Mr. Spooner has already penned three books of historical true crime stories from his native Maine -- a place with hundreds of years of history from which to draw fascinating specimens. He is now blogging at Maine Supernatural
His books are Return To Smuttynose Island: And Other Maine Axe Murders, In Search Of Melissa Thayer: Reinvestigating The Trim Triple Homicide, and In Search Of Sarah Ware: Reinvestigating Murder and Conspiracy in a Maine Village [Amazon; not on B&N]. (As to the somewhat controversial Smuttynose case, he agrees, as do I, that justice was served with the hanging of Louis Wagner.)
When not working as a librarian or collecting chert and arrowheads, Mr. Spooner is astonishing Maine with reports on cases infamous and obscure both in his books and his website Maine Supernatural.
So I had a chance to ask the author a few questions about his research and his books and he was kind enough to reply. Here is our Q&A.
Q. It is a curious hobby, collecting, researching, and writing old murder cases. What got you started on each of these subjects?
I grew up in a town known for its legend of a Witch's Curse, marked by a supposed leg on the Town Father's monument. When you grow up hearing stories like this and when you're old enough to find out that it was made up, you begin to look for answers.
My first book is the town's second favorite legend - the story of a woman that disappeared one night and was found 2 weeks later abandoned. When they picked her up to place her in a casket her head fell off. Historical stories like this always tend to get falsehoods surrounding them, and if told long enough become facts. Since this case happened literally in my backyard in 1898, I wanted to find the truth. When I found the truth, I wanted to share the truth.
In researching my first book, I began to hear mention of a triple homicide that occurred 22 years earliar, all but forgotten. These 3 innocents including a mother and her 4 year old daughter were lost to time. I brought them back from the brink.
My fifth book, third dealing with murder, started out to be a casebook on axe murders all over the state, but then finding there was to many to account for I focused on the first, the Purington Massacre, and the biggest, the Smuttynose Island Murders, with a third case dealing with a nearby axe murder, with the convicted being hung at the same time as the Smuttynose Murderer Louis Wagner.
This book became personal for two reasons. The first is that when I investigated my second book on the Trim Triple Homicide, the sea captain convicted was sentenced to life because the death penalty in Maine had been abolished the year before just after Wagner and Gordon were hung at Thomaston. Secondly, because when you hear Smuttynose Island thanks to recent books and movies, you think New Hampshire or Portsmouth. In actuality Smuttynose is in Maine; Wagner was tried in Alfred, Maine, and hung at Thomaston. So in essence it was an attempt to clarify it and an attempt to reclaim it as a Maine Murder, placing the blame on the rightful murderer and not an innocent survivor.
Q. What is it about the dark chapters of Maine's long history of murder cases that keeps you interested?
I have written all I can from my hometown, the latest branching out statewide. People come up to me and say, "I have a great uncle that was killed with an axe!" or "there is a murder in my hometown that went unsolved are you looking into that?"
If I can get behind a story, and find it interesting enough to hold my attention, then I will continue churning out books. Whether or not I intend to self-publish them or stick them on a shelf for a rainy day is entirely up to the readers. I had all of my research on shelves unpublished and then Amazon comes out with on demand publishing through createspace and I let the books fly. It doesn't mean that I churned out 5 books in a year, it means I finally got a outlet for my research of the past decade.
With all of my books I look at it as a chance to save and record the true past that if not taken the time to be written down might be lost or is lost to future generations. I get accused of needing a fact checker, only because the individual doing the accusing isn't aware of the original documents written as the events occurred, but has grown up with the false stories made up on the subject.
Q. As a New Englander you do, I suppose, admire Edmund L. Pearson?
I like Pearson, I read all books on Smuttynose that I could, he was one of the better. I read everything on a subject I can, so have been reading a lot of true crime and historical non-fiction of late. When I write, I attempt to keep the words moving and add humor when I tactfully can, which is sometimes not appreciated by those looking for a dust-covered textbook.
I have been accused of writing like I am telling the story or reciting a narrative, which is obviously the point. But then again, people of all ages tell me how much they enjoy my books, so it can't be all bad.
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