Mike Rowe, who voices Dr. Carlisle on “Restless Shores” and Wings on “Shamus,” records lines at New Meadows Media in West Bath. Photo courtesy of Marsha Hinton

A West Bath-based media company known for creating “Restless Shores,” a soap opera podcast that has garnered over 86,000 downloads around the world, launched a new podcast Friday.

“Shamus,” the latest brainchild of New Meadows Media Owner Marsha Hinton, is a fictional noir detective story that centers around “gritty, hard-boiled” private detective Hunter James, according to Hinton.

Rather than create a storyline from scratch, Hinton said she pulled detective and crime stories from between 1890 and 1950 that have fallen out of copyright and used those as the skeleton of the plot with tweaks to bring it into 2022. Hinton said some stories may take up 16 15-minute episodes to tell whereas others may take three.

“Sometimes we let those old stories and go for the latest and greatest, but these stories are worth knowing and they still have value,” said Hinton. “They may be a little weird because they’re set in a completely different century, but they’re still worth reading, and not just the hard-boiled detective stuff that I’m pulling. I would recommend that people read those stories and see where our television shows come from, where their roots are.”

The first story that “Shamus” tackles is John MacDonald’s 1955 novel “A Bullet for Cinderella,” which follows protagonist Tal Howard as he travels to a town in upstate New York in search of buried treasure after returning home from a Korean prisoner-of-war camp.

Though podcasts don’t have the benefit of dramatic lighting and smoky scenes that were quintessential to noir films of the 1940s and 1950s, Patrick Brancato, who plays Captain Wayne on “Shamus,” said he believes the show still captures the essence of noir films with its descriptive writing. A rugged, cynical voice and well-placed sound effects don’t hurt either.

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“The writing is descriptive, interesting and keeps you hooked. It allows the listener to be in the world of the story – it’s like watching with your ears because it’s so descriptive,” said Brancato.

Brancato, who records his portion of the podcast remotely in Manhattan, said “Shamus” reminds him of American radio shows that were popular in the 1940s.

“I think a lot of people are getting into these audio stories because they bring a sense of nostalgia, whether lived during that time or not,” said Brancato. “I love being a person who’s bringing these stories to people.”

Hinton said she found the stories that “Shamus’” is based on through Project Gutenberg, a free online library of over 60,000 eBooks, all of which are in the public domain. Notable works in Project Gutenberg’s collection include “The Great Gatsby,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Greg Newby, chief executive and director of Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, said everything in the Project Gutenberg library is there for the public to access, share and make it their own as Hinton has.

“Project Gutenberg encourages reuse,” said Newby. “We want people to send things to their friends or, if you’re in class, extract quotes or images. This podcast is creating a derivative word. They’re taking the original ideas from the work and creating something new, and this is what we’re there for.”

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Hinton said she doesn’t know whether listeners will latch on to “Shamus,” but said she hopes the podcast “surprises me and takes off like ‘Restless Shores’ did.”

As of Thursday, Restless Shores had over 86,500 downloads across 109 countries, according to Hinton.

“We don’t have the millions of downloads and listeners like other really big podcasts have, but this was a homegrown independent thing and look where we are,” said Hinton.

Though “Restless Shores” has accrued fans from around the world, Tanner Campbell of South Portland, a podcast audio engineer, studio owner, teacher and podcast consultant, said the odds that “Shamus” will become wildly popular are slim.

With more than two million podcasts available on Apple’s podcast platform alone, it takes more than compelling material to cut through the noise, said Campbell. Often times, a mix of marketing, a website, and a social media presence can make a difference, but the most well known podcasts usually feature a celebrity host or are produced by large news or media organizations.

“Most people are not listening to most podcasts; they are listening to professionally produced podcasts that comprise far fewer than 1% of total podcasts,” said Campbell. “If (‘Shamus”) goals are to catch on, accrue an audience, and become valuable enough to a production house to be bought up by Spotify or iHeart, they’ll need to do considerably better than ‘Restless Shores’ has done. They could be a massive success, but the odds are stacked firmly against them being so.”

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“Shamus” and “Restless Shores” do have a leg up, however, as fictional audio dramas, which Campbell said is “an increasingly popular niche” at a time when most podcasts are panel discussions and interviews.

“Restless Shores'” 15-minute weekly episodes follow the escapades of people vying to control a billion-dollar pharmaceutical company in an unnamed coastal city. Although podcasts don’t allow for “15-second pensive stares into the camera,” Hinton said, “Restless Shores” is full of soap opera essentials including marital affairs, blackmail, clones and the occasional comatose character.

Regardless of how “Shamus” does, Hinton said she intends to continue producing “Restless Shores” because “This show has developed a life of its own – it has its own identity now.”

“When I started developing the idea for the show in 2018, my plan was to give it six months and reassess and either kill it or let it continue,” said Hinton. “It only took me about three or four episodes that hadn’t even been broadcast yet and when I was listening to them, I thought ‘I can’t let this go.’”

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