The Towns Below

I'm not giving anything away to admit that one of the themes of The Poacher's Son is loss—loss of relationships, loss of trust, loss of heritage and wilderness. Reflecting on the enormous changes taking place in the Maine North Woods persuaded me that it might add a poignant note to the book to set the second half of the story in two of Maine's ghost towns. As I write in the "Author's Note":

Many of the places in this story don’t exist on the map of Maine (at least not under the names I have given them), but two important exceptions are the townships of Flagstaff and Dead River. In 1950 the Central Maine Power Company built a dam at Long Falls and flooded the Dead River valley northwest of the Bigelow Mountains. Flagstaff and Dead River are gone, but sometimes, when the water is low on Flagstaff Lake, you can take a boat out and peer down at the ruins of what were once two vibrant North Woods villages. To anyone interested in learning more about these lost towns I recommend There Was a Land, published by the helpful people of the Dead River Historical Society. I hope that the survivors of Flagstaff and Dead River will see my decision to set this story in their vanished communities as an effort to keep their fading memories alive. 

It turns out that I got a fact wrong here: There Was a Land was published by the Flagstaff Memorial Chapel Association, but it is distributed by the Dead River Historical Society, and if you are ever in the town of Eustis, Maine, I encourage you to pay their small museum a visit.

Maine musician Slaid Cleaves also wrote a song called "Below" about the flooding of Dead River and Flagstaff for his 2004 album Wishbones. Here's the video:

It's almost inconceivable today that a Maine town (let alone two) could be erased from the landscape by a single powerful corporation, but I suppose you should never say never.