Fans of Alan Furst’s World War II-era spy thrillers will truly enjoy Rockport author Richard Grant’s “Cave Dwellers,” an intricate and suspenseful tale of pre-war espionage in Germany and America.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of 1937-1938, amidst subtle but growing resistance to Hitler and the Nazis, this well-crafted spy story features a young German army lieutenant sent on a doomed intelligence mission to the United States.

Lieutenant Oskar Langwell is naive and unprepared for recruitment into the Abwehr, military intelligence, by Jaap, a rumpled naval officer he meets unexpectedly at a cocktail party. Eager and patriotic, Oskar receives scant training and is sent to the U.S. to contact Tobias Lugan, the influential and amoral fixer for a U.S. senator and Nazi sympathizer.

However, Oskar’s first overseas mission is a failure. He is betrayed and barely escapes capture and death. But who betrayed him and why? Was he set up to fail, to expose something else?

Desperate to return to Germany, Oskar teams up with Lena, a pretty socialist, who will travel with him as his wife on a German ocean liner filled with Nazi youth and their sympathizers, including the senator and his party.

During the voyage they befriend the senator’s son and the boy’s unusually helpful SS bodyguard, but Oskar’s disguise is blown when Lugan spots him on the ship. Arrival in Germany sets off a madcap pursuit as Oskar, Lena, the boy and his bodyguard flee from the Gestapo and a brutal SS colonel who wants all four of them dead.

Only the mysterious naval officer and a collection of elderly eccentrics and social misfits can save them. Informers, treachery, chases, shoot-outs, surprising plot twists and an exciting showdown at an alpine mountain lodge round out this remarkably tense and highly entertaining thriller.

Photography preserves history as no other medium can. “Photographs have the kind of authority over imagination today, which the printed word had yesterday, and the spoken word before that — they seem utterly real,” observes political commentator Walter Lippmann (1889-1974).

And “Maine On Glass” reveals just how real and fascinating photographs can be. This book is a collection of 200 historical photographs taken between 1909 and the 1950s, using glass-plate negatives to produce photos rich in detail. The authors (two historians and a photo archivist) and the photos, represent all 16 of Maine’s counties during those years.

The photos come from a photo postcard collection created by the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, of Belfast, back in the days when “postcards were the Instagrams of the time.” They describe the history of the company (1909-1947), its plate-glass negative photography process, the photographers, salesmen and company employees. The EIP photo collection is now held by the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.

Photographs feature popular postcard images of waterfronts, ships, lighthouses, town streets, businesses, public buildings, farming, logging, manufacturing and people posing while working and playing.

Each black and white photo has an intriguing narrative of local anecdotal history. For example, the photo of 10-term Belfast Mayor Edgar Hanson’s stately home is accompanied by a story about his 1906 jail term for the stock fraud of a worthless alcoholic medicine.

There’s humor, too, such as the Bayville boardinghouse photo and the story of the mishap between the chamber pot and the cherry pies, the scandalous motto of King’s Dinette in Camden in 1956, and the Pembroke photo of the exotic pool room of a quack “clairvoyant physician.”

This is an interesting and entertaining history of glass-plate negative photography, the postcard industry and the images it recorded.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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