Vicki Doudera here.
Today I’m headed to Bethesda to join many of my fellow traditional mystery writers at the Malice Domestic conference. From there, I’ll squish in a car with a few other writers and head to Oakmont, Pennsylvania, for the Festival of Mystery. I attended this great gathering of several hundred mystery readers last year, and am grateful to be invited again.
Both of these events are terrific on so many levels. I meet new readers, catch up with fellow authors, glean inspiration, and gain perspective. Today I’ll also have lunch with a friend who summers in my hometown of Camden, plus catch an exhibit or two at one of D.C.’s fine museums. I’ve been so busy with the different aspects of my life (getting DEADLY OFFER launched, getting FINAL SETTLEMENT written, selling real estate, flying out to California for Left Coast Crime, helping out with Midcoast Habitat and the Junior Prom) that I am looking forward to a little
change of pace. It’s not like I’m going to be lying on a beach drinking margaritas — (that was the trip to Mexico, remember?) but still, I’m ready for a very full, stimulating five days.
And I get to talk about Maine.
As all of us who live in this state know, one thing that is amazing when you go “away” is the reaction you get when you tell people where you are from. Okay, there are those who think you must be nuts to live in Northern New England (a.k.a. Siberia), but most folks find Maine intriguing. They get a kind of wistful look in their eyes just thinking about it, whether they have ever been here or not.
And little wonder. Maine is lovely, we all know that, and it is clean, and it is safe. I’ll say that again — safe. Just yesterday Maine was hailed as the “most peaceful” state by the annual United States Peace Index. The survey, issued annually by the Institute for Economics & Peace, defines peace as “absence of violence.”
Just how is this ranking determined? The five criteria used are the number of homicides per 100,000 people; number of violent crimes; incarceration rate; number of police employees; and availability of small arms.
Now, it might be strange for a crime writer to be pleased that her state is the least violent in the country, but I am. Why? I meet people every day who live in places where they cannot let their children out to play, dare not leave a door unlocked, or will not trust the person who offers to help change their tire. Back when I wrote the first edition of Moving to Maine for newcomers, I realized just how appealing this low crime rate of ours is. You see, many states are not safe — they are downright dangerous. Self-protection and self-preservation are a way of life.
I write about crime but I live in a pretty safe place. Is that a paradox? I guess you could say it’s all relative… I mean, it only takes one crime that affects YOU to make you feel unsafe, unsettled. Or you could look at it this way: in a place where people are generally safe, a random act of violence is especially unnerving. Think of Miss Marple and her St Mary Mead. Anything brutal that happened there was even more heinous because of the peaceful setting. Maine is like that tight-knit village: when an act of violence occurs, it shakes us all to our core.
But today, as I meet my summer friend and the multitude of mystery lovers at Malice Domestic, I will think of Maine as a place of peace. Because it mostly is, and for that, I am grateful.