DEATH IN VENISON: MAINE NEWSPAPER MYSTERIES WITH NATE AND NASTY by James Napoli and Luanne Napoli; Maine Authors Publishing, 2022; 243 pages, $18.95; ISBN 978-1-63381-333-5.


Wilbur Storey (1819-1884), a famous newspaperman nobody has ever heard of, correctly said: “It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell.” And that’s exactly what the local paper in fictional Venice, Maine does.

This is the debut book by husband and wife writers James and Luanne Napoli, career journalists with a keen eye for plot, structure, characters, dialogue and atmosphere. This collection of three mystery novellas set in Maine features Nate and Nasty Emerson, veteran international correspondents who’ve settled in Venice for a quieter life running the small town weekly paper, the Venice Sun. Their biggest story so far is changes to the school lunch menu.

Nate and Nasty (Nastasia), are married, smart, funny, blunt and hungry for real news. Aided by the police chief, fire chief, town fuel-truck driver, and Click, their eager photographer, they find themselves up to their green eyeshades in murder. In “Esmat,” an immigrant Arab woman is found dead on the beach, but the investigation discovers that nobody knows anything about her — not the truth anyway. Murder, blackmail and international intrigue surface, but the answers are much closer to home.

In “Peter,” a hippie commune goes nuts when a founding member dies mysteriously, and the landowner announces he’s selling to a condo developer. A simple human-interest story dumps Nate and Nasty into a foul-smelling case of murder, drugs, lust and weird behavior, and the conclusion is a terrific surprise.

Finally, in “Helen,” the Venice Theater Guild is rehearsing for a Shakespeare play with two traveling actors hosting workshops. One person, however, smells a rat and plans a twist. Meanwhile, Nate and Nasty and the Angry Osprey Irregulars (the bar where they hang out) investigate a New England crime report that points ominously to Venice.



Arend Thibodeau is a man fascinated with things that are obsolete, discarded and abandoned. In Maine there is no shortage of things like that hidden all over the state, and he is determined to find them.

FORGOTTEN INDUSTRY AND INSTITUTIONS OF MAINE by Arend T. Thibodeau; Arcadia Publishing, 2023; 96 pages, $24.99; ISBN 978-1-63499-473-6.

Thibodeau is an award-winning photographer living in Harmony, Maine. He calls himself an “urban explorer,” but he seems to find himself exploring deep in the woods, along obscure rural roads and railroads, in old buildings, churches and factories long neglected and decaying.  This slim volume is just a sample of the “forgotten industry and institutions” he’s found in Maine, illustrated with 152 photographs.

In the section on transportation he features a graveyard of old milk trucks (yes, the milk trucks that used to bring dairy products right to your home), along with photos of rusting hulks of fire trucks, work trucks and old cars like the Packard and Nash. He also features defunct railroad cars and vacant stations, as well as the curious mystery of how two 90-ton locomotives were discovered in the north woods in the middle of nowhere.

The manufacturing section highlights old hydro-power plants and dams, along with abandoned mills and factories, even a mysterious granite structure hidden in the woods, a sight he calls the “Stonehenge of Maine.” Institutions include the old Alfred jail (and a gruesome 1873 murder), churches and the old Solon Meetinghouse.

Thibodeau admits historical records don’t exist for most of the things he’s found, so imagination will have to suffice. However, learn about the “ghost trains,” which structure was saved by art students, and which well-known but now long-gone Maine factory once made wooden
croquet balls. His follow-up book will feature residential ruins of Maine.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Maine.

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