LONG LAKE - Mason Smith's new novel, "Far Alaska," just published by GrayBooks, follows two North Country characters in a Ford pickup truck across Canada and all the way to Eagle, Alaska, on the Yukon River, in the early 1970s.
It is the third published novel by the Long Lake writer and boat-builder. He is the author of the award-winning Adirondack novel "Florida," republished by Syracuse University Press in 2010 as "Towards Polaris;" and he is the designer and builder of the Adirondack Goodboat, a row-motor-sail boat for Adirondack waters.
The two central characters of the new book were last seen in the comic last chapter of "Towards Polaris." Clarence Shampine, the 72-year-old lumberjack and teamster, was deeply involved in the tragic action of that novel, and now considers himself "unfit to live among civilized people." He stops only to pick up a fat lady who once nearly caught him in matrimony, and lights out for the Territories.
It's an adventure for them both, living with a person of the other sex and encountering the real and legendary West -- never newer than when disaster strikes on a remote Alaskan river and they, with their accumulated stolen horses and adopted young mother and her kids, are forced to winter over in isolation, among wolves and bears.
Their North Country backgrounds turn out to have prepared them well for survival, as their spectacular appearance in the remotest Alaskan town on the Yukon the following spring attests.
Smith's first novel, "Everybody Knows and Nobody Cares," was published by A.A. Knopf in 1971 and won a picture in Time magazine and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford and has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam.
He has written extensively for Gray's Sporting Journal, Sports Illustrated, WoodenBoat and Adirondack Life. His youngest child is about to graduate from Long Lake Central School.
"Far Alaska" can be purchased from any bookstore or online distributor. A review can be found on North Country Public Radio's website.