Maine, the way life would be

Hi. I’m Gerry Boyle. Welcome to Maine Crime Writers and the work of the writers whose lovely mugs are spread across the top of this page.

We represent a wide spectrum of the mystery/crime genre, from cozies to thrillers to hardboiled. Our common element, in addition to the fact that somebody nearly always dies in our stories, is our choice of Maine as a setting. You’ll find, if you peruse our work, that our “Maines” are as varied as our styles. You may also find that the Maine of our respective imaginations is hard to find in real life.

I was thinking this last week as I made my way around Portland with videographer Curt Chaput and crew shooting a video trailer for PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE, the Brandon Blake novel coming out in September (much more on this at gerryboyle.com). I’d wandered the city doing research for the book. I walked, sat, stood, drove, had coffee and beers, lunch and dinner (Yeah, I know. Hard work but somebody’s got to do it), rode with police, and finally settled on locations for much of the action. Parkside. Riverton, Munjoy Hill, the waterfront, boatyards, and marinas.

As I wrote the book, I pictured the places I’d been, the people I’d seen. I heard their voices, saw their expressions. The scenes take place in real locations, on real streets, with real characters.

Or so I thought.

When we were looking for places to set up and shoot, we’d roll up and I’d look around and say, “No, this isn’t quite right.” Drive to the next block and that wouldn’t be quite right, either. Up the street. Down the street. Not gritty enough. Not posh enough. Not tough enough. Not upscale enough. Very close but just not exactly what I had pictured.

It was then that I realized that the world of PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE had changed in the writing process. I started with real places and morphed them into something that may exist only in my head. I can picture it clearly as I write. I see the street where the action opens. It’s vivid in my mind. I can picture a young woman named Chantelle, her face drug-ravaged but faintly pretty. I can picture the young Sudanese woman caught between two worlds. I can picture Lily and Winston, the trust-funded East Enders, their condo overlooking the Eastern Prom.  But when we drove up and down the prom, there were houses like it. But not the house I had written about and could picture perfectly. I didn’t see Lily and Winston anywhere.

Curt Chaput shot the video and it looks great. Ominous. Dark. But still very Maine, very Portland. (Screen grabs from the video are included here.) But the video isn’t a precise replica of the things I see in my head. 

I haven’t asked my compadres in Maine Crime Writers but I’ll bet they would say the same thing. That the places of their books are a lot like real places in Maine but have been photo-shopped by their imaginations. This is fiction after all, not documentary. Stuff comes into our heads and different stuff comes out on the page. It’s a magical thing, really. Kind of scary. Where does this invented world really come from? Who knows.

What I hope you will get, those of you who sample our varied works, will be the essence of Maine. Take all of our Maines and ball them up and you should get that something that may not be actual but will ring true.

I welcome your thoughts. Until next time …

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10 Responses to Maine, the way life would be

  1. MCWriTers says:

    Gerry, you’re absolutely right! Even when you start writing about a real place, it changes. Which is why I now fictionalize my major locations (e.g. Waymouth, Maine, on the Madoc River.) Although actual places (in my Shadows mysteries, Pemaquid Point, the Edgecomb Potters, Prouts Neck) do show up in my books, Waymouth is a mid-coast town where I can mix fictional and real places to meet the needs of my story. It would be hard to make a video there, though! Lea Wait

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  2. jan brogan says:

    I love that way of thinking about it, photoshopping the real setting. I think of it as impressionist painting. Realistic painting with every detail isn’t quite a interesting as the impression of what you saw — or lived and worked in.

    Congrats on the new blog!! Maine is a great place for murder!

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  3. Pj Schott says:

    We form so many of our own images while reading. Anything other than what I read/imagined is a welcome surprise. Perfect is the enemy of good. Just feel the energy, point & click.

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  4. June Shaw says:

    Interesting article. I look forward to reading more from your new blog.

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  5. Ronna DeLoe says:

    All the best Gerry. See comment below in response to Kate’s post. Ronna DeLoe

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  6. I start all my books with a single image that grows and becomes embellished as my imagination takes over….

    Wonderful blog. Always thought of Maine as bucolic and QUIET. Death? Mystery? Mayhem? Sounds intriguing!

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    • MCWriTers says:

      Katrin…there’s a lot going on below the surface. Isn’t that always true? And being a middle child, I’m going to visit your web site. Kate

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    • Barb Ross says:

      I start all my short stories with a single image in my head. The weird part is, almost 100% of the time, that image never ends up in the final draft.

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  7. Interesting blog. I was wondering who you rode along with at the PPD. Portland is a great place to set a novel and I will be looking for your book when it arrives on the shelf…I’ll check amazon soon. 🙂

    Michelle

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    • MCWriTers says:

      Thanks, Michelle. I’ve talked to several night shift officers. A friend, Christian Stickney, has been generous enough to allow me to ride with him and Taz, his canine. Both very professional, as I have found all the Portland cops. Brandon Blake has some big shoes to try to fill.

      Hope you enjoy the book.

      Best,
      Gerry

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