SALT IN THEIR VEINS: CONVERSATIONS WITH COASTAL MAINERS

By Charlie Wing

Create Space Independent Publishing, 2016

472 pages, $18.95

A tipsy pundit once quipped: “I drink to make other people more interesting.” Well, there is no need for a double martini to appreciate the fascinating lives of the 35 Mainers depicted in Charlie Wing’s new book.

“Salt in Their Veins” is a smart collection of interviews of Maine men and women living on the coast, from Cape Elizabeth to Eastport, revealing much about the industrious, creative, pragmatic and funny people who live and work on and near the sea. Charlie Wing is a scientist, professor, PBS host and author of more than 20 books. His earlier books were all about things and how they worked. This, however, is his first book about people, and, as his wife says, it is “his first book with a pulse.”

Wing’s selections include fishermen, lobstermen, boat builders, tugboat men, merchant mariners, artists, docking and sea pilots, a humorist, an author, even a waitress, oysterman and others. This is sort of a homespun oral history, as folks tell of their lives and why they all have salt in their veins.

Willis Spear, of Cousins Island, tells of lobster fishing with his wife as sternman, “but I didn’t dare call her that.” Pilot William Gribbin describes piloting large ships in confined waters. Dain Allen, of South Harpswell, offers some salty views of government fishing regulations. And famous solo circumnavigating sailor Dodge Morgan tells how he was kicked out of college for shooting off a cannon in the dean of women’s bedroom.

Learn why merchant mariner Tim Holmes worked in Vietnam for the NSA, but thought that meant “National Shipping Agency,” why the Humble Farmer thinks his wife is the “Almost Perfect Woman,” the real meaning of “squat and sink” and why Bud Darling built his own submarine.

NO NEWS IS BAD NEWS

By Maureen Milliken

S&H Publishing, 2016

313 pages, $16.99

Many people read newspapers to remind themselves there a lot of folks out there who are worse off than they are. And former hot-shot, big-city reporter Bernie O’Dea knows that bad news sells papers.

Bernie is the owner and editor of the “Peaks Weekly Watcher,” the newspaper of rural Redimere in north central Maine. Town meetings seem to be the biggest news in Redimere until a deer hunter finds a human gut pile in the woods. But where is the body?

This is Maureen Milliken’s second mystery featuring Bernie O’Dea (following “Cold Hard News”). It is a complex, ambitious novel of cold-blooded murder, small town secrets and destructive gossip. As a newspaper editor herself, Milliken brings a refreshing note of authenticity to her stories, setting the reader up for a compelling, intricate tale of mayhem.

While Bernie struggles to put out the paper and make payroll each week, Police Chief Pete Novotny is stuck with a cold case that has haunted him since he was a homicide detective in Philadelphia six years before. Now, a surprising new face in town and the newly discovered gut pile connect old memories with new clues and the disguised reason for Pete’s abrupt departure from Philadelphia.

Bernie and Pete are a not-so-secret romantic item in town, but their jobs and intense personalities often put them at odds with each other. When the dead body is gruesomely found, the murder investigation takes on broader meaning involving numerous townspeople, another murder and Bernie’s own brother accused of two killings.

This story is complicated with frequent flashbacks to Pete’s old cold case and his new investigation, and the reader will have to pay close attention to every character and detail. Milliken could have shortened and untangled some plotlines, but this is still a good mystery.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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