LEWISTON — Author Paul Doiron likes to think of his crime novels as entertainment, first and foremost. They are fiction, after all.

Maine author Paul Doiron talks to the crowd gathered at Thursday’s Great Falls Forum at the Lewiston Public Library. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

But at a deeper level, he told a Lewiston audience Thursday, his books attempt to lay out an “authentic” Maine, with uniquely Maine settings and problems.

The opioid crisis, economic inequality and the divided politics of Maine’s rural and urban areas all feature in his award-winning “Mike Bowditch” series of crime novels, which will soon reach a 10th installment.

During a Great Falls Forum, “Telling Maine Stories,” at the Lewiston Public Library on Thursday, Doiron said crime novelists often delve into social issues.

“I’ve brought in a lot of the contemporary conflicts and controversies — things that are unique to living in Maine in this era,” he said.

Doiron served as editor-in-chief of Down East magazine from 2005 to 2013, where he said he began developing his ideas for novels as a junior editor. He traveled the state extensively, and spent years focusing on what made the state unique.

In the books, Bowditch is a Maine game warden who stumbles on various murders, mystery and mayhem, but the settings are unique to Maine.

“Maine is one of the last authentic places,” Doiron told his audience Thursday.

He said his novels seek out the “Maine mystique,” and the push and pull between what he calls “the two Maines.” He described one as having people who have relocated or spend summers along the coast, and the other as blue-collar Mainers.

He said certain characters display that divide. He also compared his work to a sect of Maine fiction by authors who summer in Maine, stating, “You read it and think, ‘My God, they never got west of Route 1.'”

His books, even when set on the coast, reflect coastal and island communities struggling with current problems. He described families losing homestead properties because they can’t afford to pay taxes on the coast, and a Marine Patrol struggling to find officers who can afford to live in the communities they serve.

“There’s this split in Maine, and it’s dangerous,” he said.

Doiron had an authentic Maine upbringing. He grew up in Sanford, which he said was then the murder capital of the state. He comes from a Franco-American family who worked at local textile mills. He likes to say he has one foot in each of the two Maines.

At one point in his talk Thursday, Doiron asked his audience a few trivia questions about Maine. The answers described a state that is the most rural and forested in the country. He said at one point leading up to writing his novel “The Precipice,” set along the most-remote portion of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, he thought, “Wow, in Maine it’s really easy to disappear.”

He said “The Precipice” was partly inspired by the disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the trail in 2013. Her body was not found until two years later.

Doiron’s books have also hit on rural homelessness, sex offenders, post-traumatic stress among veterans returning to Maine, and even the Amish, which he said is the fastest-growing religious group in the state.

While he said the mystery novels are meant to be entertainment, he said murder always brings in society’s problems. He said if someone asked him for recommended reading on the opioid crisis, he’d point them to the crime novels of West Virginian author Julia Keller, a former journalist who has brought the drug crisis to life.

Describing his books, he called them entertainment, but added: “I try to have them grounded in a Maine that feels recognizable. I hope that’s one of the reasons the books have had some success.”

Doiron also had books available for purchase at the event, and hosted a book signing following his talk.

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