If you’ve read my crime thriller novel Girl Most Likely to Succeed or my thriller novella In the Bag, then you know that these books take place in the Poconos. (Though I should point out that large portions of Girl Most Likely to Succeed are also set in the fictional town of Gray Valley, New Jersey.) Still, inquiring minds might want to know why someone who lives down in Bucks County would choose to set her books up in the Pocono Mountains. That is, unless you are completely unfamiliar with Pennsylvania geography and don’t have a clue where Bucks County or the Poconos are.
The Poconos, as it happens, are a mountainous region in northeastern Pennsylvania. Four Pennsylvania counties: Monroe, Pike, Wayne and Carbon are in part or in whole part of the Poconos. The Poconos have long been a vacation destination for people from New York City and New Jersey who are looking to get away for a weekend and breathe some fresh mountain air.
Resorts, campgrounds and ski slopes dot the Poconos landscape. As a wee lass growing up in the New Jersey suburbs I can recall the “Beautiful Mount Airy Lodge” commercials that used to play during television reruns. I can still hear the theme song as plain as day in my head, even though the original resort is long gone and in its place now stands a new casino resort thanks to Pennsylvania’s decision to legalize gambling a few years back.
Growing up, my grandparents owned a vacation home in the Poconos, and my family used to head up there for summer retreats and weekend getaways. In the 1960s and 1970s savvy salesmen sold couples and families their own little slice of paradise, which in this case looked like a T-11-sided home in an “amenity-filled” community in the Poconos.
Alas, as times and finances changed and vacation homes in the Poconos were not in the cards or the budget for
most people the market for second homes in the mountains dwindled. As New York rents and New Jersey property taxes continued to skyrocket those savvy salesmen changed their tune and by the late 1990s and into the early 2000s the Poconos were pitched as the perfect primary residence for New Yorkers and New Jerseyans hoping for a better life.
There was actually a company called “Why Rent” and the general pitch of real estate agents and home builders was that for less than what they were paying in rent they could own their own home in the beautiful Pocono Mountains. They wouldn’t even have to quit their jobs because there were commuter buses. Full disclosure it’s a LONG commute from the Poconos to Manhattan.
In 2001 I bought someone’s discarded Poconos vacation home for a fraction of what I could have bought a house for in New Jersey and relocated from the Garden State to the Keystone State. I lived in Tobyhanna, PA for some eight years before returning briefly to New Jersey and then making my way back across the Delaware once again to settle in Bucks County.
Tobyhanna, when I mention it to those who are familiar with the area, usually yields one of two responses. Either people immediately think of the Tobyhanna Army Depot, one of the largest employers in the area or they mention the fact that Tobyhanna tends to get pretty cold in the winter. Winters in my mountaintop abode were long and snowy. And by snowy, I mean that hardly a day went by that it didn’t snow. One October I remember waking up to two feet of snow that somehow they didn’t even forecast. That was just one of the joys of living up in Tobyhanna.
For my Tobyhanna peeps who happen to be reading this and are wondering which community my crappy Poconos vacation-home-turned-full-time-residence was in, it was APCP aka A Pocono Country Place or as it was more commonly known by those of us who lived there PCP.
My eight years of living and working in the Poconos inspired me to set both Girl Most Likely to Succeed and In the Bag in the region. Perhaps one of these days I’ll get around to writing a book set down here in Bucks County.