Erik Von Norden grew up in a town just outside New York City, blessed by a miracle of geography. To the west, the greatest metropolis in the universe boasts the tallest skyscrapers and wonderfully diverse neighborhoods, and to the south lie miles of the splashiest open-surf, wide-sand beaches on the planet. There, fifteen minutes after the end of World War II, two million middle-class New Yorkers paved over hundreds of miles of perfectly good potato farms, bulldozed 10-lane superhighways that stay jammed past midnight, and, cobbled together endless suburban tract houses without uniformity or distinction. It was from there that he meandered, at the age of 17, to the State University at Albany where he had been accepted off the wait list by the skin of his teeth. Albany survives as a political capital, whose heyday came (and went) long ago with the Erie Canal. In this place, Erik found roommates, rented what might euphemistically be called a firetrap and got work in a print shop. Thanks to the state’s lavishly subsidized college system, he scraped together enough money for tuition and subsisted happily enough off macaroni and cheese. Erik found he could sneak into a dive bar on every corner, join a conversation on every porch, and more often than not, a house-party above. At the end of four years, Erik Von Norden got a job as a paralegal, met the woman who would become his wife, and eventually earned a master’s degree in history. Then one day, he walked in and passed the bar exam – without going to law school or a taking prep course – and because of an anachronistic quirk in the system, he ended up as an attorney. He also abstained from alcohol, cigarettes, meat and drugs, parachuted from a small plane, skied the front four at Stowe and tubed the River of Caves in Belize. Nevertheless, these adventures pale in comparison to being married for over 20 years and raising two teenagers. Erik, who writes under a pen name, now lives at the far end of civilization – in a small town in northern Vermont, the most rural of all the United States. To get an idea just how far north, and how rural, to take a vacation down in tropical Kennebunkport, Maine requires a four-hour drive generally south. His adjacent county, which borders French Canada, is closer to the North Pole than the Equator. His little house, set deep in the woods off a dirt road, is miles from the nearest pavement. It is a brutally cold but mindlessly beautiful spot, and he loves it.