THE DETECTIVE IN THE DOORYARD:  REFLECTIONS OF A MAINE COP by Timothy Cotton; Down East Books, 2020; 288 pages, $24.95.


With more than 30 years experience, Bangor Police Lieutenant Tim Cotton has learned a lot about people and himself, and how best to be an effective police officer. His memoir, “The Detective in the Dooryard,” is an honest description and appraisal of those valuable lessons.

Cotton has been a patrol officer, homicide detective, polygraph examiner and the officer in charge of the BPD’s Criminal Investigation Division. However, this excellent memoir does not contain lurid stories of car chases, fistfights, gunfights, violent felonies or any of the high-speed drama so casually portrayed on Hollywood TV cop shows. Instead, he focuses on the things cops do every day, the little things nobody notices or seems to care about.

This is not great literature, as Cotton freely admits he’s a bit wordy and a sucker for silly alliteration like “wandering whippersnappers wheelbarrowing whimsically.” Still, his stories are honest, lucid and touching, with his own brand of self-deprecating humor.

Only one story involves the foot pursuit of a fleeing suspect, easily caught because the man’s pants kept falling down. Other stories reveal the human side of police officers, victims, suspects and just ordinary folks needing some help. In “The Kid from the Trailer Park,” Cotton tells how officers try to do good, try to help people even when they know it won’t work. Cops don’t like to give up.

In “The Widow,” Cotton has a heartbreaking, painful encounter with a woman whose husband has just killed himself. He learned then that sometimes saying nothing at all is the best comfort for both of them.


Learn why you cannot tell a lie in front of the Duck of Justice, about a beat cop’s perfect trifecta, and why “when life gives you lemons, many times it is because you deserve them.”


PRESSING MATTERS:  A MILLIKEN MILLS NOVEL by Bruce A. Fleming; Maine Authors Publishing, 2020; 271 pages, $16.95.


Atari founder Nolan Bushnell (no relation) once said: “Business is a good game — lots of competition and a minimum of rules. You keep score with money.” But newspaper publishing tycoon Nathan Nolan also likes to keep score with the number of people he’s ruined. And he does it with great joy.

“Pressing Matters” is Maine author Bruce Fleming’s debut novel, a complex and depressing story of blatant arrogance, rampant greed, bitter revenge, smarmy entitlement and cold-blooded murder. Fleming is a fan of nighttime TV soap operas like “Dallas,” but the Nolan family and everyone else in this novel make the Ewings look like amateurs.

In fact, it seems Fleming delights in creating the most venal, morally corrupt and spiteful characters possible. These are people folks would love to hate.


Nolan owns a publishing empire with hundreds of newspapers across the country. He loves to crush competitors, and takes particular enjoyment in destroying anyone he doesn’t like — rivals, his son, ex-wife, the son’s friends — treating everyone with contempt. At his corporate headquarters in Milliken Mills (think Portland), Nolan is hosting his annual lavish publisher’s dinner party where he intends to announce a corporate shake-up, humiliate his son and embarrass his friends.

What he doesn’t know, however, is that his wastrel son, vengeful ex-wife and a gaggle of other enemies have plans of their own for the party. Everybody has a powerful motive for murder, but the reader must wade through 160 pages of drama, blackmail, infidelity, accusations, arguments, catfights, name-calling and conspiracies before anybody gets killed.

The police are inept, everyone lies, evidence is overlooked and nobody can figure out what really happened. Fleming abruptly wraps up the confusing murder in just four pages, leaving side plots unresolved. Sadly, there are no heroes and nobody to like here.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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