Cold Hard News by Maureen Milliken

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A teenager dies in a snowmobile crash. An old fella emerges from the roadside snow in the spring, apparently killed by a snowplow. And this is only a portion of the murder and mayhem in Maureen Milliken’s wonderful first novel, Cold Hard News.

Maureen’s enjoyed a great career in the newspaper business throughout New England. Since she returned to Maine in 2011, she’s served as a columnist and editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, where it’s been my privilege to get to know her.  She is witty and sometimes cynical, and those qualities come through in the novel.

Having tried to write a novel for the past 5 years, but I’m only up to 8000 of the necessary 80 – 90,000 words. So I admire anyone who is able to do this. Maureen worked off and on for 5 years on this book. The original setting was in Waldo County, but after she returned to her home state of Maine, she noticed that novelist Gerry Boyle uses the very same area in his novels, so she rewrote the entire book to set it in Franklin County. Various people read it over the years and made suggestions.

Maureen said one of the revelations in this process was figuring out she could make things up. She doesn’t get to do that at the newspaper! I have found the writing of dialogue to be particularly challenging, and was interested when Maureen told me she added minor characters to expand the opportunities for dialogue. A clue for me!

Once your book is finished, it’s not easy to find an established publisher. Maureen started out looking for an agent, then moved on to look for a publisher that didn’t require an agent. Online she discovered S&H Publishing, a relatively new company in Falls Church, Virginia. She has been very happy with their services. And she’s ready to hit the road for book talks. Those will be advertised on her Facebook page titled “Maureen Milliken mysteries.”

The Novel

I especially love good dialogue in a novel, and there is plenty here. Best of all, the principle character, Bernie O’Dea, is the owner/editor of the Peaks Weekly Watcher, a small town newspaper, so you’ll get a real inside look at the newspaper world. And no one knows the newspaper business better than Maureen, a third-generation newspaper editor.

Bernie gets excited when that old fella’s body emerges from the snow, anticipating a big story for her paper. But she gets too involved in the investigation, and things get really complicated when she takes a romantic interest in the town’s new police chief. You won’t be surprised to know that as secrets are discovered, the town is ripped apart. In most rural Maine towns, it doesn’t take a dead body for that to happen!

I really can’t describe the novel better than popular Maine novelist Paul Doiron does: “Cold Hard News is an extraordinarily accomplished and entertaining debut. Maureen Milliken writes vividly about life in rural Maine and she has created a likable, engaging heroine in reporter Bernie O’Dea. Quick witted and quirky, brave but believable, Bernie is my favorite kind of accidental sleuth.”

I agree Paul! And the really good news is that Maureen is already at work on a second novel that continues Bernie’s story.

Cold Hard News, published by S&H Publishing, will be available starting on June 6, and you’ll want to put it on your summer reading list.

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