WINTERHILL

Thomaston author Christopher Fahy is a man of many writing talents — fiction, nonfiction and poetry. “Winterhill” is his 14th novel, after last year’s “Foreverglades.” And while Foreverglades was a hilarious spoof about the Fountain of Youth, this book is a dark, suspenseful tale of fraud, deceit, greed and murder.

Fahy spins a gripping yarn here, starkly revealing how desperate people can fall victim to the medical quackery and slick promotion of shysters and nutcases. Elderly Dr. Bixby Billington opens Winterhill, an imposing Gothic treatment center selling neuromassage and neurostimulation (picture a medieval electric chair), claiming his wacky treatments can cure autism and other serious child conditions.

Billington actually believes this nonsense will work. But he’s crazy. His too-willing assistant Jerry Prince sees the program as a lucrative cash cow, becoming the center’s director and convincing PR spokesman. Jerry is a fraud, too, an amoral, opportunistic loser with a fake college diploma, a talent for lying and for chillingly charming predatory female seduction.

Despairing parents, hoping for miracles, enroll their afflicted children in expensive residential and day treatment programs, and the money rolls in. But Jerry’s greed and serial affairs threaten to expose the scam. When the center’s staff begin to defect and a nosy newspaper reporter smells a rat, Jerry takes extreme measures to protect himself, resorting to harsh punishments, torture of patients and even murder.

However, Jerry doesn’t count on the unpredictable, violent jealousy of a jilted lover, a witness’s letter of condemnation, the reporter’s savvy and risky investigation and the clever moves of a small boy in a wheelchair. And soon even the police become interested in Mr. Jerry Prince.

There is no humor here, just a grim, intriguing story of people’s vulnerability to false promises and fading hope.

 

WATER VILLAGE: THE STORY OF WATERVILLE, MAINE

When English bard William Shakespeare said “What is a city but the people?” he could have easily described Waterville, Maine. And Maine author Earl Smith now offers a fun, fascinating history of Waterville from 1498 to 2018.

Smith is a Waterville native and former dean at Colby College. He has written two other histories, both about Colby, and three novels — most notable two hilarious stories, “The Dam Committee” and “More Dam Trouble.” This history focuses not just on historical events but on people, for it is Waterville’s people who make this history so interesting.

“Water Village” chronicles Waterville’s history from its earliest settlement, through the Industrial Revolution, its economic ups and downs, to today as one of Maine’s most influential education centers (with Colby and Thomas College). He tells how the town’s location harnessed the waters of Messalonskee Stream, the Kennebec River and the Sebasticook River for sawmills and factories.

He tells of the city’s prosperity as a manufacturing center for nearly 200 years, about its unusual bicameral system of government and the importance of immigration to the city’s growth.

Best, however, are Smith’s stories about Waterville’s people, like William Kendall who invented the first circular saw; famous shirt-maker Charles Hathaway; and Walter Wyman, an entrepreneur who later formed Central Maine Power. Few Mainers know that Waterville also produced Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful” in 1895; Dr. Richard Hornberger who wrote the book “M*A*S*H” in 1968; or that Marden’s discount store was founded in Waterville.

Learn why “Waterville enjoyed politics as a form of high entertainment,” about the city’s 1952 beard and moustache parade, why parking meters caused such a furor in 1947, and why 14 train-car loads of beer sold out in one day in 1933. It seems Shakespeare was right.

 

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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