St. Lawrence University

Fall 2014 Exhibit in Special Collections

"Adirondack Perceptions: 200+ Years of Fiction Within the Blue Line" an exhibition and bibliography of Adirondack fiction from 1802 – 2014 by St Lawrence University student Fellow Jacqueline Colt ('15) is on display in the Special Collections Reading Room, Owen D. Young Library for the Fall 2014 semester.

Hunting & Fishing, 1848-2005 - 34 works

Hunting and Fishing

Hunting and fishing is perhaps the oldest tradition in Adirondack storytelling, originating, presumably, with guides. Excellent hunting and fishing was the principle reason that people from elsewhere began coming to the Adirondacks, and fiction about it helped to spread the word.

Though fiction continues to be produced in this genre, it was more popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—two thirds of the works in this subgenre were written before 1950. Hunting & fishing stories often also include either humor—a sort of punch line tall tale—or some sort of reflection, often on family, the past, or nature.

Romance, 1876-2012 - 37 works


Adirondack romance fiction began shortly after the influx of tourists came in the early 1870’s. Prior to this point women appear very infrequently in Adirondack fiction, as they generally did not travel to the region for sporting. The presence of romance indicates the increased notoriety of the Adirondacks at this time period. The romance genre has changed significantly throughout the years, mostly in terms of what was and was not socially acceptable at a given point. Though romance is certainly not what one generally thinks of in association with Adirondack literature, it has been one of the most consistent subgenres. Recently, there has been an increase in publication or Adirondack romance, likely because the genre has gained popularity and because of recently formed paperback publishing companies such as Harlequin Romance. Additionally, the ability of authors to self-publish books has likely contributed to the increase.

Hiking & Backpacking, 1866-2012 - 13 works

Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking and backpacking in the Adirondacks has always been an important and popular activity, and it is no surprise that it has been reflected in Adirondack fiction. The types of hiking and backpacking stories that have been written have changed little, in comparison with other subgenres.

Many hiking stories involve some sort of mishap, or run into some unusual character. There exists, of course, an abundance of literature about hiking in the Adirondacks without an unusual circumstance, but most of this is not fiction.

Adirondack Characters, 1807-2014 - 65 works

Adirondack Characters

“Adirondack Characters” is a broad grouping of books, united by an emphasis on a character that is, in some way, distinctly “Adirondack.”

Perhaps the best example of this is Uncle Eben Holden in Irving Bacheller’s (SLU class of 1882) famous work of the same name (yes! the building on campus is named after him!). Eben is characterized by strong morals, excellent wilderness skills, a love for nature and a certain goofy, happy charm. Even his speech is distinctly Adirondack, an aspect of characterization in many of Bacheller’s books. Although the values and mannerisms of the characters in this genre vary greatly, they are all fundamentally centered on the people of the Adirondacks.

Logging & Mining, 1871-2012 - 12 works

Logging and Mining

Logging and mining have always been a quintessential part of the Adirondacks, even well before the region was established as a park. The Adirondacks were originally visited for what people could get out of it—natural resources. In 1894 a significant portion of the park as it is today was protected and deemed “forever wild” and logging and mining operations were forced to slow down, but even today natural resources remain an invaluable part of the Adirondack economy.

The stories about logging, no matter when they were published, are almost all set in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. These stories describe life at logging camps or harsh mines, and often involve another dimension in plot, be it a murder, scandal, romance, tragedy, or something else.

Detective & Mystery, 1882-2014 - 105 works

Detective & Mystery

Detective and mystery stories are by far the largest subgenre in Adirondack fiction. Like romance, mystery began in the Adirondacks during the late 19th century after the area became better known. Detective and mystery stories were written all throughout the 20th century, but the number of books written in this subgenre increased drastically after 2000; 58 of the 104 detective and mystery works were written in the last 14 years. A number of series have been written in recent years, among them Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson and Russ van Alstyne Mysteries, John Briant’s Adirondack Detective series and Jamie Sheffield’s (SLU class of 1991) Tyler Cunningham Mysteries. The ability of authors to self-publish books through online services has most likely contributed the most to this spike in titles published.

Great Camps & Hotels, 1885-2010 - 18 works

Great Camps & Hotels

In the latter part of the 19th century, wealthy people from New York City and elsewhere began to buy up land in the Adirondacks to create decadently ornate vacation “camps,” many of them with more bedrooms than could be easily counted and features such as bowling alleys. These homes, known as Great Camps, were sometimes accessible only by private railroad lines, making the Adirondacks a veritable playground for Rockefellers, Morgans, Carnegies and their friends. The region was popularized for wealthy tourists in this manner, and eventually luxury hotels were built to accommodate more people, after public railroad access was established. The Great Depression, along with fires and a decrease in the popularity of the Adirondacks among the super wealthy, ultimately brought the demise of these great camps and hotels. In more recent years, Adirondack hotels and lodges have, in large part, simplified and many of them struggle to stay in business. The fiction in this subgenre reflects this change, though many modern works still take place in the early 20th century, when the Great Camp culture thrived the most.

Fantasy & Sci-Fi, 1972-2014 - 6 works

The fantasy and sci-fi subgenre is a recent addition to Adirondack fiction, but one that demonstrates how the Adirondacks, like any specific region, can act as a subset of literature in general.

Social trends, like the recent relative popularity of fantasy and sci-fi, can penetrate even the deepest Adirondack wilderness. The content of the books in this subgenre ranges quite a bit, but the Adirondack location is important in all of the works.

Environmental, 1901-2014 - 16 works


Environmental literature has become important and popular in the Adirondacks in recent years. With the environmental movement in popular culture, fiction about environmental issues is being written prolifically. Adirondack fiction in general acts as a way to advocate for the land—a book set in a great wilderness is a way to speak for the land, to give it more attention in the public eye, much like photography or art. The fiction in this subgenre, however, goes beyond this and discusses, very frankly, environmental issues. The abundance of issues that comes with a 6 million acre state park with private and public land and dozens of different land designations is complex, to say the least, and the fiction written about these issues makes them more accessible to the public. Generally, preservation is the principle issue in Adirondack environmental fiction, whether historical, current or futuristic.