Author’s Peace Corps work is foundation for novel

one-degree-southStephen Snook spent 15 years writing his first book of fiction, One Degree South, published in 2014 by Shipwreckt Books.

The story—a tale of love, witchcraft and political turmoil in Africa based on Snook’s experience serving two terms in the Peace Corps in Gabon—“never let me go,” he said.

“I understand why the Greeks thought of the Muses in the way they seemed to have, namely that writing comes from somewhere; it is something from outside as much as from within.”

Snook, the son of a retired Luther Seminary professor who spent his high school years in St. Anthony Park, describes his early years as fairly conventional: His family moved from New York to Minnesota when he was a teenager. He and his three siblings attended Murray High School. After graduating in 1972, he attended the University of Minnesota.

After college, he felt compelled to go “someplace as different as possible from what I grew up knowing.” He joined the Peace Corps “to challenge myself by doing what the Peace Corps once called ‘the toughest job you’ll ever love.’ ”

Stephen Snook with his wife, Rosine; daughters, Jessica and Gabriella; and dog, Kit. Photo courtesy of Stephen Snook

Stephen Snook with his wife, Rosine; daughters, Jessica and Gabriella; and dog, Kit. Photo courtesy of Stephen Snook

He met his wife, Rosine, in Gabon, and after his Peace Corps service ended, he worked in Zaire (now Congo) building rural health centers. He left there to attend graduate school at the University of Florida, where he received a doctorate in political science in 1996. He and his family returned to Africa, where he led a project in Ghana assisting the electoral commission administer elections and working with local governments to help them do a better job of delivering needed services to citizens, he said.

The family moved to South Africa, then to Guinea, and in 2009 settled in Vermont, where Snook now works for Tetra Tech, a company that helps developing countries address water, environment, energy, infrastructure and resource management challenges. He still travels extensively to Africa.

One Degree South is described as a “sweeping tale of love, politics and witchcraft set in the oil-rich nation of Gabon just as the Cold War ends. The U.S. relationship with African dictators suddenly changes and election fervor, which dominates the headlines in African capitols, sweeps through the remotest of tiny villages.”

Snook’s work in Gabon more than 30 years ago is the foundation for the book and his connection to the book’s publisher, Shipwreckt Books of Lanesboro, Minn., which is owned by another former Peace Corps volunteer, Tom Driscoll.

One Degree South is available at Micawber’s Books, 2238 Carter Ave. You can also find out more about the book at www.stevesnook.com or go to www.shipwrecktbooks.com.

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