Books should be read outdoors this time of year, and I’m not just talking about my book, “A Life Lived Outdoors.” So let’s call this column “Summer Outside Reading.”
I love a good novel, and we’ve got four new ones from Maine authors. Gerry Boyle’s new novel, “Once Burned,” is a real page-turner. The really good news for you, if you have never read any of Gerry’s novels, is that Islandport Press, in addition to publishing his new novel, has republished all of his previous novels in paperback.
Paul Doiron’s novels featuring a Maine game warden are award-winning national best-sellers, and his latest is sure to join that list. Did coyotes kill those two hikers on the Appalachian Trail in Maine? Well, maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. But a lot of people think they did. And you’ll have to read “The Precipice” to find out if they are right. If you’ve never read one of Doiron’s novels, you are in for a summer of fun, because this is the sixth novel in this series.
A teenager dies in a snowmobile crash. An old fella, apparently killed by a snowplow, emerges from the roadside snow in the spring. And this is only a portion of the murder and mayhem in Maureen Milliken’s wonderful first novel, “Cold Hard News.” The principle character, Bernie O’Dea, is the owner/editor of the Peaks Weekly Watcher, a small town newspaper, so you’ll get a real inside look at the newspaper world. And no one knows the newspaper business better than Maureen, a third-generation newspaper editor now working for this newspaper.
Amidst the murder and mysteries, author Earl H. Smith, the retired dean of the college at Colby College, offers lots of laugh-out-loud humor in his first novel, “The Dam Committee.” Published by North Country Press in Unity, Earl’s first novel is filled with small-town characters in Belfry, Maine. And yes, you can be forgiven if you see similarities between Earl’s hometown of Belgrade Lakes and his fictional town of Belfry.
Living in Mount Vernon, next to Belgrade Lakes, I certainly recognize the issues that keep the dam committee busy. But the murder and that half-million dollars in a buried suitcase, well, that’s all news to me. I’ve saved Earl’s second novel, “More Dam Trouble,” to read this summer.
Paul Fournier’s last gift to us, completed just before he died, is titled “Birds of a Feather” and is just one of the astonishing things this wonderful man accomplished in his life. I am grateful that he had time to finish this book, published by Islandport Press, because it’s a testament to all he learned, loved and lived. Paul’s previous book, “Tales from Misery Ridge,” was entertaining as well as award-winning. There are more tales in “Birds of a Feather,” but most importantly, he also has left us with a lot of wisdom — wisdom he gained as a guide, bush pilot, sporting camp owner, TV program producer, photographer, outdoor writer and information officer for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
“I had been fishing for about two hours. On counting the catch, we had one hundred and thirty-seven trout.” This might be my dream fishing experience, but it is not my story. It’s Heber Bishop’s story, written in the “Guide Book to the Megantic, Spider, and Upper Dead River Regions” in 1887, and reprinted in Steve Pinkham’s amazing “Old Tales of the Maine Woods.” I couldn’t get enough of these stories from the past, written by Maine hunters, anglers, guides and hikers. Pinkham is a historian, Maine native now living in Massachusetts, and collector of more than 25,000 articles and stories of the Maine woods. And there are more of these in Steve’s “More Old Tales of the Maine Woods.”
And on May 27, I wrote a column about “Queen Bee,” by Maine author Phyllis Austin, about Roxanne Quimby, who wants to create a 70,000 acre national park in the North Woods.
If these books don’t fill up your summer, I’ve got more recommendations in the Book Review section at www.georgesmithmaine.com. Enjoy.