As a registered Maine guide, Randy Spencer spends more time in the woods and on the water in a single season than most of us do over a span of years.
The people he meets, the places he goes and the critters he sees provide fodder for another of Spencer’s passions: writing.
Recently, his second book, “Wide and Deep: Tales and Recollections from a Master Maine Fishing Guide,” received accolades from the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
Spencer’s latest work took first place in the OWAA’s annual contest in the general audience category.
I’ve been a fan of Spencer since his first book, “Where Cool Waters Flow: Four Seasons with a Master Maine Guide,” was released in 2009.
Spencer, who guides in the Grand Lake Stream and lives in Holden, has a unique gift: In just a few well-chosen words, he can transport readers into those deep woods he loves. While some other authors opt for long, flowery descriptions of their surroundings, Spencer’s ability to succinctly capture the mood and setting of a situation is a product of his vast experience in Maine’s wild places.
Simply put, Spencer doesn’t make things up; he lives what he writes, and that authenticity shines through.
Better yet, Spencer is a joy to spend time with. A couple of years back, he joined Bangor Daily News staff at our booth at the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show, where he signed copies of his first book and chatted with folks as they stopped by. A steady stream of fans — or future fans — visited, and a line quickly formed. Whether talking about fishing, hunting, writing or marketing his book, Spencer was equally comfortable.
“Wide and Deep” is a collection of short stories and essays and includes some poignant tales.
Spencer wastes no time in getting the reader’s attention, kicking off the book with “A Cry for Help,” which recounts his efforts to save a man’s life after the angler had been wading in Grand Lake Stream and experienced a medical emergency.
The author’s reaction to that event and the unlikely friendship that resulted from the tragedy counts among the book’s most powerful moments.
Spencer also mines the rich culture of the Passamaquoddy tribe, introducing readers to a man named Mikhu and a raven that stands sentinel near his remote home. Mystical and mysterious, the tale shows that sometimes our supposed understanding of a situation only scratches the surface of the truth.
The author also revisits Drummond Humchuck, a seemingly made-up woodsman who lives deep in the forest and always seems to know exactly when Spencer will stop by for a visit. Spencer swears Humchuck exists, living a hermit-like existence. But when the book was released in 2014, the author refused to give any further hints about the actual location of Humchuck’s abode.
“Wide and Deep” is packed with similar gifts that readers will get to unwrap at their leisure, either picking and choosing, meandering through the pages or — as I did — binge-reading the whole book in a day or two.
The fact that his latest book has been recognized by his outdoor-writing peers is not a surprise. Here’s hoping that even more readers pick up a copy of “Wide and Deep” and come to appreciate the talents of one of our region’s best.
And here’s hoping Spencer already is at work on a third book of tales gathered in some of Maine’s wild and special places.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.