Maine author Paul Doiron has developed a bit of a routine over the past decade. Come June, his publisher will release the next installment in his Mike Bowditch franchise of mysteries. Then, he’ll hit the road to promote the book from coast to coast.
This year — as the 11th Bowditch tale, “One Last Lie,” is set for release on June 30 — things are a lot different.
“Instead of going to bookstores around the country and doing the usual, sitting at a table or standing at a podium, everything is Zoom-based,” Doiron said. “It’s a brave new world for all of us, including novelists.”
Doiron appeared for a question and answer session with BDN readers on June 23, during which the first half of the program was a formal interview, and the second half consisted of reader questions of the author.
In “One Last Lie” (Minotaur Books), Doiron again sends his protagonist, game warden Mike Bowditch, up against some of the most nefarious criminals you’re likely to find in the Maine woods.
Bowditch spends much of the book off the clock, but using his investigative skills while trying to track down his friend and mentor, Charley Stevens. Stevens has disappeared, leaving Bowditch with only a cryptic clue: “Never trust a man without secrets.”
The book begins in the Florida Everglades, but Bowditch quickly heads back to Maine, where he ends up in the northernmost part of the state on his search for Stevens. In the process, Bowditch ends up trying to learn more about the unsolved disappearance of a warden who had vanished years before after trying to infiltrate a family of poachers.
Doiron said a real-life incident sparked his interest in undercover warden work and led to setting the book in northern Maine.
“One of the original inspirations was the very controversial news stories that broke a couple of years ago about the Maine Warden Service, conducting some raids in Allagash,” Doiron said. “That was a kind of a jumping off point for me. This is not me telling that story. It just sort of planted a seed and I got to thinking about undercover wardens.”
He quickly realized that Bowditch, who has become either famous or infamous during his past adventures, wouldn’t work as an undercover role. He was just too well known. So he invented another character in order to tell the story.
In past books, Bowditch has at times been his own worst enemy, as his impetuous nature has led him to take chances that even a first-time reader quickly realizes will be costly to his reputation or career.
Bowditch is mellowing a bit, Doiron admits, but that doesn’t mean he has turned boring.
“I will spoil this much: There’s a boat chase in the book in which Mike is kind of flying by the seat of his pants and I think you see a little bit of the old Mike in that scene,” Doiron said. “Because of course I want him to be consistent. I want him to still have a little bit of that impulsiveness “
One device Doiron has employed since the origin of the series is setting each book in a particular month, and not repeating months. That way, he can take readers on a thorough tour of Maine and all that it has to offer. “One Last Lie” is set during a sweltering late June, which Mainers will think is a bit prophetic given the weather that the state has witnessed recently.
During the recent event, BDN readers were interested in Bowditch’s love life. When one of his past love interests — Stacey Stevens — was mentioned, one viewer expressed outrage at the notion that she’d be the ultimate winner of Bowditch’s heart. Doiron, who has two more Bowditch books left to complete according to his contract, said he might have an idea how that plot point will play out, but he’s not saying.
And Bowditch’s relationship with Charley Stevens also continues to evolve.
“Charley’s always been his teacher and Mike is beginning to realize that actually he’s learned a lot of these things already. He doesn’t need a teacher as much as he used to. He needs a friend, of course, and he needs a mentor in other ways, but he’s grown up. And that’s what the book is about: [Mike] going through this as a competent, capable guy who can handle things.
Doiron also often shares a hint about the next Bowditch book while he’s promoting the novel that’s ready for release. Though he’s hard at work on the 12th volume, he was uncharacteristically mum about how that’s going, or what readers might expect in a book that won’t be released until a year from now.
I will tell you he survives [‘One Last Lie’]. [The next book] is not being told retrospectively at his wake,” Doiron said.
With 11 books down and at least two more to go in the series, Doiron said he’s determined to avoid any letdowns, which he said he has seen in some other series.
“You’ll be reading a novel and it’s an ongoing series and you just feel that the author would rather be doing something else,” Doiron said. “But, you know, maybe he just may be contractually bound to write to write another one and they’re just not not feeling it. I don’t want to be that guy.”