THE JONESPORT RAFFLE AND OTHER TALES OF MAINE FOLKLORE

Maine has always enjoyed more than its share of homespun humorist-philosophers, but perhaps none so beloved as the late John Gould. A Maine native, Gould (1908-2003) wrote dozens of books and was a columnist for the Christian Science Monitor for 62 years.

“The Jonesport Raffle” is a collection of 33 tall tales, originally published in 1969, now smartly republished by Down East Books. As a verbal troubadour, Gould claims no ownership here, admitting these folklore stories have been around for a long time, told in nearly every county by generations of Mainers, making story origins nearly impossible to identify. The stories are hilarious, and a few might even have some truth hidden in them somewhere.

The title tale has a unique Maine flavor — a man raffles off his horse by selling tickets throughout the county, not telling anyone that his horse has been dead for a week. “Perley the Poacher” tells the story of Maine’s biggest game poacher and his Sad Sack bad luck “to get caught doing something you always did, when you weren’t doing it.”

Gould does say “The Poor Pooch” may be “the most frequently published story in American literature,” about a dog, some lobster meat, a stomach pump and the Tuesday meeting of the Friday Club.

Other stories tell of the pant-less pastor on horseback, how a short-handled buggy whip saved a witless Lothario from a jealous husband’s musket ball, along with some fractured history lessons about the real first Thanksgiving, why Monday is wash day and about Maine’s one-man army in 1775.

Learn how to cook a coot, why you should never interrupt a Mainer when he’s enjoying a rare warm, sunny summer day, and why the term “hog on ice” has nothing to do with a pig ice skating.

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BIMINI TWIST

Hancock County Deputy Sheriff Jane Bunker is too good at her job busting dopers and drug dealers. She’s so successful with drug arrests that the sheriff tells her to back off until tourist season is over, bad press is bad for business apparently. But Jane won’t be benched for long.

“Bimini Twist” is best-selling Isle au Haut author Linda Greenlaw’s fourth book in her Jane Bunker mystery series, and this one is much better, more suspenseful and tightly wrapped than the last, “Shiver Hitch.” In addition to her mysteries, Greenlaw is a well-known swordfish boat captain (“The Perfect Storm”) and non-fiction writer (“The Hungry Ocean”).

Assigned to a simple missing-person case, Jane grumbles about suddenly being treated as a benchwarmer. However, she dutifully goes through the motions, thinking the missing girl is just another teenager off on a hormone binge. Then she learns that the girl is a foreign student here on a J-1 visa, working at a Bar Harbor resort for the summer — and she’s not the only girl who has gone missing recently.

Following leads, Jane stumbles across an attempted murder, a suspicious death, strange insurance beneficiaries and an odd family of rich folks and bottom-feeders. And one man is connected to all the bad acts.

The missing-person case quickly takes on lethal importance when multiple murders are discovered — including a government informant — all linked to a long list of missing female foreign workers, a list nobody seems to have investigated before. And Jane wonders why.

Add a couple of cheerful cab drivers, a mysterious cruise ship’s frequent stops in Bar Harbor, suspicions of human trafficking, the sheriff dispatcher’s unique investigative skills and a sneaky undercover cop, and Greenlaw has created a riveting, action-packed, well-packaged mystery.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.