Poland's Daughter


The High Country Illuminator

The High Country Illuminator

By the time I'd sold my second novel, I had it down to a science: grab the check and put it work. The advance from Incident at Muc Wa went to the down payment on a cottage on the shore of Great Bay, New Hampshire. (Well, not the Bay itself, but the estuarine rivers that connect it to the Atlantic.) That done, I promptly rented it out, put my skis in the Volkswagen Beetle, and drove West, sleeping betimes in the car. In November I drove up Colorado Route 82 to the mountain town of Aspen. It was ritzy even then, though much more hospitable than now to the impecunious ski-bums who flock there every winter. I rented a room in the Garret at 222 West Hopkins for $70 a month, which happened to be the same rental I was getting for my house at home--I just handed the check to the innkeepers every month.

It was a great winter, and I did learn to ski, after a fashion. At the time, I thought I'd mastered the skill, though it turned out that what really happened was that I got strong enough to ski almost anything, and I had to start all over again the following winter in New Hampshire. By that time I was married and had a little girl coming along. Sally and I each worked half a day--at the same job, actually--and I spent my free time writing The High Country Illuminator in an effort to catch the manic life of Aspen toward the end of the 1960s, a time of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, marijuana, and disgust at a government that would send its young men to fight other young men in Vietnam. It was, I think, the closest this country came to revolution, apart from the unpleasant years from 1775 to 1783 and 1861 to 1865. The death toll was much smaller, of course, but it was not inconsiderable.

What the critics said

  • "A light, allegorical shorty of a book that swings along in tempo with the hip sub-culture" -- Denver Post

  • "Extremely bizzare and delightfully humorous ... stirs up the ski resort with professional ability and a touch of magic -- Oregon Journal

  • "The writing is adept, the plot bewildering, the pace dizzy, and the skiing scenes are out of sight" -- Skier magazine

  • "Vivid and effortless" -- Library Journal

    From the dust-cover blurb

    One winter (the season before last--you may have heard about it) a stranger came in an old Volks-bus to the ski-resort complex known as Avalonl. His professional title was the High Country Illuminator, and his specialty was psycedelic light shows. But to most people he was simply known as George Togalok (no middle initial), a young Indian from the Salt River Canyon country.

    Aside from creating fantastic, illuminated happenings, he was a pretty good skier, though no better than most of the young winter nomads who pack their earthly possessions in their knapsacks, shoulder skis, and head for the snow--for bed-and-board jobs washing dishes, making beds, and collecting garbage. And for unlimited free skiing.

    Ridiculously exploited by the Corporations that run the resorts, these light-hearted kids could care less, as long as the skiing holds out. That was the case at Avalon, until the High Country Illuminator made the scene and was (or wasn't) responsible for the Winter of the Great Ski-Bum Rebellion.

    Daniel Ford author of Incident at Muc Wa and Now Comes Theodora, has written a sun-dazzled, spindrift novel of the Now Generation, sparkling with hip humor, light allegory, and a touch of magic, as well as some of the best skiing sequences ever described.

    Publishing history

    The High Country Illuminator was published in hardcover by Doubleday & Co. in 1971, republished by the Authors Guild in a quality paperback in 2000, and most recently by Warbird Books in 2013. Digital editions published 2013.

    Go here for an excerpt

  • Buy the paperback
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  • Buy the e-book
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  • Also of interest
  • Poland's Daughter
    Poland's Daughter - How I Met Basia, Hitchhiked to Italy, and Learned About Love, War, and Exile. "An extraordinary book" (Cosmopolitan Review). Paperback or Kindle edition.

    The Country Northward: a hiker's journal -- "fabulous!" (SectionHiker). In paperback or Kindle edition.

    Incident at Muc
    Incident at Muc Wa - The Vietnam novel that inspired the acclaimed Burt Lancaster movie, Go Tell the Spartans. Paperback or Kindle edition.

    Remains: a story of the Flying Tigers
    Remains: a story of the Flying Tigers - "A cracking good yarn" (Air&Space magazine) Paperback at or Kindle edition.
    Michael's War: Two rebels in the County Cork, 1916-1923 (fiction) Paperback or Kindle edition.

    Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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    Posted March 2015. Websites ©1997-2015 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved.