CREATING ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: THE BIOGRAPHY OF GEORGE BUCKNAM DORR

By Ronald H. Epp

Friends of Acadia, 2016

393 pages, $20

When people think of Maine’s Acadia National Park, they often think that John D. Rockefeller Jr. was the park’s founder. Even today that’s the only prominent name folks remember associated with the park. And they’d be wrong.

The real “father of Acadia” was a Boston Brahmin named George Bucknam Dorr, a wealthy, scholarly gentleman with the vision, financial resources and determination to make a dream come true.

“Creating Acadia National Park” is historian Ronald Epp’s excellent biography of Dorr (1853-1944), the “founder and first superintendent of New England’s only national park and the central figure in Maine’s land trust movement.” This year is the 100th anniversary of Acadia, so this biography is a fitting tribute to both the man and a natural treasure.

Epp spent 15 years researching and writing this book, a richly detailed history of Dorr, Acadia and the National Park Service. He tells how and why Dorr devoted his life to preserving much of Mount Desert Island’s beauty, an early effort at land conservation for public use.

Epp reveals that Dorr was a complex man — a generous philanthropist, a visionary skilled at maneuvering through the obstacles and opponents in state and federal government bureaucracies. Best, however, is Epp’s fascinating history of the park. Created initially as a national monument (without congressional approval) in 1916 — originally called Sieur de Monts National Monument, then later named Lafayette National Park in 1919 — it was finally declared as Acadia National Park in 1929.

Epps tells how Dorr deftly combined land donations and property purchases to amass the thousands of acres of Acadia, about the thorny conflicts over road construction (carriages versus autos) and even Cadillac Mountain’s summit hot dog stand.

This is a remarkable story, well-supported with period photos, but with few maps.

BLACK ORCHID

By Vaughn C. Hardacker

Skyhorse Publishing, 2016

359 pages, $16.99

Stockholm, Maine, writer Vaughn Hardacker must like the fictional crime-noir of Raymond Chandler and the true-crime darkness of the infamous unsolved 1947 Black Dahlia murder case in Los Angeles. Elements of both are clearly evident in his latest mystery, featuring a hard-boiled private detective, a beautiful rich girl and a cesspool of bottom-feeding criminals.

This is Hardacker’s third book, following “Sniper” (2014) and “The Fisherman” (2015). Although too long by 50 pages, and overly ambitious with its complex plot, “Black Orchid” offers suspense, action and a gruesomely graphic portrayal of the pornographic film industry in California.

When Portsmouth, New Hampshire, private detective Ed Traynor is hired by a wealthy corporate heiress to find her younger sister, he quickly realizes he is in way over his head. He tracks the missing girl (a wannabe actress) to Los Angeles, learning she was murdered and mutilated, her body identifiable only by a distinctive tattoo of a black orchid on her leg.

Aided by an ex-LAPD cop and an ex-DEA mercenary working for the family, Ed and his two skilled and lethal pals discover that the victim’s only starring role was in a rape/murder “snuff” film. Outrage and revenge drive these men and the older sister to hunt down the killers.

Their cross-border investigation leads them to a slimy Mexican drug lord, a slick Hollywood pimp, a disgraced Polish movie director and a smarmy, highly-placed political operative close to the California governor.

Car chases, fistfights and lots of fancy gunplay mark the fast-paced action, while sharp surveillance, clever threats and ungentle prodding inspire the suspects to make desperate mistakes and turn against each other, guaranteeing the reader a high body count and a predictable tough-guy ending.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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