Book Brahmin: Paul Doiron

Paul Doiron
photo: Lori Traikos

Maine native Paul Doiron attended an all-boys Jesuit high school in Portland before leaving for college and vowing never to return to the state. He broke his pledge a year after graduating from Yale and has wondered ever since why he was so keen to escape his favorite place on earth. Doiron edited Down East: The Magazine of Maine for eight years before leaving a career in journalism to write full-time. That job--and his work as a professional fishing guide--took him from the rocky coast that draws millions of tourists each summer to the most remote valleys where pockets of poverty endure, unseen by well-heeled visitors to "Vacationland." He has made use of the entire state for his series of crime novels about Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. In The Bone Orchard (Minotaur Books, July 15, 2014), Bowditch deals with the violent aftermath of a suicide-by-cop incident involving his friend and mentor Sgt. Kathy Frost. You can listen to an excerpt from The Bone Orchard here.

On your nightstand now:

At the moment, my pile of books looks like a game of Jenga just before everything comes tumbling down. At the top is A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller, which so far is as good as its blurbs (a rare thing). Then Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, Sparta by Roxana Robinson, Aimless Love by Billy Collins, Creole Belle by James Lee Burke, The Backpacker's Field Manual by Rick Curtis and Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R .Tolkien. The journey in the dark through the Mines of Moria remains one of the most powerful action scenes in all of literature. I can still quote lines (almost) from memory. Gimli: "We cannot get out." Legolas: "Ai, ai! A Balrog! A Balrog is come." And of course, Gandalf: "Fly, you fools!"

Your top five authors:

The list changes so often! Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen. No, I take it back. It's really William Shakespeare, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, P.D. James, Raymond Carver. Hang on a second. My top five authors actually are....

Book you've faked reading:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I was assigned it for a class on Russian literature at Yale, and let's just say that as a college senior, I had other interests to pursue. I finally picked the novel up decades later and have now read it twice, I am so much in awe of Tolstoy's genius.

The Bone Orchard coverBook you're an evangelist for:

Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America by Richard Nelson. There are now between 25 million and 40 million white-tailed deer in this country. The population is continuing to explode and our rapidly urbanizing culture has no idea how to deal with what is essentially a plague of our own making. Humanity's growing detachment from nature is a theme in my books, and Nelson illustrates why this is such a problem for us and our planet.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers. It's a nonfiction account of every recorded human death in the Grand Canyon. I read it during my honeymoon at the Grand Canyon--which gives you a sense of how macabre my sense of romance is.

Book that changed your life:

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson. The stories are like punches to the head. I read it during a period in my life when I was associating with people who resembled the drifters, addicts, petty criminals and hard cases in the book. Reading Jesus' Son, I found myself taking a step back from that existence and realized that I was the unreliable narrator of my own life story.

Favorite line from a book:

I am probably the hundredth writer to cite the opening sentence from Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms: "In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains." The rhythm, the sense of place, the submerged sense of nostalgia--it's everything I admire about Hemingway's work.

Which character you most relate to:

Dr. John Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Temperamentally, I don't resemble him at all, but if I am being honest with myself, I've always been a better sidekick than a leading man. And I find myself responding to Watson's role as a chronicler of his friend's great deeds. He doesn't have Holmes's powers of perception, but he has something else--the ability to tell a crackerjack story. He's also more of a man of action than he has gotten credit for (until Martin Freeman began playing him for the BBC).

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I'd been going through a World War II reading binge (The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, From Here to Eternity by James Jones), and I got to Heller last. I had no idea that a book could be both serious and uproariously funny. It totally upended my idea of what literature was.

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