‘The Power Line’

Your fix of Adirondack lore

The Power Line

Christopher Shaw mined memories of his conversations with Adirondack old-timers when he wrote his novel “The Power Line” (Outskirts Press, 2020), set mostly in the 1920s. His characters Fran Germaine and Lonnie Monroe supplement their work for the entrepreneur Paul Smith by transporting alcohol through the woods in a scheme to get booze from Canada to cities downstate. Many adventures ensue. Shaw writes in a rich prose studded with local idioms. Here’s Monroe when it gets cold again after a warm spell. “The lake ice had been mushy and covered with puddles, but it stiffened up tighter’n a bull’s ass in fly season.”


Germaine and Monroe are a colorful pair, but when I talked to Shaw he told me his favorite character is Rosalyn Orloff, a wealthy summer resident from New York. She finds Fran Germaine living in an abandoned logging camp after the bootlegging business has taken a bad turn. In her journal, Rosalyn has this analysis of Germaine: “his capacity for violence, the norm in the area, seemed tempered by a high ethical curiosity and integrity, and a generally benign disposition toward society and nature.” With this change of voice Shaw brings a new perspective to the book, with cameo appearances by Bob Marshall, Rockwell Kent and other Adirondack celebrities.

Shaw covers lots of ground in this compelling novel. It roars along but is also an intimate portrait of Francois Germaine, a man with a history as complicated as that of the Adirondacks.

— Betsy Kepes