Words on words: Paul Doiron and the Poacher’s Son
This Thursday, May 20th that is, Downeast Editor Paul Doiron will be coming to Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksllers to discuss his new book, The Poacher's Son, a terrific thriller about a Maine Game Warden whose woodsman father becomes a murder suspect on the run. The Warden is called in to help track down his father deep in the North woods. Event details are here. For a first novel The Poacher's Son has gotten a very unusual quantity of rave reviews from some of America's most prominent writers, John Lescroat, Andre Dubus III, Nelson De Mille, Tess Gerritsen, and C.J. Box, to name a few! Hmmmn. To get to the bottom of things I asked Paul to submit to a few hard hitting questions...
Kenny Brechner: The concept of wilderness in Maine has long been the subject of public and literary discussion, for example Maine's Tilbury House produced a book on the topic, On Wilderness Voices from Maine, which had 40 different essays with 40 different perspectives. Did you see your novel as an opportunity to offer a personal perspective in this regard?
Paul: The Poacher's Son is definitely a personal book in the sense that my protagonist, Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch, shares with me a deep connection with nature. I did my best in the novel to describe the forest in detail -- the sights, sounds, and smells -- because I wanted to show Mike's engagement with the natural world in intimate terms.
In terms of wilderness, I'm not sure much of it still really exists in Maine. One consequence of the end of the river drives in the 1970s is that thousands of miles of logging roads were built crisscrossing the northern forest. It's just impossible to experience the Maine woods now as Thoreau did. Even in pockets of wilderness you'll hear internal combustion engines in the far distance and see parades of contrails streaking overhead.
KB: Hmmn. well mum's the word to Henry David. St. Anselme was big on considering the imagined audience of a writer. You would be expecting both an audience of Mainers, and a large audience of readers from away as it were, of course. In writing the book, though, did you focus more on one of those audiences than the other?
Paul: I started off by writing the book I myself wanted to read but was unable to find anywhere. If I had to characterize that book it would be some sort of weird hybrid of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, the collected works of Dashiell Hammett, with a touch of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying thrown in for good measure. As I did the second and third drafts of The Poacher's Son, I did become conscious of the need to explain certain Maine places and folkways to out-of-state readers. My publishers encouraged me to go even farther in that direction with the final draft, and I agreed with their advice since I wanted to tell my story -- and share my Maine -- with the largest possible audience.
KB: As a Maine Guide you have obvious personal experience to draw from, but did you have any favorite books as a kid, along the lines of Rascal or Where The Red Fern Grows, which influenced you?
Paul: Tolkien was an influence. He's not usually thought of as a nature writer, but read his descriptions of the Old Forest, the Misty Mountains, and the Ents, and you'll discover an author who paid very close attention to the natural world. One of my grade school teachers read my class "Where the Red Fern Grows," so that was certainly an influence. The first short story I ever remember loving was Jack London's "To Build a Fire." I'll throw in a couple of offbeat ones too: the pamphlet "You Alone in the Maine Woods" published by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, and this incredible booklet that came with my first Havahart trap. It provided testimonials and advice on how to trap everything from skunks to snapping turtles. I still have that dog-eared little treasure. (Bacon will catch just about any animal for what it's worth.)
KB: Great call on Tolkien. The pace and the passages in The Ring Goes South are so majestic. Thanks Paul!
Paul: Sure. Looking forward to the reading!