Nothing like being a cop and writing a mystery about a cop. You just feel
that Sheriff Dell Hinton is the real thing. Author John Hickman, a 25 year
veteran of law enforcement, told me, “Dell is basically my alter ego. If I had
continued in law enforcement, my ideal retirement job would have been as
a Sheriff in a small, rural community.”
The crimes and investigations may have a ring of reality as many came from John’s own experiences, this book and his
other. “Actually, the main story of each book is fictitious, but almost all of the side stories are things that have happened
to me directly, or others around me throughout my career.”
The setting is a small rural community in central Maine, where Dell retreats after after a controversial shooting in his former job at the Boston PD. Having summered in Maine since he was 5 years old, John shared, “I have a deep love for the lake life and wanted to be able to share that interest with my readers.” After reading about few of his sunset kayak rides, I was ready to move Downeast myself!
The author takes us on many twists and turns as we walk step by step with Dell as he solves a murder and is frustrated with bureaucracy from the feds. We follow his psychological digging into the minds of the persons of interest and suspects. An aspect that is an old fashioned technique are his walk-abouts in town, chatting with the residents and the face to face conversations we seem to have lost. John commented that this trend is an eroding of civility. “As a whole, our country needs to return to more personal communications. While the internet and programs like Facebook provide a source for communication, they de-humanize that communication. Everyone feels like they can say anything about anyone and it has, in my mind, caused an absence of civility in this country. Everyone seems self-centered, no one thinks in terms of community these days.”
We get a feel for not only small town life and the fading gatherings of folks talking together, meeting on the main streets and simply knowing the traditions and tales of the place. An interesting character that I hope reappears in subsequent works is the quirky Old Mr. Darby Webb, a keeper of local lore. John based this character on “a composite of two of the actual caretakers who handled our property through the three generations. I used it as a homage to those men, whom I admired from my own past.”
Thoughts of food and recipes turn to the in season fruit in Maine, and especially, John says, most anything made with wild Maine blueberries. "Downeast Maine has lots of blueberry barrens. Maine blueberries grow on ankle high bushes and are very small and very sweet. Once you have had them, you will always want them. Blueberry pie is huge in that area. Although my wife is a great cook, I actually do most of the cooking at our house. I have a recipe my Mother gave me for a fruit and cream pie. It can be used with any fresh fruit that might be in season, although I most frequently make the peaches and cream pie."