Kenneth Roberts

Your Scribe has just returned from a week in Maine, and books were on the mind.

Stephen King is the most formidable author in the state, of course, but I haven't been a fan.

I have only read the novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," made into the popular film, "The Shawshank Redemption" in 1994.

Several other popular authors of national status have set up shop in the state, including Tess Gerritsen, Richard Russo and Richard Ford.

My favorite writer from the Pine Tree State is Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957).

The book I liked best is "Arundel" (1929).

Roberts himself was a high achiever who ascended from journalism to books.

He graduated from Cornell in 1908, and spent eight years working as a newspaperman for the Boston Post. 

In 1917, he enlisted in the American Army for World War I.

He ended up as a lieutenant in the intelligence section of the American Expeditionary Force Siberia in the Russian Civil War instead of at the front in Europe, according to sources.

The contacts that he made in that role enabled him to become a European correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post after the war, where he became the first American journalist to cover the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler's first attempt to take power, his biographers say.

 

"Arundel" focuses on American foray to Quebec in the pre-Revolutionary War era. 

 A key character is American officer and eventual traitor Benedict Arnold, and the book details Arnold's expedition to Quebec and the Battle of Quebec.

A group of rag-tag colonists from the Arundel (Kennebunk) area planned to team with friendly Indians to journey north to Quebec, and rout the French there.

This would would permit the English/Americans to control the St. Lawrence River.

The arduous trip, which didn't get started until late fall, actually launched from Newburyport.

They went north to the Kennebec River in Maine, and proceeded to paddle and portage through central Maine to what they thought would be a surprise attack and victory.

The pressed on through ice, snow, hunger and hostile native Americans.

Roberts, a resident of Kennebunkport, was a master at making a desperate snow-driven journey fell unbearable, even in print.

The mission of the young Americans failed but his grasp of history and story-telling made "Arundel" a great read.

It remains meaningful for me because I lived almost two decades in that state including Kennebunk, Portland and Waterville.

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