ABOVE — The hermit, Jim Whyte (in white touring cap) and friends in Whyte's 1910 Apperson touring car, thought to be the first car owned north of Portland, Maine. Photo used with permission of Glenn Poole, Monson Historical Society.
A funny thing happened when I sat down to “write a book about the Appalachian Trail” (the one that became my first book, Appalachian Odyssey).
From the start, I thought that the path would lead me to other discoveries (like a trail always does), but I couldn’t have imagined it would “quite be thus”, as my dad might have said.
One night as I was writing “AO” in my office (a place where I often took late night refuge to play with words), the gentleman who spruced up the building every Wednesday night walked in.
“You’re in here late a lot”, he said.
“I’m working on a book. It’s about the Appalachian Trail.”
His eyes got wide.
“Are you going to be here next week? I have something for you.”, he said.
One week later, he strolled into my office and handed me a book from 1934 entitled “Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine by Myron Avery.”
“You can have it”, he said. “I bought it in a yard sale for five bucks.”
I would have been thrilled just to have the book. But Myron Avery was about to lead me on my third AT-related adventure. For in the “History of the Appalachian Trail in Maine” section of his book, Avery referenced a blue-blazed side trail to the cabin of a “picturesque adventurer” who went by the name of Jim Whyte.
Five years later, I’m standing on the threshold of another book launch.
I can say without hesitation that it’s my best book yet, one part history, one part coming of age and one part mystery add up to a story that’s already receiving an enthusiastic response. Here are just a few early reviews:
The North Woods are filled with quirky characters and wonderful stories. Jeffrey Ryan’s tale of Jim Whyte embodies so much of what makes these characters so appealing—the mysterious signals in the night, the hundreds of books lining the walls of his hideaway, the game of hide and seek with the law. Ryan has crafted a story that you won’t want to put down.
Professor of History
George Mason University
Jeffrey Ryan tells an engaging story about a mysterious Maine hermit who lived in the woods of Piscataquis County near the Appalachian Trail. The author takes us back to the mid-20th century in the Maine woods with a descriptive force and a gentle nostalgia that realistically evoke both time and place. “Hermit” will resonate with many readers who have experienced the mystique and beauty of the Maine wilderness.
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.
Maine State Historian
Few writers know the backwoods and customs of rural Maine better than Jeffrey Ryan, who brings his deep knowledge of the outdoors to this well-wrought tale and proves to be an adept hand at suspense and pacing.
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