September 28, 2020

A Maine mystery tour Archer Mayor weaves his love of Vacationland into his latest Joe Gunther novel

It’s only natural that Vermont mystery author Archer Mayor would bring his well-known creation, Joe Gunther, to Maine. “The old joke goes that all Vermonters vacation in Maine before they end up dying in Florida,” Mayor said in a phone interview from his home in Newfane, the seat of Windham County in southeastern Vermont.

“The Catch,” Mayor’s 19th book featuring Gunther, is largely set in Maine. Gunther, head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigations, and his team are charged with finding the killer of a Vermont deputy sheriff. The trail leads them to Maine, where the murder has been tied to the drug trade there.

Mayor, 58, himself is coming to Maine, for stops in Bangor, Augusta, Falmouth and Portland. He will visit the Bangor Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

As with any book in his meticulous series, “The Catch” required a good deal of research. Not that Mayor minded terribly.

“Maine was among my favorites to go to in terms of research,” he recalled. “I commingled pleasure with research and spent more time doing research than I usually do.”

The state’s many differences were a plus for Mayor.

“I use geography as a character in every book I write,” he explained. “I was delighted to

write about the many various parts of Maine.”

One storyline that came out of Mayor’s research was the trafficking of prescription drugs.

“I was started to discover that Maine has, per capita, the nation’s largest prescription drug problem,” he said.

Mayor and his companion, Nancy, also rode across Northern New England on motorcycles, a trip which he will detail in an article early next year in the AAA magazine Northern New England Journey.

Mayor follows the writer’s dictum of “write what you know.”

He serves as a death investigator for Vermont’s chief medical examiner and as a deputy for the Windham County Sheriff’s Department. He recently retired after decades as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.

He explained his community service thusly: “I was brought up on the road, and it felt kind of parasitical. I thought it would be nice to be part of the community.”

The many parts of his life work together well.

“They’re all sympathetic to one another,” Mayor said. “As a novelist, I analyze and interpret. I’m more of a social anthropologist. My work at crime and death scenes inform my fiction writing. It’s a wonderful back-scratching operation.”

Still, after 20 years with Joe Gunther, Mayor considers writing to be his full-time job.

“I’m one of 5 percent of American writers who can say that,” he said.

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