BELFAST, Maine — A lot of people in Waldo County know Daniel Krajack, who worked as a copy editor for two local weekly newspapers in the 1980s and 1990s and was a waiter at the Belfast Cafe.
The last few years have been hard ones for the 67-year-old former wordsmith, who is suffering from a progressive neurological disorder that has left him bedridden and mostly speechless. That’s why publishing and promoting Krajack’s debut novel, “Visiting Hope,” has felt so important to the friends working to make it happen.
“I think that it’s given him something to look forward to,” Jay Davis, Krajack’s former editor at The Republican Journal and the Waldo Independent, said Wednesday. “The illness is just incredibly cruel. It just takes away all these things that make you who you are as a person — communication-wise and mobility-wise.”
Krajack wrote the short novel nearly a decade ago, before his health started to deteriorate. Back then, he made about a dozen copies that he put in a binder and gave to friends to read. Davis was one of those friends.
“I think it’s quite good,” Davis said. “There is a macabre humor in Dan’s book.”
He remembers Krajack as a talented wordsmith who was a good athlete and liked to drink and hang out at local bars such as Rollie’s and the now-defunct Bruno’s. Krajack hand-built his stone house in Frankfort, and he was well-liked around town despite — or because — of the way he could be curmudgeonly and get into barroom arguments, Davis said.
But as the disorder progressed, Krajack’s world shrunk. He lives at Bayview Manor in Searsport, where he gave a photocopy of the manuscript to caregiver Magdalena Legocki.
“I was struck by its originality, its potential, its many layers and clues for a reader to discover, and I talked to him about the book being professionally published,” she said. “He didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm about the project in the beginning. But now he is in — on board as much as he can be in this, probably the last great event in his life.”
Legocki and Davis edited “Visiting Hope” and paid to have it published at Maine Authors Publishing in Rockland.
Davis described the novel as entertaining, quixotic and at-times surreal. It’s set in Maine, but isn’t a Maine novel “per se,” the editor said, adding that the main character is a nameless man with a friend who is sick and about to die.
“The subject matter is prescient,” Davis said. “There’s an eerie similarity between the book and what’s happened to him medically. Thankfully, his offbeat sense of humor is even stronger than his fatalistic message.”
The publication of the book will be celebrated 4:30-5:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at Left Bank Books in Belfast.
Krajack will be the guest of honor, if his health will permit him to make the trip.
“If he does come, I think he will remember everybody,” Davis said. “He will shake their hand.”