Monday, October 10, 2011

Archer Mayor and Joe Gunther: Books 6-8

First edition
Archer Mayor's reprint
The hardcover versions of THE DARK ROOT (1995), THE RAGMAN'S MEMORY (1996), and BELLOWS FALLS (1997) all feature artwork by Chris Gall, following up on the Art Deco note of the preceding volumes. In terms of plot, there's tremendous diversity among these three -- yet they came out one after another, as author Archer Mayor reached his full strength, deploying Joe Gunther's police skills and steady character within Vermont's crime landscape.

But with The Dark Root, Mayor demonstrates that while it may be Vermont crime on hand, the forces fighting it extend well beyond the state's borders. An Asian family in Brattleboro suffers a brutal home invasion from Asian gang members -- and the FBI, the Border Patrol, and the Canadian Mounties all get involved, and Joe Gunther's investigation takes him to Montreal. Joe's personal life with Gail Zigman plays an interesting counterpoint to the crime plot. I'm glad Archer Mayor brought this out again, in trade-size paperback, as the hardcover has become downright scarce.

First edition
Archer Mayor's repring
The Ragman's Memory is one of my faves -- I've read it half a dozen times at least. I'm drawn by the way this one digs into the most impoverished areas and groups in southern Vermont, including the "ragman": a shell-shocked World War II veteran who may have the key to unraveling the criminal landscape that's blossoming in death and destruction. Good appearances from Sammie Martens, Willy Kunkle, Ron Klesczewski, and journalist Stanley Katz. Now that I think about it, it's time to re-read this one again.

First edition
Driving through Bellows Falls today, the marvels of downtown refurbishing triggered by artist and organizer Robert McBride distract the eye from the gritty former milltown that Mayor portrays in Bellows Falls. But those old factories are still mostly empty, the railroad sidings speak of rough times, and there are Paleo-Indian petroglyphs on the rocks along the river. A lot of hard living, as well as a lot of joy, continues in this town. And in the book, Joe Gunther faces some of the toughest crime scenes and chase sequences imaginable. Gail Zigman and Sammie Martens make brief appearances.

Archer Mayor's softcover reprint
Coming tomorrow: books 9-11, which include the two titles I've read most often and with most pleasure in the masterful storytelling.

Reminder: Archer Mayor joins us at Kingdom Books in Waterford, Vermont, on Sat. Oct. 15 at 2 pm for an intense introduction to book 22 in the series, TAG MAN. Be sure to reserve your signed copy of this one, and any of the earlier books, by getting in touch with Dave, either via e-mail ( or phone (802-751-8374). And yes, we do ship, if you can't be here in person.
First softcover design

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