While on our month long cruise Sharon and I visited Portland, Maine. On a quiet April Sunday, which happened to be my birthday, I took a walk looking for my favourite place for shopping, an independent bookstore. Longfellow Books on Monument Square was open and I was immediately at home.
The store has a wide selection of books and staff ready and eager to help with book selections. I sought out recommendations for mysteries by Maine authors. More specifically I asked if there was any crime by local writers. The staff suggested a pair of authors.
The first author was Paul Doiron and his series featuring Maine game warden, Mike Bowditch. While the first book in the series could not be found Massacre Pond was available.
Doiron was an editor of Down East: The Magazine of Maine when he retired make his life as a writer. His website sets out that:
He is also a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine with his wife Kristen Lindquist.
Kristen is a writer and poet.
The second author was Bruce Robert Coffin whose sleuth, Detective Sergeant John Byron is a member of the Portland police department. On the shelf for purchase was Beneath the Depths.
Coffin is certainly familiar with the Portland Police Department as he was a detective sergeant. His website sets out that at his retirement he “supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations in Maine’s largest city”.
I could have added a third unexpectedly Maine crime fiction writer. Famed mystery author, John Connolly, was born in Ireland but he also resides in Portland. Some of the books in his Charlier Parker series are set in Maine.
After returning to the ship I looked on the net for more information about the store and found it well loved.
In 2013 during a blizzard that dumped 31.9 inches of snow on Portland the storm broke a window and snow drifted into a room above the store and water started dripping down when it warmed up. As well a water line froze and broke causing sprinklers to dump water. When the fire department responded the fire fighters worked hard to save books. They used tarps used to help cover items in fires and physically carried books out of the store.
In an article in the Portland Press Herald co-owner at the time, Chris Bowe is quoted:
It was a reverse ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Bowe said, referring to Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction classic, in which books are outlawed and burned by firemen.
(I remember watching the movie of that book as a teenager and being disturbed how believeable it could be that books could be banned and burned.)
Still 40% to 50% of the store’s 30,000 books were damaged.
The article states that when the owners said on Facebook they were closing indefinitely there were 200 customers who responded to the notice wanting to help.
Shortly after the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance organized events and fund raisers to help out the store.
Longfellow books, self-described as fiercely independent and a staunch member of Portland Buy Local, illustrates the benefits of a business focusing on being a local independent store.
Their website is https://www.longfellowbooks.com/.
I hope travels will take me back to Portland and I can visit Longfellow Books again.
In case you were wondering the store is named for Portland’s most famous native, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.