THE THISTLE INN: A WEE BIT OF SCOTLAND IN MAINE by Hilary E. Bartlett; North Country Press, 2020; 146 pages, $22.95


Remember that TV comedy “Cheers,” about the Boston bar that everybody could call home? Well, the Thistle Inn in Boothbay Harbor in the 1960s and 1970s was a real-life joint where folks were so welcome and comfortable some even got their mail there.
“The Thistle Inn” is the debut book by Boothbay Harbor author Hilary Bartlett, a former microbiologist at Bigelow Lab, now an artist and writer. And she was a regular at the inn, so this hilarious memoir rings true and puts “Cheers” to shame.
The Thistle Inn is still on Oak Street in Boothbay Harbor, a long-time inn, pub and restaurant with a colorful history — quirky owners, customers, locals, great food, cheap booze and wild antics over the years. The inn was originally a residence, becoming a business in 1961.
Best is Bartlett’s portrayal of the original owners, Scotsman Donald Morren and his wife, Leonie Greenwood, and the heady decades of the ’60s and ’70s. He wore kilts (no skivvies), she dressed elegantly, he cooked and she managed the place. It was the only restaurant and pub open all winter, and was packed with locals every night all year long.
The inn had live entertainment, hosted weddings and divorces and sponsored the Streakers Ball (shoes and neckties required), the Grand Controversial Divorce Ball (most divorces wins) and the Drunken Sailors’ Race (imagine that), as well as a Gong Show-style talent competition.
Learn how the chef handled complaints about overcooked meat, the secret to his fabulous lobster sauce, how one patron discovered “I’m the second toughest guy in town,” and the mystery of the missing false teeth. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was right: “There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

DILLY by Matthew P. Mayo; Five Star Publishing, 2020; 203 pages, $25.95.


Cowboy advice goes like this: “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.” These are lessons 13-year-old Dilly finds hard to learn.
“Dilly”  is the 15th western novel by Maine author Matthew Mayo, a grim coming-of-age story about an orphan boy caught up in the bloody range wars between cattlemen and sheepmen in Wyoming in the 1890s. Mayo is also the award-winning author of “Stranded” (Five Star, 2017).
This effort is both an exciting western and an inspiring young-adult novel, as Dilly learns some hard lessons about friendship, loyalty and the character traits that separate good men from bad. Adrift on his own, he is taken in by Franklin, a friendly cowboy, and Boss Hatterson, a tough cattle rancher, and put to work helping Cook, the ever-wise black ranch cook.
Dilly’s education includes learning to ride a horse, do what he’s told and stay away from a nasty saddlebum named Earl. He also understands the bitter range war over grazing rights on open range. Violent night raids by Hatterson’s cowboys against the sheepmen and their herds cause friendships to fracture as some men disapprove of Boss’s tactics.
When Dilly’s curiosity takes him on a raid, he is shocked by the brutality and makes a life-changing decision. He sides with the Basque sheepmen and suffers the enmity of nearly everyone he knows. The boy admires the sheepmen’s quiet courage and resolve, and knows he’s on the right side in this fight. However, a final showdown with Cook, Boss and Earl may change his mind.
This outstanding tale is told in first person narrative as Dilly, years later, reminisces on his life and the men he knew so well.
Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

Comments are not available on this story.