Saturday, August 24, 2013
By Mark Alpert
I’m going to a wedding in Vermont this weekend. I know the state fairly well; my first job (almost thirty years ago!) was at a newspaper whose coverage area straddled the border between New Hampshire and Vermont. I went back and forth between Claremont, New Hampshire, and Springfield, Vermont, almost every day, and at night I often ventured to a bar called Bentley’s in Woodstock and a place in Proctorsville whose name I can’t remember. (The Station? Maybe that was it. I do remember that last call was at 12:30 am, which seemed ridiculously early.) I’ve skied at Killington, Okemo, Mount Snow and Stratton, and I went to the state fair in Rutland and the inaugural ball of former governor Madeline Kunin. But the wedding this weekend will take place in the fabulously picturesque northeastern corner of Vermont, which is so different from the rest of the state that it’s called the Northeast Kingdom. I’ve never been there, so this is going to be a real treat.And I’ll be checking out the place as a possible setting for future novels. I’m always doing that. I don’t feel comfortable writing about a place unless I’ve been there.
In my upcoming novel The Furies (to be published in April, right after the paperback of Extinction comes out) I decided to set a gunfight in Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn I’m not so familiar with. I wanted to put the scene in a neighborhood that was gentrifying but still kind of dicey, and that’s what everyone says about Bushwick. But I was feeling a little uneasy about the choice, so I decided to take a stroll down Bushwick Avenue the other day. I started at the gentrifying western edge of the neighborhood, and I did indeed see many hipsters and artist types hanging out at newly renovated cafes carved from the ground floors of former warehouses. And as I walked a couple of miles east, the hipster percentage gradually decreased and I started to see abandoned buildings and lots of graffiti, and I definitely got the sense, “Yeah, this is dicey.” On the plus side, I felt a lot better about the choice of neighborhood for my book, but on the minus side I began to worry about wandering into a real gunfight. So I cut the expedition short and found a great little deli and bought a bottle of Jarritos fruit-punch soda. It’s delicious stuff, incredibly sweet. Then I climbed up the stairs to the elevated track of the J subway line and headed back to Manhattan.