Author of 23 books in the Joe Gunther mystery series, Archer Mayor has carved out a nice niche for himself as Mr.Vermont, at least to mystery readers. Gunther fans appreciate the research and the insider point-of-view Mayor brings to his police procedurals, most of which are set in small towns within or around Vermont.
Once you get to know Det. Gunther of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation and his team, you won’t forget them. As someone who lives just down the road a piece from his office in Brattleboro, Vermont, I can tell you the locals sleep better knowing Gunther and crew are on the job.
Here’s the short version of Archer Mayor’s bio, lifted from his webpage:
Mayor—who was brought up in the US, Canada and France—was variously employed as a scholarly editor, a researcher for TIME-LIFE Books, a political advance-man, a theater photographer, a newspaper writer/editor, a lab technician for Paris-Match Magazine in Paris, France, and a medical illustrator. In addition to writing novels and occasional articles, Mayor gives talks and workshops all around the country, including the Bread Loaf Young Writers conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the Colby College seminar on forensic sciences in Waterville, Maine. In addition, Archer is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, the publisher of his own backlist, a travel writer for AAA, and he travels the Northeast giving speeches and conducting workshops. He also has 25 years experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT.
Archer writes one book a year, launching each one in the fall, before the holiday book-buying season. His next mystery, Paradise City, is scheduled for release in October.
The city in Paradise City is Northampton, Massachusetts, which sits in a region stretching roughly from Brattleboro VT to Springfield MA, dwarfing the population of the entire Green Mountain state. The story involves police from the fictional Tucker Peak VT, Northampton and Boston, as well as points in between. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “stings, surveillance, and interrogations all play a part in the effort to uncover a sophisticated, ruthless criminal operation. Fans of this first-rate procedural series will be satisfied.” (For the complete review, go here).

This interview was conducted on February 2, 2012.

How important is place to your novels, and why do you base them in Vermont? First, it’s where I live. Second, it’s a small state.
I like the miniaturization. The more layers there are to remove [in the solution of a crime], the clearer it is how everything works. How the hell do you function when you have a bad guy and layers and layers of government [like we see in Law and Order]? You could choose to ignore those layers -- and some writers do -- but I think that’s too bad.
Is the character Joe Gunther or the way he operates unique to Vermont?
You'll notice that Joe always works as a team player and what he does is custom fit to Vermont, as it should be, but the procedures and protocols he follows are not unique. The police practices that he employs in Vermont change slightly in New Hampshire and Maine, for example, then a little more as you go away to other parts of the US. A Los Angeles cop could find his way around these books, though. No problem.
How do you keep your characters fresh?
They are their own characters. They’re alive and well, in my head. Joe and Gail and Sammy and Wally are real people, to me.
My exposure to these folks is year in and year out. I’ve known them almost 30 years. They are not extraordinary, but real people with real habits and I just chronicle their passage through life. Some of them do extraordinary things -- but don’t we all? – but these are not superheroes. I don’t need to stretch to give them life, I just have to be relatively consistent.
Will Joe Gunther and friends age as the series builds?
The characters will evolve slightly as is natural to every character but, no, Joe Gunther will never age.
Do you use your own experience in your books? How much are they based on real people and events?
I use some real names because people I don’t always know offer them to me [through auctions I run on my website]. My work gives me exposure to reality, heightens my understanding of situations and people, but I don’t transplant the details of an actual case.
People kill each other all the time. I have no interest in exploiting [real situations in which] people are still very upset. That seems cruel to me.  
I write murder mysteries. I have a place to park things [I experience or learn through my work] but I’m not a historian. I make up my stories, but there can be cross references that don’t compromise confidentiality.
Do you use social media?
I have a website, but find Facebook and Twitter intrusive and costly in terms of time. I’m a private New England guy, but I understand that if I don’t use [social media], people are not going to buy my books. So, I have a love/hate relationship with all of that. If in fact I do hit the big time, I’ll shut the door if I can.  I find it rude that people expect me to be anything but a private person.
What do you read?
Right now, I’m reading a book on Roman history. I don’t read murder mysteries. I don’t want to curl up with a mystery at the end of the day. I’ve had enough, so I read a lot of history books. I also like obscure books but I don’t get to read much. I don’t have time.
How do you maintain your privacy and sell books at the same time?
This is a world in which [a writer] can no longer behave like J.D. Salinger. He’d go broke today. So, you’re on Facebook, you tweet. We’ve entered a new world, the writer holds himself directly to the reader and the publisher is less a part of the relationship than ever.
How do you manage to write a book a year and still work at two jobs? 
The reason I have three jobs is I’m broke like everyone else. [With three part-time jobs], I don’t have any benefits, so I work without a safety net. That means I have to work consistently. 
What advice do you have for new authors?
Anybody can get published. Now the question is, how do you get noticed among readers? People say, I’ll just self publish then go out and create buzz. Right! How?
It used to be that about 60,000 titles published were published a year, but now it’s over a million. Only a tiny percent receive any marketing money. What about other 99 percent?
All that seems to matter today is the marketing. Isn’t that sad? Quality writing seems to have been forgotten. What about good copy editing, syntax and story lines? Writing is supposed to be music for the brain, not garbage that has to be sold.
What’s next?
I’ll never run out of things to write about. I’m engaged in a project with te Vermont Tourism Bureau to forge something for our mutual benefit. I sat down with them the other day to see what we could do together and, in 10 minutes, we came up with 45-60 names of local sites Joe Gunther has touched. He has covered the state like a bucket of water! 
[See this story on CNN for details.]
How did the 2011 flood affect you?
I was working a criminal case and needed access to something in Wilmington and couldn’t get there. I’ll definitely do a book off the flood, maybe for next year.

For more on Archer Mayor and his books--
Website and blog:
Twitter: @ArcherMayor

Never underestimate the power of good coffee, good service and real maple syrup!

Dot’s Diner of Wilmington was a favorite stopping-off spot near the intersection of VT 9 and 100 in southern Vermont, until Hurricane Irene all but washed it away. Before August 28, 2011, locals and flatlanders alike lined up at the door for seats every weekend morning. 

Owners Pat and John Reagan were heart-broken when the restaurant almost fell into the river, and so were hundreds, maybe thousands of fans who never forgot the burgers, gossip and homemade pies they found at Dot's. If not the food and the 1950s ambiance, how could anyone forget Pat’s hearty laugh?

With help from the state plus lots of fundraisers, the Reagans are ready to start over. Today, July 17, a crane lifted the remains of this sad little pile of wood off its loose-rock foundation, the first step toward building a new Dot’s.

Cheers could be heard a thousand miles away. 

For more:

Who is Marissa Mayer, you ask? The new CEO of Yahoo. 
For more, see below:

Confused about health care reform?

Here's a write-down of something I wrote for my local newspaper, the KevinMD blog and this blog in 2009. It's about Romneycare, the Massachusetts version of the Affordable Care Act. Except for some minor updating, everything still holds: 

We weren’t sure we liked the idea of mandatory universal health care when it was first presented to the people of Massachusetts. We worried about reduced care, higher bills, and all the other things you worry about when you’re facing change. 

Here’s what has happened to us as a result of mandatory, universal health care: 
• We are still on the same insurance plan. 
• We still go to the same doctors. 
• We’re still on the same medications. 
• We still use the same pharmacy.
• All other medical facilities we use – imaging labs, hospitals, blood testing labs, physical therapy -- have not changed. 
• As far as we can tell, our insurance premiums have not changed or have changed slightly ($5, maybe, per month).
• We both have increased our weekly exercise, in part, because our insurance now encourages prevention by paying a nice benefit for going to the gym. 
• We feel more comfortable being in crowds at the grocery store, movie theaters, or in close quarters at the barber shop and hair salon, knowing everyone there has access to health care. That means everyone we deal with is less likely to be spreading infectious disease than they were three years ago.
This program has been in effect almost three years. As far as we can tell, the world has not come to an end. 

And that’s the truth.

See today's New York Times for the truth behind claims about Obamacare. 

Allons enfants de la patrie! 

One of our readers (and my very dear friend), Adelaide Edelson, has made a name for herself in the DC area as an accomplished pianist. Although music is not her day job, she has a stellar background, including training at Julliard, Vassar and Yale School of Music. Performing everything from religious music to musical comedy -- and doing so for decades (!) -- Addie has proven she can handle whatever comes her way, including music written in an unfamiliar tonal and rhythmic system.    

This video blends traditional Indian music with Western motifs, but I hear fleeting Appalachian riffs and a hint of ragtime piano. Where did that come from?  

Go, Addie, go!   

Notes about the piece:
(from YouTube)
This piece is V.S. Narasimhan’s quartet arrangement in his ongoing efforts to combine the beauty of Indian melodies with the glory of harmony present in the Western music system. The music used is the piano reduction of the quartet score. Ms. Edelson is a well-known pianist and performer in the Washington area. 
It was amazing [to] Narasimhan …how quickly she got the feel for this music, which is really foreign to her. In addition to her focus and dedication to music, it was clear that she possesses a unique perception in order to be able to play this without having ever delved into Indian music.

(from Addie)
He originally scored his pieces for string quartet. He could only bring his sound engineer with him on his recent trip from India, however, so he wrote piano reductions, scanned them, and mailed them to me as e-mail attachments. That is how I was able to practice the music in advance of his arrival in the U.S.