John Clark discussing three very handy references if you want to write real Maine fiction. Way back in the 1990s when I taught Information Technology at Central Maine Community College, one of the things I tried to get my students to understand is that print resources aren’t obsolete. That still holds true twenty plus years later. There are three print resources I use often, not only when writing fiction, but when doing research for friends or when I was a librarian, for patrons.
The First is The dictionary of Maine place-names, by Phillip R. Rutherford, Bond Wheelwright Co. [1971, c1970]. It’s not cheap to buy when you can find a copy, but fortunately there are 66 copies in Maine libraries. If you wanted to dress up a fictional location (or use a real one) in a story, this is a good resource for it. Arranged by county, it covers town names, bodies of water, semi-towns (like Martinsville in Knox County, mountains, points, coves, heads, etc. There are many places whose etiology is listed as unknown, so you as a writer, can come up with your own.
Next is The Maine Register (For The Year). Published by various entities, starting in the early 1800s by Black & Carter in Portland. It continues to be published annually by Tower Publishing. Most Maine libraries have some years available and places like The Maine State Library, Bangor Public Library, Portland Public Library and the varied university libraries have runs going way back.
In addition to listing legislative information (who’s representing where and how to get in touch with them), every municipality is listed, its population, valuation, size, municipal officials and location of the town/city office, what businesses are in that municipality, etc. One of the more fascinating sections for me, is a list of social, civic and special interest groups in the state and where to find them. Perusing this can be a real eye opener. Perhaps the greatest value of this resource is in terms of wanting to know whether a particular business existed in a given town in a particular year. If you were writing a historical mystery, or a contemporary one that referred to a given town a hundred years or more in the past, here’s where you’d find it.
Since the older editions are no longer copyrighted, Google Books has scanned some of them and you can download the entire volume to various gadgets. To see an example, here’s a link. https://books.google.com/books?id=65MoAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
The last resource is one you’ll likely find behind the seat of 75% of the pickup trucks north of Waterville. Now owned and published by Rand McNally, The Delorme Maine Atlas & Gazetteer is pretty much indispensable for anyone heading out hunting or fishing, but it has a lot more. In addition to city and town maps of larger municipalities, it lists where to find towns in the 70 quadrangle maps in my copy as well as listing all minor civil divisions. Those are the fun ones for me. For example if you offed someone and wanted to lead the police on a merry chase, you could leave various body parts in the following locations.
The torso in talmadge, Trout Brook, Turbats Creek, or Temple Intervale
The head in Haynesville, Harfords Point Twp., Hobbstown Twp., or Hopkins Academy Grant
The legs in Lakeville, Lynchtown Twp., Linneus, Lower Cupsuptic Twp., or Labby
The arms in Aurora, Alexander, Argyle Twp., Amity, or Albany Twp.
The hands in Hammond, Harrington, Harmony, Hacket Mills, or Hurd
The feet in Freeman Twp., Forest City twp., Frenchtown Twp., Felch Corner, Flagstaff Twp., or Flat Landing.
If you’re just interested in dumping it in one piece, I suggest Misery Gore as an appropriate spot.
Need a park, hiking trail, boat landing, the distance between two Maine towns, or where to find a stretch of road that’s gates, they’re all here in various sections. Ask any rural Mainer and they’ll tell you this, “MyDelorme don’t go obsolete, it just plain wears out.
I would be lost, literally, without my Delorme. GPS doesn’t work well, to put it mildly, in rural Maine.
What a great article! I will be saving this one. How about a corpse in Caribou?
Too easy to find, at least after the snow melts.