BUSHNELL ABOUT BOOKS: ‘Dear Maine’ and ‘Bad Medicine’

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


Well-known British author John Berger (1926-2017) wrote thoughtfully: “Emigration, forced or selected, across national borders or from village to metropolitan area, is the typical experience of our time.” And that’s certainly true today in Maine.

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

This is a powerful collection of 20 “essay profiles” of immigrant men and women who have recently settled in Maine. The stories of their travels reflect their fears, insecurities and doubts as most fled from violence, war, poverty, political, religious and cultural persecution. The authors spent six years on this project, a remarkable effort to highlight immigrant victims and contributions.

Rielly and Jalali selected 20 immigrants from 18 countries who told their stories with both grace and fervor. For these men and women, their stories have a happy ending in Maine. They and their families are safe, healthy, prosperous American citizens and valuable contributors to their new home. However, their travels were often frightening nightmares about death, injury, illness, abuse, corruption and victims. Many never saw their families again. The lucky ones were well educated and spoke English, for others the transition to a new life has been difficult.

Two Somali women have been elected to Maine City Council; an Iraqi man is a professional boxer; a Russian girl learned English by watching The Simpsons on television with funny results. The essays also provide a fantastic insight into the oppressive, brutal and deadly conditions in their home countries. It is no wonder that 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 Publishing, 2021; 249 pages, $ 15.95; ISBN 978-1-63381-248-2.


About scientists, the French biologist Jean Rostand (1894-1977) wrote: “Nothing leads the scientist astray like a premature truth.” Either that, or the scientist deliberately falsifies research data for another purpose.

“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, after “Nondisclosure” and “Forever”. And this one is much better – more tightly packed, exciting, thrilling and believable. Cooper is a retired cancer researcher and academic administrator who brings solid professional credentials to his thriller writing. And this could easily be titled “Bad Pharma.”

Parker is taking a temporary job as director of the Maine Translational Research Institute in York, a cancer research facility. There are problems between two scientists vying for office – one is a hot-shot all-star, the other is hated by everyone: especially the pompous faculty. Parker has to fix it, but he quickly smells like a rat – accusing him of research sabotage, threats, false data and apparent poisoning of patients in a clinical trial of lung cancer drugs.

Parker is in at all, but thankfully, Richmond’s FBI background brings clarity and focus to what will be a homicide investigation. He is smart, but she is much smarter, more sneaky and much more ruthless. He makes a bad decision that leads to extortion, but she eventually finds the one clue that opens the case.

Cooper’s clever, timely plot reveals that drug researchers are stinging, arrogant, smart, greedy egotists with high opinions and low morals – bad combinations when in bed with Big Pharma. Then throw in a cold-blooded assassin, and the civil war takes on new meaning. Plottwists and quick action make this a fun and yet scary story.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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