Gerry Boyle here. Interrupting your lovely Maine summer with a bit of a reality check.
Heroin. Triple murders. Brutal beatings.
That’s the news from “Maine, the way life should be” this week. Sorry to rain on your lobster dinner but Maine isn’t much different from other places. Our gruesome murders are just less frequent and more far flung. And in summer our weather is better.
That’s the report from one of my very favorite newspapers (and I spent a long time in the trade), the Bangor Daily News. This week we had three young people killed and burned in a torched car in a deserted parking lot in Bangor. The report said that the three–two guys and a girl, some criminal records but small-time at best– were burned beyond recognition. Detectives are on the trail of the driver and have headed out of state.
This was just down the interstate from the small town of Howland, where it was reported that in a place where everybody knows everybody two young men were beaten and four were arrested. One of the victims had a whole bunch of broken bones–eye socket, ribs–and his teeth knocked out. The other had 80 facial fractures. Eighty. As in 8-0. How many bones are there in the human face, anyway?
I don’t want to spoil your day. And I’m sure a few readers have already stopped reading. But hey, this is supposed to about Maine crime writing, right? Well, welcome to Maine crime, 2012.
As I write this I’m reminded of a review of my last book, PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE, by a writer for a publication in Portland I’d never heard of. The reviewer said the book was very fast-paced and readable but complained that none of the events in the book would really happen in Maine. Let me think. A missing baby. A New York City drug dealer killed in Portland as he tries to rip off a local. Crazed homeless people with a thread of common sense.
The reviewer was right. I shouldn’t have prettied things up.
Funny thing is, when I wrote PC B&W I thought I was laying it right out there. Well, I was writing in 2010. Things have changed and I don’t mean in the faraway housing projects or tenement streets or wherever else we like to think crime is contained. I mean every back road, in every mill town, at every little country crossroads where you might stop at the general store for a Diet Pepsi and directions.
I won’t go into my theories about general societal breakdown, one of which is that drugs and guns don’t kill people; people on drugs with guns kill people. I will say that my next book is done and gone and already I’m thinking that my bad guys aren’t going to seem so bad, compared with what’s in the Maine news. My crimes–calculated but rational murders and even understandable murders–seem almost quaint. Someone who kills to avenge a murder that took place decades before? How sweet.
Well, I’ve got three other books in the works, including one McMorrow that I like a lot. But already I know I’m going to have to up the ante of badness, reckless violence, lethal and ready weapons. Because readers are going to need to believe in the bad guys so they can believe in my hero. They’re going to have to believe that this is realistic Maine crime fiction and Maine crime reality is changing as we speak.
Time to ratchet it up.