This is the fifth installment in the Icons of Maine series. People with suggestions of icons are invited to e-mail them to

Novelist Gerry Boyle has some advice for would-be authors — work for the local newspaper. “Newspapers are a great training ground because you write constantly,” Boyle said. “You get to see people in a very intimate way. If you see someone sentenced to 40 years in prison, it’s pretty raw. Disguises get pulled away.”

Boyle already took his own advice. From 1980 to 1999, the China resident reported for The Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel where his columns, titled “Gerry Boyle,” ran three times a week and featured down-to-earth stories about local people, district courts and crime.

“A lot of it wasn’t who got arrested,” Boyle said. “It was why they got arrested, what their mother thought about it, and how they wound up in that situation. Now most newspapers don’t have that type of writing. It’s a thing of the past because they can’t afford to have people wandering around, which is what I did.”

It’s been years since Boyle was a roaming columnist, but some of the stories have stuck with him. “I was in a cemetery one time and found a woman who was bringing flowers to her father’s grave. She talked about her dad and how he had worked at the mill. He was a good father, and she had a good childhood,” Boyle said.

“The point of the column was that people who get all the attention often get it for the wrong reasons. She sent me a thank-you note saying she never thought she’d see her father’s name in print.”

While Boyle enjoys a good human interest story, it was his affinity for writing about crime that eventually fueled his second career as an author. In the early 1990s he began working on what would become his first book in the Jack McMorrow series.

“I had worked for a weekly [newspaper] in Rumford and thought it would be a great place to set a mystery novel,” said Boyle.

He completed a major portion of that book but put it away to work on his more lucrative newspaper job. Finally, his wife, Mary, encouraged him to finish the story he had started. That book, “Deadline,” was published in 1993.

“I sent it to a couple of big publishers and agents. One said ‘no thanks’ but the others all had good things to say about it. I didn’t act on any of the suggestions because they were all opposite, so I sent it to a regional press to get my foot in the door. They liked it and didn’t change it,” Boyle said.

Boyle’s most recent book, “Damaged Goods,” is the latest volume in the Jack McMorrow series about a reporter turned hero. McMorrow is now a family man whose loved ones are threatened by a Satanic cult in Maine. At the same time, a female escort whom McMorrow interviews for a story becomes an unexpected part of his life.

Boyle said he got the idea for introducing this female character from skimming the companionship section of the classifieds. “This one says female companionship 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Boyle chuckled as he quoted an ad that once caught his attention. “She has the Maine work ethic — she’s up at 5 a.m.!”

“Damaged Goods” is the ninth book to center around the adventures of Jack McMorrow, and it’s dedicated to Boyle’s late parents. “They were a big influence on me and were very well-read,” Boyle said. “My mother saw my first four books come out. If she was in a bookstore, she’d talk to everyone about my books and say, ‘My son wrote that.’ If my books weren’t displayed prominently enough, she’d rearrange things so they were.”

Boyle is now knee-deep in a second book series set in Maine about a younger sleuth named Brandon Blake. The Colby alum also edits “Colby Magazine.”

It’s clear to see Boyle loves his work and doesn’t plan to put down his pen anytime soon. “Sometimes at home I look at my bookshelf and think I’ve written a lot of books, but then I realize that’s just 10 ideas. Every book is one idea,” Boyle said. “I just keep thinking about all the books I still want to write.”

Dan Harrington is a freelance writer who lives in Augusta.