Author Gerry Boyle in his home office in China. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Jack McMorrow’s editors at the New York Times sent him to Maine on what they thought was a soft and fuzzy story about the day-to-day workings of a small-town newspaper.

But McMorrow found the Pine Tree State was full of hard stories, too. Stories about drug trafficking, arson, armed robberies and murder. The thrill of unearthing the hard stories in some of Maine’s grittier, less-traveled spots is what convinced him to stay. He’s been reporting and tracking Maine crime since 1993 but has only aged about 15 years.

McMorrow is the tough, edgy reporter hero of a long-running mystery series by Maine author Gerry Boyle. After 31 years and 14 books, Boyle, 68, has decided to end the series. The last book is titled “Hard Line” (Islandport Press) and comes out June 11. Boyle has a book launch event scheduled that day at the Bangor Public Library and will also speak June 13 at Novel Book Bar & Cafe in Portland.

When the series began, McMorrow was 31, but he’s only about 45 now. Boyle said he wanted his hero to age slower than in real time, so he’d still be spry enough to keep up with the unsavory characters he encounters.

“Once I got the idea this series might go on for a while, I didn’t want to rush into the stage where he’s starting to slow down,” said Boyle, sitting at the dining table in his home in the central Maine town of China. “I felt I might need some years out of this guy.”

Boyle himself covered Maine for newspapers for more than two decades. A native of Rhode Island, he went to Colby College, and after a short stint as a manuscript reader at a New York book publisher (he hated it), Boyle came back to Maine for good. He worked as a reporter first at the Rumford Falls Times in 1979, and then as a reporter and columnist for the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. He says he was often drawn to stories about crime and tough characters in the mill cities and hardscrabble towns that tourists seeking Vacationland adventures always avoid. His fictional hero is drawn to the same types of people and places.


Boyle left newspapers in 1999 and went to work for the Colby College alumni magazine, retiring from there a couple of years ago. McMorrow continued to seek out trouble, crime and danger all over the state. Here’s a look at what McMorrow has been up to over the years, one book at a time.


“Deadline” (1993) – At his first Maine newspaper job in the paper mill town of Androscoggin, McMorrow starts poking around into the supposed accidental drowning of a colleague. The book is set in a town very much like Rumford and inspired by Boyle’s time working there, including his suspicion that small-town folk aren’t always eager to let reporters from away in on long-held town secrets.

“It always struck me that, in some small towns, there were things that only locals know, and it would take a newspaper reporter a long time to find out,” Boyle said.

“Bloodline” (1995) – McMorrow has left Androscoggin and moved to another fictional town, Prosperity, in rural Waldo County. It’s similar to the actual and similarly named Maine town of Freedom, Boyle said. While freelancing for magazines, he discovers a Portland-based baby-trafficking ring and is nearly killed for his trouble. His girlfriend Roxanne, who readers met in “Deadline,” is still with him.

“Lifeline” (1996) – Now working as a reporter at the fictional Kennebec Observer in a central Maine mill town on a river (ring any bells?), McMorrow works to help a woman harassed by an abusive ex-boyfriend.


“Potshot” (1997) – After quitting his daily newspaper job (he doesn’t follow rules very well), McMorrow is freelancing again. He starts writing a story about the marijuana legalization movement in Maine and uncovers ties to drug traffickers, putting himself in danger. The plot was inspired by Boyle’s work covering pot growers in Somerset County and the annual all-things cannabis event Hempstock, in the small town of Starks.

“When I was covering that area, it wasn’t drug cartels up there. It was a lot of old bikers and old hippies and people growing marijuana on their farms,” Boyle told the Press Herald in 2017. “It was people who felt their rights were being trampled on.”

“Borderline” (1998) – Freelancing and working as a logger, McMorrow decides to write a history/travel story about Benedict Arnold’s trek through Maine to Quebec during the American Revolution. But on the trail, he learns of a man who got off a tour bus in northern Maine and went missing. He follows that trail instead.

“Cover Story” (2000) – Now covering northern New England as a freelance writer for the New York Times, McMorrow goes back to the Big Apple and reconnects with a former girlfriend and a police detective friend. Neither is what they seem to be.

“Pretty Dead” (2003) – Roxanne, now McMorrow’s wife and a child protective services worker, is assigned to check out a report of child abuse at the Maine summer home of a wealthy Boston family. McMorrow tags along. A staff member of the family’s foundation is found dead. In some joyful news, this book has the first mention of the daughter the couple will have, Sophie.

“Home Body” (2004) – McMorrow takes a desk job, as a copy editor, at a made-up daily newspaper called the Bangor Clarion. Still not great at following rules, he gets himself fired, partly for letting one too many homeless teenagers into the newsroom.


“Damaged Goods” (2010) – Back to freelancing for the New York Times, McMorrow is looking for stories closer to home, so he can spend more time with Sophie, now 4. He decides to do a story about small-town escorts. He becomes protective of one particular escort in Belfast who has left more than one of her clients dead.

“Once Burned” (2015) – A string of arsons in the fictional town of Sanctuary gets McMorrow’s attention, especially when one of the two prime suspects is beaten to death. McMorrow finds that both suspects are innocent.

“Straw Man” (2016) – Roxanne and McMorrow are having marital problems, connected to his reckless reporting on a story about a Mennonite enclave near their rural Maine home in Waldo County.

“Random Act” (2019) – McMorrow is a witness to a murder in a building supply store. But as he looks into it, he finds that the killer, who was suffering from mental illness, may be the victim of somebody else’s scheme.

“Robbed Blind” (2022) – Still writing about Maine for the New York Times but often at odds with his bosses again, McMorrow does a story on a mill town that has suffered a series of armed robberies, crossing paths with violent felons and a true-crime podcaster. The Times fires him, and his daughter, about 12 now, is asking questions about the life her father is leading.

“Hard Line” (2024) – In a continuation of the story in “Robbed Blind,” McMorrow is dealing with both the events from that book, plus lots of stuff from his past, after spending years flirting with and poking at the darker side of life.


“His wife is saying to him, ‘What kind of example are you setting for our daughter? Because you’ve been doing these things for the 15 years we’ve been together, and now she knows and understands,’ ” said Boyle. “She wants to know if he’s going to keep it up or not.”


The Jack McMorrow books stand out among other Maine-set series for both longevity and content. It’s hard to think of any other recent Maine novel series that was continually published over a period of 30 years, said Gibson Fay-Leblanc, director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. While lots of authors from away swoop in and set one book in a sunny Maine locale – often on an island – Boyle has a much more committed approach to both his characters and his adopted home state.

“That’s a different level of commitment, for someone like Gerry, who has lived in and worked here so long, to write 14 books over 30 years,” said Fay-LeBlanc.

In terms of the number of books in a Maine-set series, Paul Doiron is just about to pass Boyle. His 15th crime novel about Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, “Pitch Dark,” goes on sale June 25. Doiron, who started his series in 2010, said Boyle’s McMorrow books were one of the first series to really draw attention to inland Maine instead of coastal or island towns.

Author Gerry Boyle at his home in China. The last of his Jack McMorrow novels comes out in June. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“He was the first crime writer, as far as I know, to see the possibility of setting stories in the kind of towns that don’t show up on the tourist maps,” said Doiron, of Camden. “I was reading him faithfully when I started my first (Mike Bowditch) book.”

Boyle said that, during all his years of writing, he’s come up with ideas for lots of characters and would like to develop some of them into short stories or maybe a novel. He said he’s partly ending the McMorrow series now because he wants to stop while he’s still got enthusiasm and passion for the stories. He said he’s “really liked the last two books a lot.”

“I think it was just time for me to put on the brakes and see what else is there for me,” Boyle said. “I really wanted to go out on a high point.”

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