Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren
categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence
Observing the course of Maine game warden Mike Bowditch’s career, as depicted in author Paul Doiron’s award-winning series, has been endlessly entertaining because of the strong current of authenticity driving the narrative. In the first three award-winning novels (The Poacher’s Son, Trespasser and Bad Little Falls) we meet young Bowditch, headstrong, intelligent and impetuous. Bowditch has always been an interloper, an unwelcome guest to the party of policing an immense tract of what passes as wilderness in the 20th century, while trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to ‘fit in’ amongst his game warden colleagues. It does not help that he is the son of the northwoods’ most notorious and legendary poacher and a Colby grad to boot.
But in the fourth book in the series, Massacre Pond, Doiron raises the stakes, by pulling two incendiary issues right from the headlines of the local Maine papers: a notorious (and still ‘unsolved’) slaughter of moose and the proposal by a wealthy landowner to create a new national park in Maine’s northwoods. Bowditch becomes caught between two factions in a quintessential clash of warring cultures. It seems that the locals are seriously pissed at newly rich landowner Eleanor Morse’s intentions to establish an enormous national park in her holdings–closed to hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, four-wheelin’ and mudding and all those things the good ol‘ boys consider their birthright. The seemingly senseless massacre of the moose (based on a 1999 incident), is seen as a shot across the bow by local elements determined to stop Morse’s proposed park.
Doiron, whose day job is editor of DownEast magazine, knows this terrain intimately (he is also a registered Maine guide). His depictions of the day to day details of game warden work and the conflicts roiling Maine’s northwoods as the painful transition from resource extraction to ecotourism plays itself out, are nuanced and insightful. But make no mistake: this series is really about the maturation of Mike Bowditch and in Massacre Pond Bowditch continues to ‘grow up,’ showing a newly developed appreciation for the intricacies of the class and culture war
s and pursuing a course of action that positions him to help find solutions to these seemingly intractable issues. Such has not always been the case and throughout the course of these four novels, it has been a pleasure to watch the process…
Forget the chick-lit, Massacre Pond is the perfect summer read.
[Bill Lundgren is a writer and blogger, also a bookseller at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine (“A Fiercely Independent Community Bookstore”). He keeps a bird named Ruby, and teaches at Southern Maine Community College.]