THE ESSENTIAL DANBY

By George Danby

Islandport Press, 2014

221 pages, $22.95

ISBN 978-1-939017-07-9

Essayists, editorial writers, political pundits and talking heads have it easy. They use words (and a lot of them) to say whatever they want, but a political cartoonist gets just one shot at a message. A single illustration, hand-drawn with pen and ink, must say everything.

American newspapers and magazines have used cartoonists for years to comment on politics, news events, social trends, entertainment and scandals — parodies of life. Cartoonists often skewer, frequently tease and sometimes praise, but they always entertain.

George Danby is probably Maine’s most popular (and famous) political cartoonist, and “The Essential Danby” tells the story of his cartoon career from his first published cartoon in 1974 (at age 16) to today. He has published more than 25,000 cartoons in numerous outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek and Time, and has been with the Bangor Daily News since 1988.

This is his story, arranged by decade, featuring more than 200 of his favorite cartoons, examples of satire, embarrassment, humor, tenderness and several abrupt pokes in the eye for deserving politicians. There are no sacred cows here. He jabs at everything and everyone from political campaigns, energy policy and big oil to ABSCAM and Y2K hysteria and, of course, politicians like Bush, Reagan, Clinton, Carter, Ford, King and LePage. The cartoons about Ted Kennedy are hilarious. Bill Clinton even autographed his cartoon for Danby, but then complained that the caricature didn’t look a bit like him. (Oh, yes, it does!)

Serious cartoons highlight crises with Iran, Iraq, the PLO, Russia and China-Taiwan, as well as a very sobering depiction of the Vietnam Memorial. His cartoon marking the death of Walter Cronkite is poignant and sensitive, and still holds the record for the most mail Danby has ever received.

THE BONE ORCHARD

By Paul Doiron

Minotaur, 2014

306 pages, $25.99

ISBN 978-1-250-03488-5

Camden author Paul Doiron is no longer the executive editor of Down East Magazine, and that’s a good thing for mystery fans everywhere. He did a great job with the magazine, but now he can devote his full attention to writing the mysteries that have become so popular with Maine readers.

“The Bone Orchard” is the fifth mystery (following “Massacre Pond”) in his excellent award-winning series featuring Mike Bowditch, a hapless Maine game warden whose professional and personal life is just one screw-up after another. Still, Mike is a guy you can’t help cheer for and admire.

Doiron is an outdoorsman himself. His game warden mysteries ring true for their colorful and authentic portrayal of the fieldcraft and law enforcement responsibilities of the men and women of the Maine Warden Service.

Mike has always been a foul-up — challenging authority, disobeying orders, impulsive and passionate about his job. His bosses are fed up, however, and try everything to either fire him or get him to quit. In frustration, Mike does resign, and now works as a North Woods fishing guide.

Then his friend and former mentor, Sergeant Kathy Frost, and a rookie warden shoot and kill a despondent Afghan war veteran in a case of “suicide by cop.” This is an ugly affair, made worse when Frost is later gunned down in an ambush that also wounds Mike.

Mike vows to find the assailant, but the obvious motives and targets may be just a smoke-screen. Or maybe not.

Mike is outside law enforcement now, but his own investigation reveals a muddle of clues that he must untangle before somebody else gets killed. Add some angry, vengeful veterans, a vicious landowner, a bitter, alcoholic Vietnam veteran and a chaplain with a gun, and Doiron has another outstanding mystery for Mike to solve.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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