It's a gripping story: Jack Bowditch is the number one murder suspect after a reviled property developer and his police escort were shot and strung up like jacked deer. Jack has a record of drunk, violent behavior and poaching, but he never cared about local politics. Jack has evaded arrest and has disappeared with uncanny skill into the woods. Not even the dogs can find him.
Jack's son, Mike, is a newly minted Maine Game Warden and the narrator of this suspenseful tale. Mike ditches his wardening responsibilities, hoping to find his father before a trigger happy officer shoots him. Childhood flashbacks are woven into the present day manhunt and render a multi-dimensional family portrait. Is Jack a dark hero framed for crimes he didn’t commit or is he a vindictive murderer? Is Mike a reliable narrator?
My only criticism is that the female characters were not as well developed as the male characters. With the notable exception of Mike’s boss, the women function as manipulative objects of desire.
The Poacher’s Son is dripping testosterone, but given that, I was pleased that the protagonist was such a kind and sensitive man. Mike is a good foil to his womanizing father. I’m looking forward to seeing how he matures in the upcoming series.
“The grass was brittle from the cold and made a crunching noise beneath our boots, like a person eating potato chips. At the bottom was a frozen pond, filled with standing dead trees like sharpened poles. There was an area of open water at one end of the pond where a stream flowed out. A muskrat was struggling in the water, near a hummock of grass and dead branches where the trap had been set. My dad waded into the knee-deep water until he stood over the small, writhing animal and shot it with his pistol.”
-The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron
will be released on May 11, 2010 in the USA
author photo by Mark Flemming
Sarah: your fictional story of property development in the North Woods reminded me of the Plum Creek Development Controversy by Moosehead Lake. Was this the inspiration?
Paul: my inspiration for The Poacher's Son actually predates Plum Creek's proposal to develop the Moosehead Lake region. Since 1997, roughly 6 million acres in northern Maine has changed hands. Unfortunately, many of the new timberland owners are absentee profiteers rather than responsible stewards of a precious natural resource. Game wardens have been on the front lines of the transformation that has swept through the Maine woods.
Photo by Kristen Lindquist (Paul Doiron's wife)
Sarah: The Poacher’s Son is full of detail and has a strong sense of place, how did you research it or was it based on personal experience?
Paul: the nature descriptions and sense of place come from my own experience. I was one of those Maine kids who was either wading through swamps, catching snakes, or holed up in my bedroom reading Sherlock Holmes stories. I still spend as much time outside as I can. I fly-fish close to a hundred days each year and am an avid birder. I'm also a Registered Maine Guide, which means I’m licensed by the state in first aid, map and compass work, and basic woodcraft to lead trips into the wilderness.
Sarah: has writing this novel changed or reaffirmed your view of the father-son relationship in your own life?
Paul: my poor father! He's a gentle and even-tempered man, utterly unlike the character of Jack Bowditch. I'm sure readers will wonder where my knowledge of fractured father-son relationships came from. I've had friends with emotionally abusive fathers. I also attended an all-boys Jesuit high school where tests of manhood were daily ordeals. I think I had to unlearn the bad lessons I learned in that hyper-masculine environment before I could write The Poacher's Son.
website, when do you find time to write your books?
Paul: I'm going to steal a joke from Kate Braestrup, who is a Maine Warden Service chaplain and bestselling author. When asked how she balances her job responsibilities, she said, "By neglecting my personal relationships." In my case there's some sad truth in that statement. I would say that my two "full-time" jobs as editor and author actually complement each other, though. Every day I get to explore Maine and meet interesting people. Some of what I learn informs my work for Down East; other observations go into my novels.
Sarah: why do you write fiction instead of nonfiction?
Paul: great journalism is unquestionably an art form (I'm thinking of works like The Executioner's Song and Refuge), and I could see myself writing a nonfiction book eventually. But fiction was my first love, and I think "made up" stories can bring us inside other people's experiences in ways that defy understanding. I've learned more about the human condition from reading novels than I have from reading newspapers. Think of what Pride and Prejudice has to teach us about romantic love, for instance.
Paul: I just love telling stories. Having people lean closer to me and ask, "And then what happened?" It just delights me to no end.
Sarah: what is the best writing advice you received?
Paul: the best advice I received was actually something I read in A Moveable Feast. "All you have do is write one true sentence," Hemingway used to tell himself. "So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there." It's a lesson in staying true to your ethics as an artist, but it's also a piece of practical advice. A novel is built out of individual sentences, after all. You have to persevere.
Sarah: can you share a preview of where the Mike Bowditch series is headed?
Paul: my plan for the series is that in each book Mike will be a year older. Especially in detective fiction we're used to meeting our heroes fully formed. (Philip Marlowe is already Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.) But I'd rather follow Mike as he overcomes his personal demons and discovers an inner strength he doesn't know he possesses. He's going to journey through some very dark places, internal and external, before he becomes the man he's destined to become. I hope readers will want to come along with me.
Disclaimer and Photos: I received the free ARC from the author on my request. Thank you, Maria Padian, for connecting us. Kirsten Lindquist's lake and cabin photos and Mark Fleming's author photo were reproduced with permission and under copyright. My mountain vista in autumn and beaver pond photos are from the White Mountains in Maine.
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