TAKE IT EASY: PORTLAND IN THE 1970s by John Duncan; Islandport Press, 2021; 124 pages, $19.95; ISBN 978-1-952143-20-5.


Journalist Joseph Gallivan wrote: “Old hippies don’t die, they just lie low until the laughter stops and their time comes round again.” And for old hippie photographer John Duncan, the time is now.

“Take it Easy” is Portland photographer Duncan’s first book, a nostalgic photographic essay of Portland in the 1970s, a decade of mixed past and future, as seen by a street photographer with a Canon camera that used real film (remember that?).

The book contains more than 130 black and white photographs taken by “a 20-something free spirit with no formal photographic training,” capturing terrific images of people, places, and events, all candid shots taken while walking around or driving a cab downtown.

Duncan loves photography, was self-taught as a teenager in high school, has a keen eye for subject, timing and clarity, and his photos can easily make folks see themselves on Congress Street, or leaning against a VW bus with hippie pals standing around. The photos are wonderful, but his narrative and captions are equally revealing and entertaining. It soon becomes clear that this effort is not just a photo history of Portland in the ’70s, but a personal journey of fond memories, most fun, some bittersweet.

Street scenes show downtown Portland in a sad transition of decline and decay, old businesses long gone but fun to remember, like the Porteous department store and the Senior Citizens Barber Shop. Fashion is a reminder of frumpy old ladies wearing hats and gloves, and hippies with long hair, bell-bottoms and paisley shirts.


During the 1970s Duncan partied hard (booze, drugs, music), worked odd jobs as a dishwasher, pump jockey and cab driver, and his stories are wistful recollections of good times. This is his journey, as well as an important look back at ourselves.

WINTER WOLVES: A ROAMER WESTERN by Matthew P. Mayo; Five Star Publishing, 2021; 239 pages, $25.95; ISBN 978-1-4328-8732-2.


Journalist Katherine Whitehorn (1928-2021) wrote: “I wouldn’t say when you’ve seen one western you’ve seen the lot; but when you’ve seen the lot you get the feeling you’ve seen one.” She could’ve said the same thing about western novels, but then she probably never read anything by Matthew Mayo.

Maine writer Mayo is a Spur Award-winning author of 18 westerns, four in his unique Roamer series, including his latest “Winter Wolves.” And Mayo is smart — the Roamer character is distinctive and his western adventures are not typical hay-burners. This series is different and Mayo nails it with solid, entertaining storytelling.

Roamer is the main character’s name as well as an apt description of his lifestyle. He is big, ugly, well-armed, reads poetry has just two friends, and believes animals are much easier to get along with than people. He likes his own company best. In “Winter Wolves” Roamer heads into Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains to visit his pal Maple Jack and his companion Winter Woman. Roamer intends to visit a bit then trek into the mountains on snowshoes — a thoughtful, solitary journey.

At his friends’ remote cabin Roamer finds evidence of violence and both friends are missing. Roamer may seem like a softie, but he’s not. He follows tracks in the snow, not realizing he’s no longer the hunter: he’s the prey. An avalanche and a wolf attack leave him in a bad spot, but it will get worse — much worse.

What he discovers is difficult for him to understand, but he knows he must get away and fast. However, complications arise, especially when murderous wolf hunters show up and start shooting. Part of the tale is farfetched, but Mayo pulls it off nicely with a colorful story of folks just doing the best they can.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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