Short on story ideas? Become a bartender.

From time to time, we like to introduce our readers to new Maine mystery writers. Today we’re pleased to share a post from newly published author Albert Waitt.

Albert Waitt: As I was becoming a writer, I paid my bills by working as a bartender. I found that people had some funny ideas about those who sling drinks for a living, and they often laid at opposing ends of the spectrum. Many folks assumed that a casual relationship with morality and a more-than-professional familiarity with alcohol were job requirements. Others, however, swore by bartenders for their psychoanalytic powers, crisis management skills, and priest-in-a-confessional levels of discretion. There was one assumption shared by just about everyone, however: That bartenders heard a lot of good  stories. That, I can assure you, is true. And it’s a story that I heard while working the bar at Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport that became the impetus for The Ruins of Woodman’s Village, my crime novel released this month.

A couple of my Monday night regulars, who any journalist would verify as reliable sources, told me about a friend of theirs whose mother was a psychic. It seemed that whenever this woman drove through Kennbunk, she became anxious and uneasy on one particular section of road. Even in quiet York County there are unsolved murders, and it turned out that a main suspect in one of them lived at the spot where their friend’s mother never failed to become unsettled. Upon hearing this, my “writer’s brain” kicked  into action.

I was sure a great crime novel could spring from the story.  But my “writer’s brain” only sent me down wrong turns and dead ends as I tried to make it about a son who discovers his psychic mother’s old journals and tries to solve a disappearance thirty years in the past.  After throwing out hundreds of pages, I found a way into my version of the story by focusing on a crime as it happened in 1986. When the main character became an easy-going police chief who fears he may be in over his head investigating the disappearance of two missing sisters in his postcard-worthy town–that’s when the narrative came together and suspense flooded the pages.

While the story I heard did not become the story I told, it did start me on the road to The Ruins of Woodman’s Village. That it wasn’t a direct route is no surprise. As every mystery reader and writer knows, things never go anywhere without a certain number of twists and turns.

Albert Waitt’s mystery, The Ruins of Woodman’s Village, was published in March 2023 by Level Best Books. Set on the Maine coast in 1986, it is the first in a series featuring Police Chief LT Nichols. When two teenage sisters go missing from a backwoods shantytown, the easy-going Nichols’ summer of patrolling beaches and leading parades is over. His desperate search for the girls takes him from seaside bars and million dollar estates to abandoned farms and run-down shacks. As Nichols races to piece together the girls’ disappearance, he realizes that doing so may tear the façade off his postcard perfect town.

Albert Waitt is a writer based in Kennebunkport, Maine.  His mystery, The Ruins of Woodman’s Village, was published in March 2023 by Level Best Books. Waitt’s first novel, Summer to Fall, was published in 2013 by Barrel Fire Press. His short fiction has appeared in The Literary Review, Third Coast, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Words and Images, Stymie: A journal of sport and literature, and other publications. Waitt is a graduate of Bates College and the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. Experiences ranging from tending bar, teaching writing, playing guitar for the Syphlloids, and frying clams can be found bleeding through his work.

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10 Responses to Short on story ideas? Become a bartender.

  1. John Clark says:

    Welcome to Maine Crime Writers.

  2. David Plimpton says:

    Elwood P. Dowd (played by Jimmy Stewart in “Harvey” (the 9-foot tall rabbit) – 1948):

    ““Harvey and I sit in the bars… have a drink or two… play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they’re saying, “We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fella.” Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We’ve entered as strangers – soon we have friends. And they come over… and they sit with us… and they drink with us… and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they’ve done and the big wonderful things they’ll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    If you survived the BU MFA program, you’re tough enough for this writing gig. Congrats on the new book.


  4. Louy Castonguay says:

    I ofund that spending hours in a car with someone did the same thing. I did volunteering driving for almost 20 years, taking people to alll sorts of appointments. Lots of grist for the mill. I put them into short stories, which I recently published in two volumes, LIfe Choices, and Also, Let Me Count The Ways. I of course, only used the stories told me as launch pads, but there you go. Life sometimes IS stranger than fiction.
    Kudos on yuor book.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks, Louy. You never really know when you’re going to come across something that jumpstarts the process.

  5. allen harvie says:


  6. kaitcarson says:

    Congratulations on your debut! What a great story.

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