Two years ago, I had the pleasure of reading and recommending Paul Fournier’s first book, “Tales from Misery Ridge.” The tales that the book contained were compelling, well-written, and I was confident that BDN readers would enjoy it.
Since then, I’ve heard from several who agreed with my assessment, and loved the stories shared by the former Maine guide, bush pilot, and spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”
Today, I have some good news … and some sad news.
First, the good: Fournier’s second book, which he mentioned in an email interview back in 2011, was released on Oct. 18. It’s called “Birds of a Feather,” and it’s good. Very, very good.
Now the sad: Fournier passed away in August, just days after completing final edits on his final book. He was 84.
Back in 2011, Fournier told me that his goal for the book he was already working on, and which Islandport Press had contracted to publish, would be a bit different from his first, which was more of a memoir.
“[‘Birds of a Feather’] will be more oriented to nature study and observation and will include several more nature articles reprinted from magazines,” Fournier wrote at the time. “And my files are full of story ideas.”
Fournier spent plenty of time in the woods and on the waters of his native Maine, and said they provided all the inspiration and story fodder he needed.
“There’s some magical, intangible thing about Maine and its woods that just inspires tales,” Fournier wrote. “The Maine woods and its creatures continue to fascinate me.”
In “Birds of a Feather,” Fournier achieved what he set out to do. It is, in part, a nature study: He takes close looks at some of our our most intriguing critters, and focuses on their unique abilities and characteristics.
Fournier was fascinated by the natural camouflage that some animals possess. He was amazed by the sense of smell that others use as their chief defense and survival mechanisms. He was amused and befuddled by the odd behaviors of the animals he encountered.
All of that is in the book, in chapters of short essays that focus on animals on land, in the water, and on the wing.
Whether examining the age-old question: “Do cougars roam in Maine?” or talking about how animals communicate with each other, Fournier speaks with authority, and his tales sparkle.
Even more enjoyable, in my view, are the stories in which Fournier tells us about the events he witnessed, the history he saw made, and the people he met.
When Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Fournier was there. His essay is a remarkable snapshot of a historic event, told exceptionally well.
Fournier introduces you to the Nugents of Chamberlain Lake, talks about the state’s rich ice-harvesting past, and shares some thoughts on one of the state’s most infamous hunting-related shootings, the Karen Wood case.
He tells the reader about the Lombard log hauler.
He shares a story about a family that adopted an eagle.
And he takes a look at aerial trout stocking, which sometimes works great … and sometimes doesn’t.
Through all of those stories, spread over 233 pages, a few things becomes clear.
Fournier was there. He lived it all. And he loved every minute.
Luckily for readers, he decided to share some of his best before moving on.