A new national park sparks controversy in Massacre Pond, Paul Doiron’s fourth mystery featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch.
How did you happen to choose a game warden for your sleuth?
I was a very outdoorsy kid growing up in Maine, but when I went to Yale I lost touch with that part of myself. In my early 30s, I really fell in love with Maine again, and decided that I wanted to write a literary suspense novel. It made sense to make my protagonist a Maine game warden because they’re involved with every aspect of law enforcement in the state—not just hunting and fishing violations, but searching for lost children, investigating boat and snowmobile crashes, ferreting out illegal marijuana plots in the woods, etc. I realized that Mike could justifiably be involved in any crime I happened to dream up.
What’s the real-life inspiration for Massacre Pond?
One of the biggest controversies in Maine right now is over a proposal to create a new national park in the northern part of the state. It’s an issue that pits environmentalists against people who work in the woods and worry that logging and paper-making jobs will disappear if hundreds of thousands of acres of timberland are removed from cultivation. It’s a generalization to say this, but the people who are advocating the park are often wealthy out-of-staters. They insist that Maine’s depressed mill towns can become economically vital eco-tourism gateways like Bar Harbor or Jackson Hole. But many Mainers don’t buy this argument. It’s a controversy that gets at resentments over social class and a more widespread fear by many people that their country is being taken from them by “elites.”
Do your books share a theme?
Two of the big issues of our time are rising income inequality and the scary future we’re creating for ourselves by disconnecting from the natural world. In rural Maine, you see very stark contrasts—incredible mansions are going up along the coast just down the road from trailer parks plagued by drugs. Mainers have also begun experiencing that dislocation that comes when your eco-system collapses; we used to have one of the most productive fisheries in the world, but overfishing decimated the stocks of ground fish offshore.
What do you have in common with Mike?
We share a love of the outdoors and maybe a tendency toward arrogance. He’s still in his 20s, and so he’s only beginning to realize how little he actually knows about the world. We’re both reckless and headstrong. But he’s braver than I am, and I think he has a kinder heart than I do.