investigative 6

Reading Welsh and Maineiac mysteries together, hoping to discover clues as to the state of The God’s Cycle corpus. Is it dead or alive? Pairing the Maineiac and the Welsh is not inappropriate because there are parallels in this coupling. The Maineiac is not a Mainer born and bred, but one “from away,” someone just crazy enough — wanting to live here despite the covert/overt challenge. The Welsh, as everyone in the UK knows, are plain crazy. The English of long ago absconded with Britain and the true King Arthur. The Irish (slightly less crazy Celts) absconded with St. Patrick, but that’s another history.


In Maine — to get back on course — people from away are busy absconding with Maine. This is known as working through a transition, a.k.a. historical succession. There are a lot of thoughts on this put forth by various characters in the rural setting of The God’s Cycle. Basically it’s kind of like England and Wales in reverse. Even distinguishing characteristics like crazy and not crazy are reversed. In Maine the invaders are the crazies. In Britain the invaders were not.

Some describe the Evan Evans series as cozy mysteries because Rhys Bowen gives us just enough of human failing to understand the human condition. She weaves in the Welsh countryside, mountains, village, and towns. We get a taste of Bangor and London. We find the mines, slate and coal, are part of Welsh industrial history, and that sheep are making a comeback after a devastating disease.

Gerry Boyle’s Jack McMorrow mysteries set in Maine are not cozies, though they can give us rural landscapes, the seashore (as do the Evan Evans mysteries) but the tone is “hard-boiled” because conversations in a papermill town aren’t always so friendly as they are in Wales (as portrayed by Rhys Bowen).

But that town, that milltown in Deadline! It is no cozy thing. We lived in its non-fictive counterpart, and in its twin town across the river. The Androscoggin River divides the two. The river’s name stands in as the town’s name, the fictive name of Boyle’s setting. Our apartment overlooked the main intersection where pulp tucks idled at the light six feet outside our window. The mill steamed and sometimes smoked, nearly always stinking, not in the distance, but right there big as hell. Makes a nice symbolic gesture in that direction. Gerry Boyle nails the atmosphere. His character, McMorrow, is a former New York Times correspondent who runs the local newspaper. The book is set three years before we lived in that apartment — but R. was working there then as a mill electrician.

The author seems not to notice the town as deeply Catholic. There, as almost everywhere in my experience, that religion is under the surface of all. Boyle leaves it out. Maybe he did not discern it, or had other reasons.The suspense much depends on frequent traps and mishaps to the journalist narrator. He gets beat up a lot. The grimness and personal conspiracy are outside what we know of the town in its nonfiction form…. In reality. I speak of the town’s human character. Is there corporate conspiracy as mooted and depicted in the thriller? Probably.

Boyle has the Celtic name, whose hero is apparently descended from northern Ireland. I’m basing the solely on his name, Jack McMorrow, sounding pretty Celtic.

His fictive town is based on the real thing, as my Guildford town is, in part of The God’s Cycle setting and a few scenes. The fiction character most associated with it is planned as part of my investigative process here but he, in the hoped-for revival of this cycle, will no longer be working there. Instead, I plan to make him the schoolbus mechanic for the rural district. That means the mill world may no longer figure in the Cycle (if it continues going round). …Or… so, there are one or two other characters associated with the mill town.

My reread of Deadline continues. Mr. Boyle’s good at depicting the place, smell, the ups and downs, roadways, mill traffic — all that. I see everything. The woods and mountains, worsted waters.

But I can’t tell if it’s because of what Peter Hitchens has blogged about his reading of an Oxford Townie’s book. Peter Hitchens lived there too, growing up. So it does not strain his imagination to see everything Oxford as he reads. “[F]or all its events take place in streets and roads and parks and playing fields and countryside with which I am deeply familiar.”

River Cherwell via wikipedia

Likely it smells a lot better than our river valley mill towns.

Wait! — I know it does. I was there once, dipping my feet in the icy Cherwell of Oxford England with my sister. No comparision in smells between that river and the one in the papermill town.  We gazed back toward the well-loved Magdalen College building where a fun and gracious, wise, and wicked-smot man taught and had his rooms. He also depicted hell.

Happens his hell was a very labyrinthine and dreary town…. Not much like a village in Wales.


5 books, 736 pages. read much?

2 responses

  1. I’m intrigued by the Welsh mysteries…I will have to give Rhys Bowen a look, thanks for the tip! It’s so interesting to read a book that is set in your own “place”, isn’t it? Being from rural Alberta, and that there are not too many books set here, I have only once had the pleasure. And a great pleasure it was, being The Great Karoo by Fred Stenson, a local Albertan. The book begins in rural Alberta, in the area around Rocky Mountain House, which is very familiar to me. Although it is set during the Boer War, the landscape and feel of the place has not changed much since then. It was so fun to relate to the book in that way. I’m just catching up now with your musings about your book and the direction you want to take. Good luck with that…sounds like you have some interesting ideas to follow. Maybe just try a little bit down one direction or another and see how it goes? You might get a sense for where the story is leading you.


    • Am so into the Evan Evans books. Local color is so good. just reading a blog called The Koala Mom about The Great Karoo by Fred Stenson. Seems a complex full story, masterfully told. Was this part of your Canadian reading/blogging project? I do hope for some direction in writing these posts, as well as carefully considering advice from friends. 🙂 So far I seem to be dithering, having fun writing about writing instead of…you know. And reading these mysteries! The editor of our local weekly has promised an article on the school bus mechanics, which may give me ideas for one of the characters…and maybe his daughter. So I’m hopeful. And your encouragement definitely makes hopeful. thanks! Alberta’s Rocky Mountain House has qualities we recognize. What a great name!


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