Maine author Paul Doiron carved a nice niche for himself throughout the past several years, introducing readers to his main character, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, in four novels: “The Poacher’s Son,” “Trespasser,” “Bad Little Falls” and “Massacre Pond.”
Doiron’s latest, “The Bone Orchard,” hits bookstores July 15, and fans of the Bowditch thrillers will be happy to learn their hero is back in the thick of things, solving crimes committed in the Maine woods. In this case, Bowditch is trying to get to the bottom of the shooting — by warden colleagues — of a troubled war veteran.
Doiron, now a full-time novelist, recently answered a few questions posed to him by the BDN:
What was the inspiration for ‘The Bone Orchard’?
“With all of my books, I tend to draw inspiration from real-life events. In ‘The Bone Orchard,’ there were two issues that were on my mind. The first was a statistic released in 2011 that showed that more Mainers had died, per capita, in the War in Afghanistan than residents from any other state. I realized that we have all of these veterans returning to Maine, and many of them had had traumatic experiences that none of us will ever fully understand. At the same time, there was a rash of police shootings in Maine, including one involving two game wardens near the VA hospital in Togus. I began to think about the tragic phenomenon of ‘suicide by cop’ incidents, and I began to wonder what would happen if one of my recurring characters — in this case, Sgt. Kathy Frost — was forced to shoot an Afghan vet who had been badly wounded and was suffering from PTSD. What might happen to her? What would be the fallout for the Warden Service?”
You’ve said you see Bowditch as a work in progress. How does this book help him continue on that journey?
“Without giving too much away — hey, I want to sell books — I can say that Mike Bowditch begins ‘The Bone Orchard’ in a surprising place. He has left the Maine Warden Service after realizing that he had become a warden for the wrong reasons and is now working as a fishing guide in Grand Lake Stream. For years, his supervisors had been telling him he was a screw-up, but Mike has a keen intelligence and a big heart, and he is as brave as hell. And almost as soon as he resigns from the service, he begins having second thoughts. He’s not cut out for civilian life either, he realizes. And when a sniper shoots his friend and mentor Kathy Frost, seemingly in retribution for the death of the Afghan vet, he feels rage and impotence. His emotions force him to take action outside the system.
“‘The Bone Orchard’ is probably the crucial book so far in the series since ‘The Poacher’s Son.’ In previous books, Mike makes a series of personal and professional mistakes and learns from them, but this is the novel where we really begin to see him maturing into the hero he was always mean to be.”
You’re a full-time novelist now. How are you feeling about that decision, and how are things going on that front?
“Well, I’m still affiliated with ‘Down East’ magazine. My position is Editor Emeritus, which means I am supposed to come into the office one day per week and dispense words of wisdom or something. But I am very much enjoying my new life as an almost-full-time novelist. Having the extra time to write is great, but what I appreciate most is that I can get out in the field and do more research for my stories. That’s always been the most fun part of the process for me: riding along with wardens, meeting some of the old-time woodsmen who are now passing away and just generally being in the Maine woods, which is my favorite place in the world.”
And finally, any hints as to what’s next?
“I have a contract with St. Martin’s Press for at least two more Mike Bowditch books. The next one, which I’m writing now, will come out in the summer of 2015. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling ‘The Bone Orchard’ for readers — or jinxing myself — but I will say that it takes place in the Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail, and there is a desperate search for two missing female hikers.”
Postscript: Doiron said the marketing campaign for “The Bone Orchard” kicks off Monday, and he said that campaign will include a cool feature fans will enjoy.
The publisher will release a 6,000-word Doiron short story, “The Bear Trap,” for free. The link goes live Monday, and you can gain free access through Doiron’s website.
“The Bear Trap” was inspired by the tale of the North Pond Hermit, and Doiron said he had a lot of fun writing it.
“It tells a fictionalized version of the story set in the 1970s, with Charley Stevens as a rookie warden, just back from Vietnam, trying to catch a mysterious hermit nicknamed ‘Sweet Tooth,’ who has been breaking into lakefront camps. I can’t send you the story, I’m afraid, for copyright reasons, but I can share the opening paragraphs. My fans love Charley Stevens, and I thought they’d appreciate reading a story where he is the main character and we get some of his history.”