Over an eight-book run, author Paul Doiron has put Maine game warden Mike Bowditch through a number of challenges. He’s been threatened, beat up, submerged in icy water and nearly killed in various other ways.
In “Stay Hidden,” Doiron’s ninth in the Bowditch series, the work-in-progress warden ends up in yet another pickle, in a location that tests him in new ways.
He’s on a Maine island, well offshore, responding to the report of a hunting homicide. While there, Bowditch learns that the story he has been told may not be true. In fact, the victim isn’t even who islanders thought she was. And over the course of 341 riveting pages, Bowditch, flying solo for the most part, is forced to figure out what’s going on.
“Stay Hidden,” published by Minotaur Books, is available Tuesday, July 3, at bookstores around the U.S. Doiron will also embark upon a nationwide book tour in July, with several stops in Maine.
Doiron’s fictional Maquoit Island is beautiful but menacing, full of malnourished deer — thus the hunting homicide — and countless unpredictable residents who keep Bowditch on his toes, and leave him wondering who he can trust.
The answer, as it often is in Doiron’s thrillers, is really quite simple: In the short run, Bowditch can (usually) trust himself. Only after the fog fully lifts and a crime or three are solved does the warden learn if there are others who deserved the same trust.
Doiron, who lives in midcoast Maine, said putting Bowditch on an isolated island with a mystery to solve seemed to make perfect sense.
“I’ve been looking for the right story to get Mike offshore, and it’s tough, because the game wardens don’t do a lot on Maine’s coastal islands,” Doiron said. “So I had to do some serious planning to figure out how I was going to come up with an excuse to get Mike onto one of these islands and make it feel like it works.”
Doiron captures the nuances of Maine island life, illuminating an isolated community that’s largely distrustful of outsiders. The residents are independent and the community is self-regulating. Bowditch, as you might imagine, is not welcome.
Doiron said creating a realistic Maine island was important to him.
“As a Maine author, I feel a special obligation to get Maine right,” Doiron said. “As somebody who has read a lot of books set along the Maine coast and set on the islands, you could see the cases where the author’s only experience is as a summer person, or worse, as a tourist. They just have no real insight into how these communities function outside their sight.”
But he also knew that picking an actual island and using it as the setting wasn’t a good choice.
“I realized very quickly that there was just no way I was going to be able to set the book on a real island. For one thing, I needed an island that was pretty far offshore, but that also had deer on it, and nothing really fell into that category for me,” he said. “I also had the concern that if I wrote a book that was set on a real Maine island, I’d never be able to set foot on it again.”
Doiron said that he has written the series as if it’s Bowditch’s autobiography, and as he invents new situations to challenge the character, he’s constantly surprised by what his protagonist gets up to.
“One of the things I try to do when I start a new book is to leave enough of the story unknown to me when I begin them. I don’t plot every little twist out. I like to be surprised,” Doiron said.
Among the plot lines he doesn’t plan ahead of time: The twists and turns involved with Bowditch’s turbulent love life.
“I think the issue of Mike’s relationships is one that’s constantly surprising me,” Doiron said. “I will say, I hope for the guy that it does work out eventually. I’m not trying to prolong anything for the sake of suspense or teasing people. Every time I think I have it figured out, I say, ‘No. Something else needs to happen here.”
And while Doiron is gearing up to promote “Stay Hidden,” he’s already hard at work on the 10th book in the series, and was willing to pass along a little preview on what readers can expect in next year’s release.
“I wanted to do a more action-oriented book for awhile,” Doiron said. “I’ve been reading a lot of Lee Childs and have been wanting to write a book with a little more vitality to it. It’s going be more action packed.”
And that’s not all.
“It’s also going to see the return of two favorite characters who have been offstage for a few books,” Doiron said. “So people who have been begging me to bring back some of their own personal favorite characters are hopefully going to be satisfied with what I’m doing.”
Promotional events Doiron has on tap in Maine in July:
—Book launch at Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, July 2, 7-8 p.m.
—Signing at Left Bank Books in Belfast, July 3, 3-4 p.m.
—Signing (with his wife, Kristen Lindquist, who will also be signing her most recent poetry collection, “Tourists in the Known World: New and Selected Poems), Owl & Turtle Bookshop Cafe, Camden, July 11, 3-5 p.m.
—Reading and signing, Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, July 13, 7-8 p.m.
—An appearance at Books in Boothbay book fair, July 14, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
—Reading and signing as part of Curtis Memorial Library’s Summer Spotlight Author Series in Brunswick, July 19, 7-8:30 p.m.
—Paul will throw out the first pitch and stay to sign books at the Portland Sea Dogs baseball game, July 23, 7-8 p.m.
—A conversation about “Stay Hidden” between Paul and author Elise Juska at Portland Public Library’s Literary Lunch, July 25, noon-1 p.m.
—A reading, Q & A and signing at Longfellow Books in Portland, July 25, 7-8 p.m.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.