By Sheri Duff
Longtime Vermont journalist, Nick Monsarrat of Charlotte recently published a dystopian novel, “united states,” set in New York City in the year 2038. The book, described as a political thriller, was inspired by Monsarrat’s inability to pay a bill online. “I was trying to pay an overdue bill and I became trapped in website limbo. Unable to accomplish this simple task gave me pause,” Monsarrat said by phone. “It began with my thoughts on journalism: how the ‘news’ isn’t ‘news’ anymore, it’s a business.” In Monsarrat’s eyes, the dilemma with the website seemed to embody the increasing control that businesses have over our daily lives. “Over the years corporations have gotten stronger and we, the U.S. citizenry, have gotten weaker…it may sound discouraging but that’s the basic premise of the book.”
Of course what’s a novel without the inevitable heroes? “What really intrigues me is the individual or individuals that stand up and just say ‘no, this isn’t the way it supposed to be.’ I find that really inspiring. The protagonists have a chance to alter the book’s ending. But of course to find out if they succeed you’ll have to read the book,” he explained.
According to Herblock prize-winning cartoonist and author Jeff Danziger, “united states” is a “powerful dystopian story, a warning of how the last days of the American experiment in democracy might happen.” Perhaps the power of the novel can be attributed to Monsarrat’s lengthy writing career. Although this is his first published novel, he was been writing for quite some time.
Born in Westport, Conn. Monsarrat graduated from Kent School and Washington’s Lee University before moving to Charlotte 20 years ago. “I was writing fiction as a kid. In fact I wrote my first novel at age 13. I called it ‘The Cruel Sky’ because my cousin of the same name wrote ‘The Cruel Sea.’ I always enjoyed storytelling, even way back then,” Monsarrat recalled.
Over his 27-year career, Monsarrat was employed by numerous Vermont newspapers, co-chaired an exchange of Soviet and U.S. editors both here and in Russia in the 1980s, taught journalism at St. Michael’s College, and was a contributing editor at VTDigger.org, an online investigative news site.
As for his overdue bill… “I never was able to pay that bill online,” he said.
“united states” is available by special order at Barnes & Noble and the Middlebury Book Store, and at Amazon.com in e-book, paperback and hardcover formats.
By Sheri Duff