Old Orchard Beach provides backdrop for new Maine mystery

By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 06, 2013, at 10:41 a.m.

“Strangers on the Beach” by Joshua Pahigian, October 2012, Islandport Press, 282 pages, hardcover, $22.95.

A man rescues a woman floundering in the surf off Old Orchard Beach. Nearby, a boy meets a stranger lurking in the dunes. A blood-caked mask washes ashore. And so the mystery of “Strangers on the Beach” begins.

The book’s author, Joshua Pahigian, originally from Massachusetts, first visited Old Orchard Beach as a tourist, vacationing in the oceanside town with his wife for multiple summers.

“The image I got as a visitor wasn’t really the true essence of the town,” said Pahigian, who moved to Buxton, Maine, with his wife in 2002, after graduating from Emerson College with a master of fine arts in creative writing. “When I finally moved to Maine and got a job working in Old Orchard Beach, I saw it during the off season, when it’s a small community of about 8,000 residents. It’s a supportive community — kind of a hardscrabble town in some ways.”

The young writer first found success in the realm of non-fiction, as the author of “The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan’s Guide to Major League Stadiums” (2004) and “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out,” (2010).

It was on his morning walks along the shore, from Pine Point Beach to Old Orchard Beach, that he finally found the inspiration to pursue his true passion: fiction.

“I guess having that connection to Old Orchard meant a lot to me. Personally, it gave me the confidence I needed — writing about a place I loved and living so close by,” he said. “I’d get ideas — seeing the tourists, talking to the locals, smelling the food, feeling the water — it all inspired me.”

Somewhere along the way, fictional characters took shape and fell into the dangerous plot of “Strangers of the Beach,” published in October by Maine’s Islandport Press.

“I didn’t want just one protagonist to drive the action forward the way we are traditionally taught to write,” Pahigian said. “I wanted to write several stories that would eventually come together in one main story.”

The perspectives in the story vary drastically, from a local 15-year-old boy to a thrill-seeking billionaire. And as events unfold, these strangers are brought together for better or for worse.

“I wanted all the characters to have the opportunity to change in some way during the story,” he said. “Most of the characters emerge from the story in a little bit better place — with some notable exceptions.”

Some of the characters simply don’t survive.

The novel’s short, action-packed chapters flip-flop between characters, making for a quick read. Just when the reader figures out one puzzle, another is presented.

“There was something very liberating and exciting about having the freedom to take the story where I wanted it to go, rather than to have to adhere to the description of a baseball park,” Pahigian said. “It’s a completely different sort of writing than my nonfiction. I think it’s a more personal sort of thing for me. Fiction writing is sharing my imagination with the world.”

Pahigian is already halfway through the first draft of his next novel, and while it’s not a sequel, it does take place in his beloved Old Orchard Beach.

“Margaret from Maine,” by Joseph Monninger, Plume, December 2012, 368 pages, paperback, $16, ebook, $9.99, audiobook, $29.99.

An unconventional romance, “Margaret from Maine,” explores the complexities of duty and love, when a young married couple are impacted by the hardships of war.

On a dairy farm in Maine, Margaret Kennedy awaits her husband, who returns from war overseas with injuries that leave him permanently changed. Soon after, the President signs a bill in support of wounded veterans, and Margaret is invited to Washington, to be escorted by Charlie King, a handsome Foreign Service officer. Margaret struggles as her feelings for the officer start to threaten her marriage.

Monninger, of Warren, N.H., is also the author of “Eternal on the Water” and “The End of the World as We Know It,” as well as several award-winning young adult novels. Visit his website at joemonninger.com.

“Island Friends” written by Jeff Bowman and Jennifer York, illustrated by Dawna Gardner, 2012, Maine Authors Publishing, 30 pages, paperback, $14.95.

Awarded runner-up in the children’s books category at the 2012 New England Book Festival, “Island Friends” is the story of young girl who becomes friends with an unlikely character while searching for treasures on the beach of the Maine island she calls home. Rendered in fascinating watercolor illustrations, this imaginative tale introduces children to the wonders of the ocean and Maine lobstering. The book also includes a small educational piece on lobsters. For information, visit maineauthorspublishing.com.

“Roadside Rest,” by Robert M. Chute, November 2012, Just Write Books, 244 pages, paperback, $14.95.

The third book in a series of Maine mysteries, “Roadside Rest” is set in post Korean War rural Maine, in the fictional town of Wyman Falls. The investigation of a missing man includes some interesting Maine characters that readers might recall from Chute’s previously published mysteries, “Coming Home” and “Return to Sender.” A seventh generation Maine native, Chute is Professor Emeritus of Biology at Bates College and served as director of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area. He lives in Poland, Maine.

“The Maine Event,” Spike Gillespie, December 2012, March Girls Studio, 178 pages, paperback, $16.99.

Spike and her partner, Warren, set out from Texas for a simple Maine vacation in “The Maine Event.” Instead, the trip transforms into something resembling a reality show as the couple deal with the difficulties of being together 24/7. What truly makes the book enjoyable is the voice of the storyteller, Spike, whose spunky language and humor is meant for adult readers only. The events that occur in Maine — a moose spotting, a visit to Monhegan Island, and trouble at the Canadian border — all become moments that test the couple’s strange yet love-filled relationship.

Gillespie lives in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, Esquire, Elle, National Geographic Traveler, and many other prestigious publications. She has published six other books, which can be found at spikegillespie.com/books. For information on “The Maine Event,” visit spikemaineevent.com.

“Navigating Early,” by Clare Vanderpool, Jan. 8, 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 320 pages, hardcover, $16.99.

“Navigating Early,” a book for ages 10 and up, follows the story of a Kansas boy, Jack Baker, who is placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine at the end of World War II. There, he runs into Early Auden, one of the strangest boys he has ever met. Among other things, Early collects clippings about the sightings of a black bear in the nearby mountains. Despite their differences, the boys become friends and embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the elusive bear. But the journey becomes much more than just a quest for wildlife.

Vanderpool lives in Wichita, Kan., and is also the author of “Moon Over Manifest.” Visit her website at clarevanderpool.com.

“The Wrath of Angels: A Charlie Parker Thriller” by John Connolly, Jan 1, 2013, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 480 pages, hardcover, $26.

Deep in the Maine woods, the wreckage of a plane is discovered. There are no bodies, just a list of names — a record of people who have struck a deal with the devil. Some people wish to hide the list, while others see it as a powerful weapon. Then there’s detective Charlie Parker, who fears that his name might be written on the dangerous document. In “The Wrath of Angels,” Parker races against others — a beautiful, deadly woman; a child with eerie abilities; and a serial killer — into the northern forest to reach the wreckage.

Connolly of Dublin, Ireland, is the author of many books. His Charlie Parker Thriller series includes: “Every Dead Thing,” “Dark Hollow,” “The Killing Kind,” “The White Road,” “The Black Angel,” “Unquiet,” “The Reapers,” “The Lovers,” “The Whisperers,” “The Burning Soul” and “The Wrath of Angels.” Visit his website at johnconnolly.co.uk.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/06/living/book-reviews/old-orchard-beach-provides-backdrop-for-new-maine-mystery/ printed on July 29, 2014