MAINE TRIVIA:  A STORYTELLER’S
USEFUL GUIDE TO USELESS INFORMATION

By John McDonald
Islandport Press, 2012
143 pages, $16.95
ISBN 978-1-934031-73-5
 
How many Mainers know which bug is really the official state insect? Or why Mainers wanted to fight Great Britain in 1839? Or what is Maine’s most lucrative springtime industry?

Well, curious folks who are fascinated by useless information will find John McDonald’s newest book, MAINE TRIVIA, to be just the cure for insomnia, with the bonus that it “will also make you appear smarter than you really are.”

McDonald is a well-known Maine storyteller and humorist, and author of several books, including A MOOSE AND A LOBSTER WALK INTO A BAR… He lives in Otisfield, writes newspaper columns and has a weekend radio show on WGAN.

A Maine trivia book is not a new idea. Other authors have knocked out such classics as MAINE 101 by Nancy Griffin, IT HAPPENED IN MAINE by Gail Parker, and even STRANGE MAINE by Michelle Souliere. McDonald, however, adds much more humor and some terrific stories to his book, making it the best of the bunch so far.

His funny factoids are arranged in a simple question-answer format and cover history, politics, sports, arts, literature, nature and places, as well as wild card and bonus questions.  Stories include how to cleverly tell someone that their cat has died, about a frisky train conductor and an errant piece of luggage, how Cherryfield voters solved a thorny election day problem, and about the deputy sheriff and the seat-belt scofflaw.

Learn, too, what Maine road was originally called the “King’s Highway,” how many Mud Ponds there are in Maine, what Ed Muskie’s middle name was, and which notable person suggested the state motto:  “Cold, but damp!”  McDonalds offers some stumpers, too, like why didn’t the Vikings tell anybody they had found Maine? And, how many organized political parties does Maine have?

 

MATINICUS:  AN ISLAND MYSTERY
By Darcy Scott
Turtle Pond Press, 2012
264 pages, $14.95
ISBN 978-1-936447-23-7
 
If the residents of the island of Matinicus ever wanted a book that would surely discourage tourist visitors, this is it. MATINICUS is the first book in an island mystery trilogy by Darcy Scott, a creepy tale that paints an ugly and unwelcoming picture of Matinicus and its fiercely independent and clannish community.

Scott lives on her sailboat in Kittery, is an experienced mariner and a very talented writer. She also has a keen sense of humor, a knack for carefully woven plots and a gift for creating vividly colorful, convincing characters.

In 2005, college professor and botanist Gil Hodges comes to Matinicus for the summer to study trees and orchids, and soon finds himself deep into two mysteries — one from 1829, the other right now. Gil is a boozer and a shameless philanderer, a conqueror of coeds, actually hiding out from a crazy ex-lover.

As an outsider, smooth-talking Gil is barely tolerated by the locals as he stumbles into an insular world of booze, drugs, a vicious lobster war, steamy and angry sex and then murder.  Between drinking bouts and acrobatic sex, Gil reads an 1829 diary that tells of a shipwreck, multiple murders, poisonings and madness. The ghostly feelings he gets would be enough to sober up anyone, but not Gil.

As one death follows another, each looks like an accident, but the locals don’t believe that. Suspicion, accusations and mistrust run rampant, but Gil finally makes a connection that links a suspect and motive together.  Too bad he probably won’t see the end of it.

Add an island full of hard-drinking, pot-smoking, fist-fighting lobstermen and sternmen, bitter family feuds, long-held grudges, simmering thoughts of revenge and mayhem, desperate teenage angst, an unhappy ghost and a vicious killer, and Scott has a tightly-wrapped, exciting and suspenseful hit.

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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