Quabbin, A History and Explorer’s Guide

By Michael Tougias
On Cape Publications, 2002

Writers write for different reasons. For some writers, like Elizabeth George, it is “all about the beauty of our language.” For other writers, like me, it tends to be about the research. I just can’t get enough of it. I enjoy getting into a topic, uncovering primary sources, rooting around in musty library basements, meeting people who can tell me a little bit about the world that I didn’t know before. For me, writing is simply the best way to share all the incredible information I find while researching.

A good example is my current work-in-progress, a middle-grade historical novel set in Prescott, Massachusetts. Prescott no longer exists; it was dis-incorporated in 1938 to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the world’s largest manmade reservoirs of drinking water. Prescott’s unique history, however, and the dynamics of its demise make wonderful fodder for a novel. And so I have spent a great deal of time getting back to Prescott, through books and photographs and historical societies and museums and field trips and interviews with folks who once lived there. It has been a compelling journey, and today’s book is the one that set me on course.

QUABBIN contains a thorough introduction to the history of the Swift River Valley and the events leading up to its flooding. Readers get an overview, albeit a brief one, of the Quabbin towns, their taking by eminent domain, and the people who were displaced in the process. It is a fascinating history, even if you don’t live in Massachusetts. Mr. Tougias juxtaposes historical narrative with an explorer’s guide, strange as that may seem. The second half of the book contains maps, descriptions and hiking instructions for the greater Quabbin area.

All of this is meant to explain, I guess, how hard I am working on my new novel … and why my day-long hiking trips are NOT procrastination. It’s research!