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.
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 …