Monday, June 28, 2010

"The Poacher’s Son"

Paul Doiron is the editor in chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, Down East Books, and He is also a Registered Maine Guide, licensed by the state to lead trips into the wilderness.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Poacher’s Son and reported the following:
I wrote The Poacher’s Son with the Page 69 Test in mind since the page is such a precise encapsulation of the novel’s plot. Actually, I just seem to have gotten lucky here. The Poacher’s Son is the story of Mike Bowditch, a rookie Maine game warden, who finds himself drawn into the hunt for a suspected cop killer—his own estranged father. On page 69 Mike arrives at the remote spot where his father, Jack, has just overpowered a sheriff’s deputy and escaped into the wilderness. A search is under way for the fugitive.
the sheriff was temporarily the officer in charge until the state police tactical team arrived.

“Are the K-9 units here?”

“Not yet, sir.”

Which meant the grid search, as such, hadn’t begun. I checked my watch. By my crude reckoning, my father had already been on the run for close to two hours.

There was another roadblock set up at the ditch where Deputy Twombley had careened off the road. Half a dozen police officers, most in body armor and carrying semiautomatic weapons or shotguns, were clustered around their vehicles, waiting for something to happen. I’d never participated in a hunt for an armed fugitive, but I’d taken part in grid searches for an Alzheimer’s patient, missing hunters, and a couple of lost children. Hurry-up-and-wait was the way these operations usually worked.

Yellow police tape marked the spot where the cruiser had crashed off the road. The car had plunged twenty or so feet down, ripping off alder branches and evergreen boughs, before landing sideways in a couple of feet of marshy muck. This was the manhunt’s inner perimeter, the zone where searchers would concentrate their efforts and expand out.

I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Earlier this morning, Pete Twombley drove out alone to Rum Pond on his own authority, but to do what? Accuse my dad of murder? Twombley should have called for back-up after things turned ugly, but instead he proceeded with my father towards the jail in Skowhegan. From Rum Pond, traveling along logging roads, it would have taken them at least an hour to reach this spot, at which point the cruiser went off the road. And Twombley was incapacitated long enough for my dad to take his weapons. Or so the deputy claimed.

My father had been arrested before; he knew when a bogus charge
Page 69 does a decent job of capturing the plot of The Poacher’s Son and gives a sense of both the pacing of the book—especially the second half—and the North Woods setting. It also gives insight into Mike’s conflicted emotions. He and his father have a fractured relationship to say the least.

“It seemed like I’d spent my whole life either embarrassed by him or trying to win his approval,” Mike observes. “I even became a law officer because of him — to make amends, if that was possible, for the petty crimes he’d committed against society and against his own family.”

Mike knows Jack is bad news, but he doesn’t believe his father is a cold-blooded murderer: “He was a bar brawler, not a terrorist,” he says. Unfortunately, Mike finds himself alone in this conviction, and as the story unfolds he becomes increasingly desperate to prove his father’s innocence. Haunted by the past, he risks his career—and life—in an urgent chase to catch up with Jack before the police do.

Although I hope The Poacher’s Son is a gripping suspense novel, I have always thought of it as really a story about fathers and sons. At the center of the book is a question: “How well can we ever know another human being?” I preface the novel with a quote from Ivan Turgenev that sums up the sentiment: “The heart of another is a dark forest….”

So, is Mike’s loyalty to his father noble—or is it foolish? I hope you’ll want to read The Poacher’s Son to find out.
Learn more about the book and author at Paul Doiron's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue