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NEPM brings you interviews with New England authors to add to your summer reading list.

Time to 'recharge and take a deep breath': Archer Mayor takes a break from mystery writing

Southern Vermont writer Archer Mayor stands outside the Brattleboro Police Department.
Carrie Healy
Southern Vermont writer Archer Mayor stands outside the Brattleboro Police Department.

For decades, readers of Archer Mayor's mysteries have been accustomed to a new book release each fall. But the author has announced his forthcoming book, "Fall Guy," will be his last for an undetermined period of time.

The southern Vermont author explains why he's pausing his mystery writing.

Archer Mayor, author: I've been a death investigator for the medical examiner's office for 21 years, and it's been a passion of mine, along with my other interests. It gets me out of the house. It makes me feel of use to others. And, of course, it's obviously very good for the job, if you will.

The State of Vermont assistant medical examiner badge belonging to writer Archer Mayor.
Carrie Healy
The state of Vermont assistant medical examiner badge belonging to writer Archer Mayor.

The role is for me to essentially go out in people's houses or the environment in general and find out why and how people died.

The writing has been informative, helpful, useful and terribly entertaining. But, if you do anything for 40-plus years, as I have been, a writer of both history and fiction, I think you do need a break every once in a while. Need to recharge your batteries, and maybe you just take the batteries out.

I am undetermined at this point as to what my future holds, but I need to recharge and take a deep breath. And that's what I've chosen to do.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: You know, you have a tricky relationship with your books in that you use a lot of places that are real and you use things that are real. Like the Brattleboro Reformer as a newspaper, is named throughout the books.

Yes, that's correct.

However, these being a work of fiction, why did you not change some of the details?

We are all from somewhere. One of the first things that we exchange upon meeting is "Oh, I notice a funny accent. Where are you from?" Or "Where did you come from?" Or "Oh, look at your license plate number" or whatnot. We talk about place.

"Are you from the caves on the top of the mountain?" "I'm, one of the valley cave people." I think we've done this since we came out of those caves!

What, you think the state of Vermont or Brattleboro is going to sue me, because I placed my story in their background? No, of course not. So I embrace that.

I understood that Vermont is a very fond place for people who have never even come here. It's got a reputation above and beyond Bernie Sanders, I might add. You know, Vermont just has that something about it.

So, I'd be an idiot to walk away from the reality that is Vermont. Also, hey, you know, when you think of drug addiction or homicide, you don't usually think of Vermont, but it's here. And as a death investigator, I mean, I've had two homicides in the last two weeks, so I know of which I speak.

We're standing outside the Brattleboro Police Department. It's a fairly new building. How long has...

The cover of Archer Mayor's novel "Fall Guy".
Courtesy of St. Martin's Publishing Group
The cover of Archer Mayor's novel, "Fall Guy."

The amusing aspect of the Brattleboro Police Department building is that the very building you're looking at used to be the local newspaper office. This was The Brattleboro Reformer. They're the ones who built it from the ground up and inhabited it for a good many years.

Unfortunately, media going the way it is, the Reformer had to downsize. Eventually they ended up on the back end of this now-empty building, which got filled by the police department, which was bursting at the seams downtown. And thus, for an ironic couple of years, the police department and their nemesis — at least in fiction — filled the same building.

So if you don't think those walls aren't double lined and soundproofed ... you have no imagination! So that was the first thing the then police chief told me was, "No, they can't hear us. And we don't want to hear them."

All of the characters have changed so much over the novels. Are they happy where they are? When this new novel, "Fall Guy," begins?

Yeah, they are. Especially Willy Kunkle, who is a secondary character. He meets and he falls in love and he has a child. But we don't change our spots. Our personalities are our own, no matter how often we might proclaim otherwise. And thus, Willy will always remain Willy, and that's that's a little ragged. That's a little jagged, edgy.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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