Ron Chase, author of the new, true-crime biography, “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery,” will be at the South Portland Public Library when it kicks off its  new Author Talk series kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15. Chase will talk about his book, which chronicles the life of Bernard Patterson, a Vietnam War veteran who robbed the Northern National Bank in Mars Hill in the fall of 1973, escaping with $110,000.

Chase, who now lives in Topsham, grew up in the Gardiner area and graduated from the University of Maine. He is also a veteran, serving in the Army from December 1966 to September 1969. He’s married with two grown children and one grandchild. Chase worked for the Internal Revenue Service for more than 30 years and since retiring in 2004 he’s worked as a tax consultant and freelance writer.

This week Chase spoke with the Current about the Mars Hill bank robbery and what he hopes readers will get out of the story.

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: I’ve been interested in the story ever since I read a series of Bangor Daily News articles about Bernard Patterson’s exploits in 1973. While I was on a mountain climbing trip in New Hampshire in January of 2013, I met a fellow who knew him. After a long conversation, I returned home with the intent of writing a book. I did a little research and emailed an abbreviated book proposal to Down East Books. They responded that same day saying they were interested.

Q: How did you go about the research and were you able to conduct interviews with anyone still living?

A: Initially I researched the Bangor Daily News archives, followed by the Presque Isle Star Herald archives. I began by trying to locate all of the people identified in the newspaper articles. Many were deceased, but over time and through referrals, I was able find and interview more than 40 people. While many were in the Mars Hill area, I found people all across Maine, as well as Colorado and Florida. I also researched numerous public records such as registries of deeds and probate, town tax records, court records and state archives.

Q: What were some of the most fascinating details you learned about this robbery?

A: Bernard’s story is so rich with adventures, misadventures, escapades and memorable events that it is difficult to choose. Just a few are that it was the largest bank robbery in Maine history, he escaped in an inflatable kayak in the dark, hid out in the snow for a week on Mars Hill Mountain and escaped the dragnet around Mars Hill. He then lived out a continuum of riotous escapades across three continents for more than seven months, all while staying one step ahead of international law enforcement. Really, his entire life was an adventure and my book tells the whole story.

Q: What do you hope readers get out of the book?

A: First and foremost, entertainment. I view the book as an adventure story, even though it’s based on true events. In that regard, readers will learn about one of Maine’s most colorful and controversial characters, both a war hero and bank robber. However, there is also a serious side to this story. Bernard almost certainly struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and, in writing the book, I came away with a greater appreciation of the impact of PTSD and I think readers will do the same.

In addition, I want people to understand that Bernard was an extremely intriguing, compelling and complex person. He was loved and admired by many, despite his actions and misdeeds. He was also incredibly tough, but sometimes vulnerable, and very generous yet greedy enough to rob a bank. He was an enigmatic character that readers will enjoy getting to know.

A closer look

The South Portland Public Library’s new Author Talk series kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, with Maine-based author Ron Chase who will speak about his book, “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery.” This event is free and open to the public. See www.southportlandlibrary.com or call 767-7660 for more information.

Maine author Ron Chase will be at the South Portland Public Library this week.

Bernie Patterson, center, on duty during the Vietnam War.