LaFlamme digs up story in ‘Dirt’

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Sun Journal writer to debut third novel Sept. 10

LEWISTON – Maybe it’s a measure of how Mark LaFlamme thinks.

The nightmare vision at the start of his latest book – beginning with a man digging up his dead wife – came to the writer as he tried sleeping off a headache.

And it comforted him.

“It was one of those medicated sleeps,” LaFlamme said, the kind that wrap you in a warm blanket when you’re sick. “It soothed me.”

Maybe that’s because the story has nothing to do with ghosts, aliens or killer kudzu. This is a real world tale, and the grave robber isn’t particularly sinister.

“He’s not a ghoul,” LaFlamme said of his character, Calvin Cotton. “He’s just so in love with his wife, he can’t part with her.”

His desperation is the starting point of “Dirt: An American Campaign.”

The story opens with Calvin’s creepy reunion with his wife, Bethany. The next scene sets up the tale’s real dirt. Calvin’s dad, Frank, is Maine’s governor. He’s running for president and terrified at what his son’s loony behavior might do to his chances.

So, he recruits a fixer.

“It’s a political thriller,” said LaFlamme, who insisted that the Cottons are not based on a real political family. Rather, the precariousness of today’s politics is copied.

“All it takes is one little misstep,” LaFlamme said. “You’re always one small scandal away from utter ruin.”

For LaFlamme, who began work as the Sun Journal’s crime reporter in 1994, the story’s political thrust came as a surprise. Until he began writing “Dirt” last summer, he ducked politics like a crook hiding from the cops.

The writing process converted him.

“It was the strategy of it,” he said. Preserving a politician’s reputation, keeping it burnished and bright, leads to a lot of clever work. Careful politicos may see bits of Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, LaFlamme said.

They’ve created fertile ground for a fiction writer.

“Dirt” marks LaFlamme’s third published novel and his first to be published by somebody else. He self-published his first two books, “The Pink Room” and “Vegetation.”

With his publisher’s help, LaFlamme hopes to begin marketing the 300-page book Sept. 10.

They plan to unleash the work with campaign-like bombast and bunting. LaFlamme already pledged to do whatever the publisher asks, whether it means signing books or kissing babies.

It may be an awfully outgoing role for a guy who can be shy, eccentric but shy. LaFlamme has written all of his books in the early morning hours, when no one disturbs him.

For “Dirt,” he managed to write about 3,000 words each night.

“As always, it was after midnight, when it feels like nobody else in the world is awake,” he said.

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