obliquely to a shoot-out between bootleggers where the roads to Lake Clear and Paul Smiths meet, overlooking the Bloomingdale Bog, and with views of Whiteface, McKenzie, and the High Peaks. But none of them knew any details.
That’s when St. Martin’s longtime companion Sonja Germaine said old-timer Lonnie Monroe, who grew up in Lake Aurora, knew all about it, and about her grandfather, Fran Germaine, the noted fiddler and rustic builder. “Talk to Lonnie,” she told him. Monroe’s account follows his and Germaine’s numerous adventures working for Paul Smith’s Electric Company and the gangster Legs Diamond, to Mexico, Montreal, and their thrilling escape by canoe across the St. Lawrence River in the dead of winter. It also chronicles the atmosphere and struggle of doctors and patients when the surrounding villages were havens for tuberculosis sufferers from all over the world.
Tapes and transcriptions left behind when St. Martin disappeared in the Amazon in the late eighties constitute the bulk of the book, but publication was stalled until the appearance recently of corroborating journals by the original owner of Lake Aurora’s Eagle Point camp, the political writer and reputed lover of Carl Jung, Rosalyn Orloff. Orloff attended Radcliffe, where she was a student of William James and knew Gertrude Stein. She knew and employed Fran Germaine after the climactic shootout. Her story comprises the novel’s second half and provides glimpses of an intellectual Adirondacks rarely seen in print, including appearances by James, Bob Marshall, and Rockwell Kent. They shed light not only on a little-known period of Germaine’s biography, but also on a little-known stream of influence in the Adirondack story and its centrality to American philosophy, psychology, art, and environmentalism.
“The Power Line reflects contributions from numerous sources,” Shaw said. “I’m happy that in retirement I could give these materials their due. I hope they open a window for readers into a little-understood period of transition in northern New York.” There would be more to come, he added.
Christopher Shaw was a guide and caretaker before editing Adirondack Life in the nineteen eighties. His book Sacred Monkey River: A Canoe Trip With the Gods, came out from W.W. Norton in 2000 (“A magnificent achievement),” The Washington Post). He taught creative writing at Middlebury College for twenty years.
Praise for Christopher Shaw
“Chris Shaw is the Jim Harrison of the east.” -Katie Wilson, Keene, former congressional candidate.
“Shaw is a master storyteller, a fearless outdoorsman, and a person-who-has-lived-one-hell-of-a-life. He is a true American original.” -Robert Moor, On Trails.
“Simply put, when Shaw writes, people around here take notice.” -Dr. Curt Stager, Paul Smith’s College; Still Waters, Deep Future, Your Atomic Self, etc.
“Chris Shaw is a true original.” -Bill McKibben
Buy The Power Line in select bookstores or order it in paper or hardcover, or in ebooks on Kindle, Nook, and Apple iBook, at www.cshaw.net