by Barb, still in Key West
At the end of the blog, I’ve included instructions for how to enter a giveaway for one of 15 Advance Readers Copies of Muddled Through, Maine Clambake Mystery #10, which releases on June 28, 2022. Scroll down for that information.
A year ago I blogged about how I worked with an artist to create a map of Busman’s Harbor, the town in Midcoast Maine where my Maine Clambake Mysteries take place. A later blog post explained how the artist and I came up with the buildings on the map.
Today I’m writing about how I populated my little town.
The major characters in the Maine Clambake Mysteries go back to the original series proposal. Julia Snowden, her mother Jacqueline, sister Livvie, brother-in-law Sonny, and niece Page were there from the start. As was Julia’s middle-school crush Chris Durand, and the newest member of the Busman’s Harbor Police Force, Jamie Dawes. Restaurant proprietor Gus Farnham was also in the original proposal.
State police detectives Lieutenant Jerry Binder and Sergeant Tom Flynn appear in the first book Clammed Up, and are in the series ever after (except for a couple of the novellas). This is not in the least surprising, since in Maine only the Portland and Bangor police departments are large enough to have detectives. The rest of the municipalities (including at least one fictional one) rely on the state police to investigate major crimes. Faulty research on my part led them to have inflated titles and once they existed out in the universe there was no way to demote them. Also, I wrote at least three books before I realized I had created the detecting team of Tom and Jerry.
The Snugg sisters, Fee and Vee, who run the B&B across the street from Julia’s mother’s house, appear in Clammed Up and almost every book since, as well as most of the novellas. The Snowden Family Clambake’s silent investor, Quentin Tupper, also makes his first appearance in Clammed Up. He’s only in residence in the summer, so he appears in the books that take place then. Captain George, who pilots the boat that takes the tourists out to Morrow Island for the Snowden Family Clambake, also appears in the books that take place during the summer.
On Main Street
Since Clammed Up, the town of Busman’s Harbor has grown and grown. I’ve added shops to Main Street as I’ve need them to tell the stories. Gordon’s Jewelry and its proprietor Mr. Gordon first appear in the Christmas novella, “Nogged Off.” He plays a central role in the fifth book in the series, Iced Under, when he tells Julia the value of the black diamond necklace her mother has received in the mail. He returns again in the sixth book, Stowed Away, and in the novella “Scared Off.” He must have a first name, but he’s an older gentleman and Julia always calls him “Mr.” His wife, Alicia, has sadly suffered from worsening dementia through the series.
Al Gleason runs Gleason’s Hardware, a family business so old there’s a post in front of it where customers once tied up their horses. Gleason’s is a pivotal location in Clammed Up, but we don’t meet Al until the novella “Scared Off.” He turns up again in the novella “Perked Up,” that I just turned in. It will be published in Irish Coffee Murder in the spring of 2023. Barry Walker of Walker Frames and Art Supplies is a major character in the fourth book in the series, Fogged Inn. He also reappears in “Scared Off.” To this cast of Main Street characters, I’ve added a new one in Muddled Through. Zoey Butterfield is the owner of Lupine Design, a pottery studio and retail shop at the far end of the commercial part of Main Street. Livvie works there in the off-season. Zoey reappears in “Perked Up.”
Mark Hayman works in the Town Enforcement Office and has access to records about everyone’s property, who owns it, where the tax bill goes. He helps Julia out the seventh book, Steamed Open and again in Muddled Through. Floradale Thayer runs the historical society. She helps Julia understand her mother’s family history in Iced Under, and also in Sealed Off. She appears again in “Perked Up.” Chief Beaupre is the Chief of Police in Busman’s Harbor. You’d think he’d be more important, what with all the murders, but since Binder and Flynn rush in and take over, and Julia gets all her info from Jamie Dawes, the chief isn’t as much of a presence. He doesn’t even get a name until Steamed Open. Bud Barbour has a boat repair shop and we often find him whiling away his late afternoons at Gus’s restaurant. He plays a big role in Boiled Over, a smaller one in Musseled Out, and comes back in Muddled Through. Clarice Kemp is the town gossip. In Clammed Up she works as the receptionist at Lighthouse Inn, a Busman’s Harbor crossroads. I really had high hopes for her as a character, but she doesn’t appear again until “Scared Off.” By that time she’s retired and is applying her considerable skills and strong personality to the annual auction for the Star of the Sea Catholic Church. Sonny’s father, Bard Ramsey, a lobsterman, a major character in Musseled Out, appears again in Fogged Inn and in Sealed Off.
I never intended to have a cat in the series. Then I went to the real Cabbage Island Clambake and saw what an unbelievably cushy life a cat has on an island with no cars or natural predators and where mountains of seafood are served everyday. Le Roi, the Maine Coon cat belongs to the island caretakers in Clammed Up. Then he moves in with Julia, but spends his summers on Morrow Island with Livvie’s family. Finally, he takes up permanent residence in Julia’s mother’s house, the perfect place, since he gets to see Julia every day when she works in the clambake office there. Fee Snugg’s dog, Mackie, is one of a long line of Scottish terriers that Fee loves more than people. It takes a special dog to live in a B&B, where strangers are constantly coming and going, but Mackie handles it with aplomb. Bud Barbour’s dog, Morgan, a black lab, is a youngster, but so well-behaved Gus allows him to doze in the restaurant while he and Bud jawbone.
In or Out?
I’m fine with telling characters, “You’re not in this book.” I dislike series that bring everyone we’ve ever met forward into each new book. I’ve given some up because of this. But it’s nice, now that I’m writing book eleven, to know I have characters I can call upon to play roles, large or small, and I don’t have to make everyone up from scratch.
Readers: How do you feel about secondary and tertiary characters in series? Do you like to see them reappear or would you as soon forget them when the book is done?
If you can’t wait until June 28th to find out what happens next to Julia and the gang, you can enter to win one of 15 Advance Reader Copies of Muddled Through by clicking the link below and filling out the form. The giveaway ends on March 18th and entries will be accepted from any country.
Thanks so much for entering and good luck!