Northeast Quarter by S. M. Harris

SMHarris

 

From the Author: Winfield, Iowa, 1918. Colonel Wallace Carson, the ruler of a vast agricultural empire, asks Ann Hardy, his ten-year-old granddaughter and eventual heir, to promise she will safeguard The Northeast Quarter, the choice piece of land from which the empire was founded. Ann readily accepts — little knowing what awaits her. When the Colonel is killed unexpectedly the same afternoon, the world around Ann and her family begins to fall apart. Against the background of America sliding from a post war boom into the Great Depression, The Northeast Quarter tells the story of Ann’s struggle to keep a promise no matter what. She witnesses the remarriage of her grandmother to Royce Chamberlin, the seemingly humble banker who institutes a reign of terror over the household and proceeds to corrupt the entire town. Over the next ten years Ann matches wits with Chamberlin, enduring betrayal, banishment, and even physical violence. She grows from a precocious child into a tough-minded young woman — watching, observing her enemy, and waiting for the moment to make her move. And when the moment comes in July 1929, life in Winfield will never be the same.

My review: The serene backdrop of rural Iowa belies this book’s colorful characters, including young determined Ann who promises her rich and powerful grandfather to never give up the Northeast Quarter of all his farms. Ann is beset by devious townspeople and circumstances, but keeps her head and bides her time to act. A fascinating story.

More from the author: S.M. Harris was born in 1947. Since he was the youngest in his high school graduating class, his parents sent him to Europe to pick up an extra year, where he attended Ecole Des Roches in Switzerland for one year and two years of college at American College of Switzerland. On returning to America, he graduated from Stanford and received his MA from Northwestern.

He spent several years as a property manager, a travel agent and receptionist in an art gallery. In 1985, he saw an ad on a supermarket bulletin board for Bunco Theatre, a Santa Monica based group dedicated to educating senior citizens about crimes perpetrated against the elderly. He volunteered as a helper—to move props, sets, etc. Since actors were scarce, he was drafted into playing the resident perp in all their skits. From there he found himself writing some of the material for the group. This experience piqued his interest in theater and set him on a different course in life.

He took as many classes in playwriting as he could through UCLA Extension and began submitting his class projects to theatres around the country. In 1991 he was invited to Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York to attend their summer conference in the Catskills—this began a journey which led him to move to New York. An Ensemble Studio lab project, Colleen Ireland (about a 90 something retirement home resident and her great-granddaughter), was nominated for Best Play at the Playwrights Forum Festival 2002 in Spokane. Colleen was produced for the first time in Spokane and then by Diverse City Theatre Company in New York, where it received a positive review from The New York Times. Spindrift Way, a follow-up to Colleen, received its world premiere at The Senior Theatre USA Festival in Baltimore in June 2008. There are now twelve Colleen plays in the series

The Northeast Quarter began as a full length play, but S. M. Harris eventually developed it into his first novel. It was awarded The Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Best Book 2017. It was also a Finalist in New Fiction in The National Indie Excellence Awards. Earlier this year, Mr. Harris traveled to New Orleans to accept his Finalist award at the Next Generation Indie Book Award Festivities at the Book Award Gala. 

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