Maine Winter Noir

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here. I’m a little tired today so bear with the typos, should there be any. I was up in the middle of the night, as has become my habit of late. I wake up, try to go back to sleep, toss and turn, but finally give up.

It’s no use. I just have to check.

The outside 3 (1)

It’s been cold in my neck of the Maine woods for the last, well, it seems like forever. How cold, you say? So cold the feral tom cats under our barn have given up fighting and are huddled together for warmth. So cold that the turkeys are coming in from the fields to scrounge under the birdfeeder. So cold that last night sometime between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., one of our cars, an SUV, slid down to the road on the ice-covered driveway. What got it started? A gust of northwest wind? One of those cats jumping on the hood?

Last night it was 10 degrees, balmy. We’ve gotten so that anything around zero is normal, and for a while there double digits below zero barely raised a shiver. I feel like an Alaskan, or I would except that parts of Alaska have been warmer than Maine. A couple of days ago it hit the high 20s and I was driving around with the sunroof open. If the revision of my next book is late I’ve got a good excuse: I was putting wood in the stove. And putting wood in the stove. And putting wood in the stove.

Which brings me to the point (about time he stopped his whining, you say). On April 19 I’ll join some of my colleagues on this blog as we take part in Maine Crime Wave, a crime-writing conference in Portland. We’ll talk shop, tell stories, try to help each other with the finer points of this particular and peculiar craft. It should be fun. And warm.

In the run-up to this event, we’ve been interviewed by the Maine press, and one of the questions we’ve been asked is, “Why is Maine so conducive to mystery writing?” I spoke to Maureen Milliken, a newspaper editor and columnist (and crime writer) and I talked, I think, about how crime in Maine isn’t lost in general mayhem, as in other places. In Maine we have time and inclination to consider motive and consequences, character and circumstances.

But after I hung up, and I was looking out the window at the frozen tundra, the gun-metal gray ice, the snow piled outside the north window four feet high, I had another idea. You know how they say that during heat waves people go nuts in a criminal sort of way?  Well, what happens during a Siberian-style Maine cold snap? I’ll tell you what happens. You get very quiet. You have very dark thoughts. You begin to think of the ways that people annoy you, especially the ones who jet off to the Caribbean and come back all cheery and tanned.

And maybe, just maybe, the cold and the dark get to be too much. And somebody pushes you just a little too far. And you do something you’ll regret for a very long time. From the warmth of your prison cell.

And that will become fodder for the kinds of people who invent stories about people like you. They do this to pass the time during the long Maine winter, when they wake up to the sound of the furnace running, the house creaking, mice doing laps in the walls.

And check the temperature. And it is cold.


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4 Responses to Maine Winter Noir

  1. Kate Flora says:

    Cold and heat are great drivers of crime, Gerry. I think you can work this one.


  2. And don’t forget the snow on this first day of spring. It’s nearly 9AM now. By the time the season officially changes (early afternoon, I think), we’ll have ANOTHER two inches on the ground here in the western Maine mountains. Oh, well. On the bright side, writers can work at home!


  3. Lea Wait says:

    Love it, Gerry! You’re right about the cold. Although I prefer to think of it as nature’s way of keeping me at the computer …..!

  4. John Clark says:

    I’ve been joking with patrons that even the frost heaves are shivering and those flashers who started handing out written descriptions in late December because it was too cold, are now in such bad shape they don’t dare take their hands out of their pockets for fear of instant frostbite. Cabin Fever has come upon central Maine with a vengeance for sure.

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