Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lobster boats and postmodern mysteries: an interview with Paul Doiron

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 30th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 202nd overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Maine author Paul Doiron to Crime Watch, who is the author of the Mike Bowditch series. Bowditch is a Maine game warden who gets involved in investigations in the rural and wilderness areas of the state. I read STAY HIDDEN recently, the ninth in the series, and loved it. As I said in a review, "Among a seemingly skyrocketing trend of domestic noir, unreliable narrators, and unlikable characters ... Doiron offers something rather timeless: an engaging series centred on an honourable and interesting detective operating in a distinct and well-evoked setting."

Paul certainly has the pedigree for his great touch for the Maine outdoors settings. Paul is a Maine native and Editor Emeritus of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, having served as Editor in Chief from 2005 to 2013, before leaving to write full time. He's served on the Maine Arts Commission and Maine Humanities Council, and is a Registered Maine Guide (specialising in fly fishing). He lives by a trout stream in coastal Maine. His Mike Bowditch series has won and been shortlisted for many major crime writing awards, and is available in a dozen different languages.

But for now, Paul Doiron becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
An early influence and enduring favorite is Dave Robicheaux, the protagonist of James Lee Burke’s signature series set in the Louisiana bayous. Dave is a recovering alcoholic with anger issues and a willingness to stand up for his peculiar old-timey values. He’s the sort of hard-ass who will see a father slap a child in a grocery store and, instead of looking the other way, will go and confront the son-of-a-bitch.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I can cite two: one from childhood, and one I read as a young adult. THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien is the book that made me want to be a writer. I was swept away by the story-telling, the attention to nature, and the world-building. The second book was A FAREWELL TO ARMS. I can still read the opening paragraphs and be transported back to the young man I was when I first encountered them, trying to find my own voice, learning how to live with pain. I am an unapologetic defender of Ernest Hemingway - the early Hemingway, at least - whose flawed and wounded protagonists are far from macho stereotypes.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I had a career as a magazine journalist at “Down East: The Magazine of Maine." It was the perfect preparation for writing my books in that I got to know every corner of the state. Being a journalist was also helpful in three other ways for life as a novelist. It trained me to sit down and write on command. It made me unafraid to call experts with stupid research questions. And it thickened my skin against criticism.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
When we met, my wife-to-be made it a condition of our dating that I take up birdwatching. At the time I knew nothing about birds, but over the past twenty-two years I’ve become a yeoman birder. It’s hard for some people to reconcile that gentle pastime with my enthusiasm for bird hunting. I enjoy shooting quite a bit. My real passion is fly-fishing, but I’m not a trout snob. My favorite fish to catch is probably striped bass, especially when taken off a beach or in a tidal river.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
The town where I currently live, Camden, Maine, is almost the stereotype of a New England tourism destination. It’s a ridiculously picturesque village with a harbor filled with windjammers and lobster boats and a lighthouse winking on an island offshore. Most of the local secrets have been spilled. I always encourage travelers to Maine to take a ride on a ferry out to one of the coastal island communities — preferably off-season when there are only islanders onboard. STAY HIDDEN paints a scary portrait of one of these places, but do not be daunted!

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Oh, boy. Recently, someone saw a picture of me and said, “You look like Stellan Skarsgard!” He is a great actor…but not a young man. I hope I look as good as Stellan, fourteen years from now, when I am sixty-seven.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
That’s always a tough question. I have a lot of fondness for THE POACHER’S SON because it was my first published novel. Lately I’ve been thinking about my third book. When I was writing BAD LITTLE FALLS, I tried to subvert a lot of the expectations we all have about mysteries. I took plenty of chances, some of which paid off. Years later, I stumbled across the critic Ted Gioia’s essay “The Eight Memes of The Postmodern Mystery,” and I think I said aloud, “Huh! Seven of those describe BAD LITTLE FALLS.”

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I was at work at the magazine when my agent called to tell me that St. Martin’s Press had put in a preemptive bid on THE POACHER’S SON and two additional novels. I hadn’t even known she was sending the book out to editors yet, and here I was with a three-book contract. It took a lot of self-restraint to keep from shouting for joy in my busy workplace. Later, I treated myself to my first nice watch, an Omega Seamaster, and that seems to have become a personal tradition (of which my wife disapproves).

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?

Nevada Barr sat in my lap fifteen minutes after meeting me at a book festival in Florida. I don’t remember how that happened or what she was doing there, but I have the photograph to prove it. Nevada is great.

Thanks for taking the time to chat to Crime Watch Paul, we appreciate it!

You can read more about Paul Doiron and his mysteries at his website, and can follow him on Twitter

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