Howard Frank Mosher’s new memoir, The Great Northern Express, is a must read for anyone who cares about good writing and the writing life.
Mosher has long been among my very favorite novelists, one of the few authors I actually RE-read. His quirky characters, his mischievous humor, and the way his superb storytelling probes America’s national character make him the closest thing we have to Mark Twain. I especially love Waiting for Teddy Williams and On Kingdom Mountain, both of them stunningly beautiful books.
In the new memoir, Mosher embarks on a three-month long, 20,000-mile, 100-city, 150-store book tour to promote his latest novel, Walking to Gatlinburg. He departs from his beloved home in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom on his 65th birthday, just after completing 46 radiation treatments for prostate cancer. The car that he climbs in for the journey, his twenty-year-old Chevy Celebrity–AKA the Looser Cruiser–is in far worse shape than he is.
Along the way, he encounters an angry mother moose, a prophet called “West Texas Jesus,” and host of other colorful characters, real and imagined. (On his long drives, he has some revealing conversations with the likes of Mark Twain, Jesus, and Harry Potter.)
He shares all of the pains and joys familiar to any author who has gone on a long book tour–including being mistaken as a vagrant in Oakland, CA–although no one has ever chronicled such a trip better.
On the long drives between bookstores, Mosher also thinks about his life with Phillis, the inspirational wife of fifty years who waits for him back home. He reminisces about when he and Phillis, fresh out of college, came to the little down in rural Vermont to take jobs as school teachers, thinking they probably wouldn’t stay long. He thinks about the students they taught there, the friends they made, his early struggles to make himself the writer he has become, and how he and Phillis came to love their adopted town and the life they built there.
Along the way, he also takes us on a literary archaeological dig: his search for a missing manuscript about life in an Adirondacks town that was written many years ago by his late Uncle Reg.
Best of all, Mosher shows us, as he puts it, how he came to discover “what he loved enough to live for.”
You can buy a copy of this fine book here. You’ll be glad that you did. Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and pick up some of his superb novels here.
And if you’d like to learn more about this magnificent writer, check out his website here.