Portland attorney and former journalist Brenda Buchanan makes her debut as a crime novelist with “Quick Pivot,” a story about a Portland newspaper reporter who uncovers facts in a four-decade-old murder that a lot people wished would never be revealed.

Carina Press released “Quick Pivot” as an e-book on April 27. Carina is a digital-first imprint of Harlequin. It’s the first in a three-book series featuring newspaper reporter Joe Gale.

Buchanan, who lives in Westbrook, is a journalist-turned-attorney. She began writing fiction seven years ago, after moving from Peaks Island to the mainland and finding more time to pursue her dreams. Buchanan covered news for the Boston Globe and York County Coast Star before going to law school in the mid-1980s.

For 25 years, she has practiced business, personal and real estate law at an Exchange Street firm.

Writing a book and practicing law are difficult workloads to balance, Buchanan said. She commits herself to writing two hours a night, turning off the Red Sox before the games are over and declining invitations for dinners and plays. She joined a writing a group for feedback, and traveled to conferences and workshops for crime writers.

Ever patient, she remembered the advice of a teacher at Northeastern University in Boston, where she received her undergraduate degree. The teacher told her, “If you want it enough, if your work is steadfast, you’ll get there.”


Her teacher was Robert B. Parker, then a budding crime writer himself, who later gained fame for his Spenser series of mysteries.

“His advice stayed with me,” Buchanan said. “I wasn’t tone-deaf to how to do it, I just had to commit myself to it.”

After years of late-night writing, Buchanan pitched her book idea to an agent she met at a conference. The agent liked the idea, shopped it and landed Buchanan a three-book deal.

“Quick Pivot” features Joe Gale, who writes for the Portland Daily Chronicle and models himself after an old-school scribe named Paulie Finnegan. The Finnegan character is a composite of reporters whom Buchanan knew in Boston and Maine during her time in the business.

Gale is preoccupied with the changes in the newspaper business, and fully understands that his industry is evolving. Still, he works in the mold of his mentor, with a lot of time on the street and after-hours conversations.

Buchanan sets her book in the fictional town of Riverside, which sounds a lot like Westbrook, where Buchanan lives – except it’s not. “This one felt to me like it needed to be set in a milltown, but it couldn’t be Westbrook. I don’t know Westbrook well enough to kill somewhere there,” she said.

Having a book published is about as satisfying a thing as Buchanan’s ever done. “Writing feels like the heart of me. You can do other things in your life, but it’s fun to come back to your first love,” she said. “It makes me feel more complete than just doing law, even if it’s a ton of work.”

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