ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS NOBODY WAS ASKIN’ AND OTHER REVELATIONS

By Tim Sample

Down East Books, 2015

191 pages, $22.95

How many laughs can we get in a lifetime? Not enough, according to humorist Will Rogers who once said, “We are all here for a spell, get all the good laughs you can.” And creating laughter is what Maine comedian Tim Sample does best.

Portland-based Sample is a stand-up comedian who has performed for years, delighting folks with his unique brand of home-spun Maine humor, on stage, on the radio, television and in his award-winning newspaper column, “Stories I Never Told You.”

This book is a collection of 66 stories, vignettes of life — growing up, teenage angst, adulthood, working, getting older and all the colorful characters and situations he has met along the way. Best is his hilarious and refreshingly honest self-skewering — most of the jokes are about himself.

Some stories are to be expected — funny tales of typical Maine humor, Mainers baiting tourists and giving directions to lost flatlanders, Maine accents and wise sayings, and distinctive Maine curiosities like moose-poop jewelry and the Black Fly Festival.

“What Mainers Don’t Say” is a very funny dog-bite story, and “Oh, Deer!” tells why you don’t need a rifle to hunt deer when a Buick will do just fine. One story tells of Sample’s short-lived movie career in a film that was so bad he won’t reveal the name, calling it an “old-fashioned bomb, a first-rate P-U stinker.”

Along with the jokes and comical stories, Sample has included some very insightful and poignant personal anecdotes. “A Boy and His Dog” is a tender, heartwarming story of love and loyalty. In “Stern Man” he describes a teenage summer job as a stern man and the wonderful lessons he learned from a true lobsterman. Other stories describe working with CBS News commentator Charles Kuralt and performing with Stephen King on live television.

WHO LET THE DOG OUT?

By David Rosenfelt

Minotaur Books, 2015

336 pages, $25.99

Andy Carpenter is a defense attorney with no clients and $30 million in the bank. He avoids all forms of work, mental or manual, and so does his secretary. Edna wouldn’t do any work even if she had work to do. But then, somebody steals one of Andy’s dogs and suddenly there is plenty to do.

“Who Let The Dog Out?” is the 13th novel in Damariscotta author David Rosenfelt’s popular Andy Carpenter mystery series, following “Hounded.” And Rosenfelt is in fine form with a clever mystery, hilarious dialogue, delightfully dangerous characters, loads of action, suspense and some quirky plot twists.

While scrupulously avoiding any lawyer work, Andy runs a dog rescue operation. One night, one of the dogs is stolen from a kennel. A GPS tracker on the dog’s collar leads Andy and the police to a grisly scene. They find the dog and the thief, but the thief is very dead, brutally murdered (the dog didn’t do it).

Andy is a sharp fellow, quickly thinking this is no simple burglary. Why would a low-life crook steal a mutt with no cash value? Andy is scratching his head with lawyerly curiosity when the cops arrest an unlikely suspect for the murder, and Andy foolishly agrees to defend the suspect.

Andy can’t make up his mind. First he thinks his client is innocent, then he is convinced he’s guilty. Moral and ethical dilemma? Not for Andy, for he rarely lets his conscience bother him. Further investigation leads to the ruthless, deadly, competitive business of diamond smuggling and illegal arms sales, and the bodies start piling up.

An unconvincing subplot is distracting and unnecessary, but Andy’s courtroom antics and legal maneuvering are brilliant, and make this a mystery worth reading.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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