Mystery novelist coming to Williston (9/24/09)

Archer Mayor to speak at library on Saturday

Sept. 24, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

For avid readers of Vermont author Archer Mayor, autumn is the best season.


    Photo courtesy of
Vermont mystery author Archer Mayor, pictured above, visits Williston on Saturday.

Every fall for the past 20 years, Mayor has released a new mystery novel centering on his fictional Vermont detective, Lt. Joe Gunther. On Sept. 29, the tradition continues with Mayor’s newest novel, “The Price of Malice,” published by Minotaur Press.

“I’m as predictable as the flu,” Mayor joked during a phone interview with the Observer on Monday.

Currently on a New England book tour in support of his 20th Joe Gunther mystery, Mayor will stop by Dorothy Alling Memorial Library on Saturday at 1 p.m. The event is hosted by the Friends of Dorothy Alling Memorial Library.

Mayor said he’s looking forward to meeting with his readers. Meeting new fans is a constant thrill, he said.

“I get a kick out of chatting with people and finding out what they’re most interested in,” Mayor said.

Instead of reading passages from his books, Mayor said he prefers a period of open discussion and questions. Every audience is different and his fans tend to ask pointed, intelligent questions, he said. Mayor added he would also leave time to sign books.

Mayor, a Newfane resident, has been writing his Joe Gunther series since 1988, with many of the books taking place in Brattleboro. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including the 2004 award for best fiction from the New England Independent Booksellers Association. It was the first time the award was given for crime literature.

Mayor said he’s particularly excited about his newest novel, “The Price of Malice,” because he challenges his protagonist more than ever. The story follows a thread started in his previous novel, “The Catch.” Gunther must help his girlfriend solve a family mystery in Maine, while also trying to crack a case in Brattleboro. The cases cause conflict between his personal life and his professional life with the Vermont Bureau of Investigations.

While Mayor’s stories mostly take place within Vermont and New England, he said he has a devoted following outside the region. Newspapers, from The New York Times to The San Diego Union Tribune, have praised Mayor’s writing. A Chicago Tribune review even said Mayor writes the best procedural police dramas in the country.

Mayor said he credits much of his success to his experience with law enforcement. He’s a deputy sheriff in Windham County and a death investigator for Vermont’s Chief Medical Examiner. He also finds time to volunteer for his local fire department and rescue squad. Having real world credibility gives his books more relevance, he said.

“People like to learn, even as they’re reading a murder mystery,” Mayor said. “I always try to put together scenarios that could happen in the real world.”

He said many of the cases in his books are involved, but he tries not to confuse his readers with too much explanation and overt details.

“I find that writers who put in too much detail don’t trust their readers,” Mayor said. “I trust my readers are smart and have a good imagination. I see my readers as co-conspirators with me.”

Besides “The Price of Malice,” Mayor recently reprinted the first 12 books in the Joe Gunther series, as well as his 16th book, “St. Albans Fire.” Mayor was given the rights to the 13 books after his former publisher, Hachette Book Group, stopped producing reprints. He recently started his own publishing company, AMPress, and now sells the older books through his Web site,

He’s also looking into making his older novels downloadable through his Web site. Currently, he’s looking to obtain the rights of other older books for resale, including “The Sniper’s Wife” and “Gatekeeper.”

Mayor, who also occasionally writes travel articles for AAA, said he’s a busy man and finds time to write whenever he can.

“Portable laptops were invented solely for me, I’ll have you know,” Mayor said.

Even in the days before “The Price of Malice” is released, Mayor is working on the 21st Joe Gunther book. Tentatively titled “Red Herring,” Gunther said he researched parts of the book at a DNA crime lab on Long Island in New York.

And when book number 21 is done, he’ll be on to number 22. He said he has no plans to slow down.

“My father lived until he was 99 years old, so if that’s any indication, I’m fated to write Joe Gunther stories for many more years,” Mayor said with a laugh.