BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: "Dear Maine" and "Bad Medicine"

BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: “Dear Maine” and “Bad Medicine”

CHER MAINE: THE TRIALS AND TRIUMPH OF MAINE’S 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRANTS by Morgan Rielly and Reza Jalali; Islandport Press, 2021; 192 pages, $19.95; ISBN 978-1-952143-19-9.

CHER MAINE: THE TRIALS AND TRIUMPH OF MAINE’S 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRANTS

The famous British writer John Berger (1926-2017) pensively wrote: “Emigration, forced or chosen, across national borders or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time. And that’s certainly true today in Maine.

“Dear Maine” reveals just how prophetic Berger’s words are, with the movement of people between continents and countries so common and dramatic. In recent years, Maine has seen an increase in emigration from foreign lands, bringing vitality, hopes, dreams, imagination and energy.

This is a powerful collection of 20 “essay style profiles” of immigrant men and women who have recently settled in Maine. Accounts of their travels reflect their fear, uncertainty and doubts, as most fled violence, war, poverty, political, religious and cultural persecution. The authors spent six years on this project, a notable effort to highlight the sacrifices and contributions of immigrants.

Rielly and Jalali selected 20 immigrants from 18 countries, telling their stories with grace and fervor. For these men and women, their stories have a happy ending in Maine. They and their families are safe, healthy and prosperous American citizens and valuable contributors to their new home. Their journeys, however, were often terrifying nightmares of death, injury, disease, abuse, corruption, and sacrifice. Many never saw their families again. The lucky ones were well educated and spoke English, for others the transition to a new life was difficult.

Two Somali women have been elected to municipal councils in Maine; an Iraqi man is a professional boxer; a Russian girl learned English by watching The Simpsons on TV with hilarious results. The essays also provide astonishing insight into the oppressive, brutal and deadly conditions in their home country. No wonder people are fleeing countries like Syria, Bosnia, Rwanda, Russia and El Salvador.

Their stories and successes are positive examples of why “everyone should have a chance”.

BAD MEDICINE: A MEDICAL THRILLER by Geoffrey M. Cooper; Maine Authors Edition, 2021; 249 pages, $15.95; ISBN 978-1-63381-248-2.

BAD MEDICINE: A MEDICAL THRILLER

About scientists, the French biologist Jean Rostand (1894-1977) wrote: “Nothing misleads the scientist so much as a premature truth. Either that or the scientist is deliberately falsifying the research data for other purposes.

“Bad Medicine” is the latest medical thriller from Ogunquit author Geoffrey Cooper, starring researcher Dr. Brad Parker and his lover FBI agent Karen Richmond. This is Cooper’s third mystery involving these characters, following “Nondisclosure” and “Forever.” And this one is way better – tighter, suspenseful, exciting and believable. Cooper is a retired cancer researcher and university administrator who brings strong professional credentials to his thriller writing. And it could easily be called “Bad Pharma”.

Parker takes a temporary job as director of the Maine Translational Research Institute in York, a cancer research facility. There are problems between two scientists competing for tenure – one is a rising star, the other is hated by everyone: especially the pompous faculty. Parker has to deal with the matter, but he quickly smells like a rat – accusations of research sabotage, threats, false data, and the apparent poisoning of patients in a clinical trial researching a lung cancer drug.

Parker is in over his head, but luckily Richmond’s FBI background brings clarity and focus to what becomes a murder investigation. He’s smart, but she’s a lot smarter, sneakier, and a lot more ruthless. He makes a bad decision that leads to blackmail, but she eventually finds the only clue that opens the case.

Cooper’s clever and timely plot reveals drug research scientists to be prickly, arrogant, sneaky, greedy selfish people with high opinions and low morals – bad combinations in bed with Big Pharma. Then add a cold-blooded hitman and the fight for tenure takes on new importance. The plot twists and fast-paced action make for a fun yet scary story.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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