BAR HARBOR — Dick Broom, the reporter who for 12 years has been covering Mount Desert municipal news, education stories and Acadia National Park, sometimes with his golden retriever nearby, has been keeping secrets.
But now those secrets are out and on local bookstore shelves.
This fall, Broom published two books, a mystery titled “Death Once Removed” and a novel titled “The Gandhi Lodge.”
Both are part of a cache of fiction that Broom wrote years ago and put aside.
“You write something and you think it’s good,” Broom said. “I’ve heard from a number of people either indirectly or directly that they really liked ‘Death Once Removed.’ I’ve heard from a number of people who didn’t need to say anything at all that they liked it.”
“The Gandhi Lodge – I don’t know whether people will like it or not,” Broom said. “Questions of right and wrong, good and bad. In what circumstances is it OK to do something wrong to get to that end?”
Broom had a career in public relations before he and his wife, Sharon, moved to Maine in 1999 from Chapel Hill, N.C. Sharon had been hired to serve as the development and public relations director for The Abbe Museum. He worked as a freelance writer before being recruited by local newspapers.
“When we moved up here, I was doing freelance writing,” said Broom. “I had an idea for a mystery, so I wrote it.”
Broom said he thought about getting an agent or a publisher but didn’t.
“I just put it aside, so I wrote another one – that is ‘Death Once Removed.’ Then I wrote a third one, ‘Gandhi Lodge,’” he said.
“I was struggling to wrap it up then I got a job with the Bar Harbor Times,” said Broom. That was 2003.
“Years and years and years passed, and I started thinking a few months ago that second one [‘Death Once Removed’] might have possibilities,” he said.
So, the Asheville, N.C., native decided to share his fiction with the world.
“I didn’t do this to make a ton of money,” Broom said. “I just wanted to get them out there.”
“Self-publishing doesn’t have the stigma it did a number of years ago,” he noted.
The reporter conferred with his former editor, Earl Brechlin, who referred him to a publishing company called 48 Hour Books.
“They’ll do the design and formatting, and they print the book and send it to you,” said Broom. “My experience both times has been wonderful. They are so well organized. You send them the manuscript, the cover copy.
“They sent me one copy of the printed book, ‘I said, ‘Looks good,’” Broom said. “Once you sign off on the final proof, they print the book within 48 hours. They ship it UPS. So, from the time I first signed up and sent them the manuscript, it was less than three weeks. They’re just wonderful.”
“Dick’s extraordinary skills as a reporter make him such a good writer,” said Brechlin, the former Mount Desert Islander managing editor. “He’s thorough and detail-oriented and an exceptional listener. He knows how to tell a story.”
“For years, Dick Broom has been the consummate newspaper reporter, covering events on Mount Desert Island with grace and competence,” said novelist and Mount Desert Select Board Chairwoman Martha Dudman. “What a delight to discover he’s also a mystery writer. Fans of his excellent reporting in the Mount Desert Islander can now enjoy his deft storytelling and sly humor in ‘Death Once Removed.’”
Here’s a synopsis for the mystery:
“An American medical student at the University of Leeward Islands in St. John’s Antigua is found dead at the base of an oceanside cliff. A tragic accident? A suicide? Or something else? And what is the small object that his grandmother, who lives in a retirement community in Virginia, found among her cremated husband’s ashes? Whatever it is, how did it get there?”
Broom, having rather a dry wit, wrote fictional reviews for “Death Once Removed,” which are published on the back book jacket.
“A delicious melange of words and sentences.” – The Okra Magazine
“You simply cannot read this book without thinking about how much time it has taken.” – Steven Kling
“The ending will shock you, unless you’ve been paying attention.” – Tess Guestersen
Broom’s wife of 50 years, Sharon, counseled against including fictional reviews but Broom went with them anyway.
“Sharon told me not to do that,” Broom recalled. But “it was fun.”
Broom also has published “The Gandhi Lodge,” the plot of which he describes as “A Crime of Conscience on the Maine Coast.”
“Rationalization is liberating. Insidiously seductively, it gives one license to do things that are on a spectrum from morally ambiguous to reprehensible. Phil and Sarah Bradford rationale. They told themselves that what they were doing, though technically wrong – all right, positively criminal – was justified because it was in the service of a much greater good.
“Were they right or just self-righteous? Would Gandhi have approved? His teachings were sometimes contradictory. The story of a kidnapping on Mount Desert Island on the coast of Maine raises questions of right and wrong and how much goodness it takes to expiate harm – if it ever can.”
You’ve heard the old adage that life imitates art and if you’re one of Broom’s sources or neighbors, you may know that Broom is living with a terminal illness, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Coincidentally, years ago when Broom was working on “The Gandhi Lodge,” the writer needed to give one character a terminal illness that would start with mild symptoms and then progress. So, Broom started researching.
“I did some research to find out what would be a good disease to give this character and it turned out to be ALS, having no idea that would be part of my future as well,” he said.
You can find Broom’s fiction at Sherman’s Books.
If you’re going to write mysteries, it usually helps to read them. Broom is a particular fan of C.J. Sansom, who wrote the “Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery” series.