I took the above photo of the Tuscarora Valley looking toward the southwest in the late fall of 1998, around the time the protagonist in Tuscarora reunites with the love of his life. Situated in Perry County, not many miles away but decades removed from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Tuscarora Valley as seen in the photograph had not changed from the first time I had visited the valley nearly forty years before.
My father’s family has roots in Perry County, and one of those roots is a family that farmed in this valley. Going to the Tuscarora Valley, for me, is like going back in time: when I took the photo, there was only one traffic light in a county of 556 square miles with a population of 65,000 souls. Perhaps it was those roots that compelled me to craft a novel—Angel in the Valley—that I self-published via Xlibris, of which a small number of copies were sold via the marketing avenues available to me at that time. I cannot express the thrill I felt at holding, for the first time, a hardbound copy of a book that I had written, and that thrill ultimately changed my lifelong dabbling at writing into a near obsession.
Seven courses in a creative writing master’s program at West Chester University proved a personal boon in improving my skills, and they cast a bright light on the failings of Angel in the Valley. Because I chose to focus at the turn of the Millennia on a sure career, comfortable remuneration, and a certain pension instead of the uncertain promise of a middle-aged man in search of a writing career, Angel was relegated to a back burner; nonetheless, in 2014, Angel re-emerged as an entrée that had shed 60,000 words and contained tempered graphic descriptions, changed characters, and altered subplots. Tuscarora had been born.
In Tuscarora, the life of a young man is turned upside down in 1970 when he is implicated in a murder. A wanted man, he escapes to the Appalachian Trail where he spends decades among the high ridges and valleys of the Appalachians as an anonymous exile known only as The Walker. Fate ultimately returns him to the valley of the Tuscarora where he reconnects with two women who loved him when he was sixteen.
Carolyn Mason has become a cold and calculating Lieutenant Governor who, in 2002, will be running for the Governorship of Pennsylvania, which she sees as a stepping stone to the Presidency in 2008. Her gubernatorial run is under the tutelage of a Machiavellian political operative who explains to Carolyn why he is seeking redemption after having been associated with a corrupt President: “I want the White House. I want to feel the power again, power that weighs on one’s shoulders like a shroud of heavy metal. I want to be in a room where a single word sends billions of dollars flowing or mobilizes armies. I want to be in the middle of a media crowd that hovers endlessly with the hope it will hear a single phrase that might make a headline. There is nothing like it, and I want to feel it again.”
The second woman, Sue Reinhart, has existed in Walker’s mind as a decades-long dream until he stumbles back into her life, a life challenged by the expectations that blue-collar women are expected to fulfill in what is a man’s world in the Pennsylvania Appalachians in 2001, expectations that are at the core of Sue’s admission: “I’m talking about what should happen between two people who tell the world they love each other by being married, and that doesn’t mean going through the motions, pretending you love somebody. I was a fraud. I lived a lie, and I did it because I was scared. It doesn’t justify what I did, but I was scared … scared of being alone, of not being able to make it on my own.”
Love, jealousy and resentment, power, murder and redemption are the passions that unfold in the rich tapestry that is Tuscarora.
To purchase a paperback or Kindle edition of Tuscarora, click here: Tuscarora
(In Great Britain, click here: Tuscarora)
To read an excerpt of Tuscarora, click here: Tuscarora excerpt
For one Boomer’s view of the past 70 years, check out the list of posts in Growing Up Boomer.