Abare's Folly

In the Darby Chronicles, Abare's Folly is a mountain that looms over the town. As I've mentioned in other notes, the geography of fictional Darby is based on Westmoreland, New Hampshire. There is no looming mountain in Westmoreland, though there is one thirty or so miles north across the Connecticut River in Vermont–Mount Ascutney. To create Abare's Folly I merged Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, with Mount Ascutney, and parked it about where you would find Walpole, New Hamsphire.

I never produced any fiction where Abare's Folly plays an significant role. Nonetheless, the mountain is important merely because it's there, a presence, an influence on the behavior and group psyche of the local inhabitants. The influence is subtle, hardly felt, but real enough. I believe that landscape affects people, molds the thinking of people.

I came to this idea after many road trips. If you will pardon some generalizations: People who live in relatively flat orderly farm country, for example, the midwest, come across as open, friendly, neat, but not too deep; people who live in hilly forested areas (say, rural New England, or even rural New Mexico) are more reticent and suspicious, messy in their habits (like their forests), but such areas produce contrarian thinkers, too (think of Joseph Smith, who grew up in Vermont); people who live near large water bodies, whether it's Los Angeles, New York, or Miami, tend to feel superior to their landlocked brethren.

The French pronunciation of my name, Hebert, is something close to A-b-a-r-e. In the Darby Chronicles, the folly is in farmers trying to make a living raising crops above the 2,000-foot level on rocky soil. But in my mind the folly was something else. My first agent was Mavis McIntosh, a legend in New York publishing. She was quite old when she discovered me and about ready to retire, and she passed me on to her protege, Rita Scott (a former Miss Pennsylvania, by the way), but not before giving me some advice: "Don't write a series, they'll only read the first one." She was right. Of the seven Darby novels, Live Free or Die was a New York Times notable pick and Spoonwood won an Ippy, for best regional novel in the Northeast, but only The Dogs of March, the first of the novels, sold well. Abare's Folly is my folly, failing to follow my agent's advice.