Toadstool to host author Archer Mayor in Zoom event

NASHUA – The new book “The Orphan’s Guilt” will be highlighted in a live Zoom event with New York Times bestselling author Archer Mayor on Oct. 2 at 5 p.m.

Toadstool Bookshop, 375 Amherst St., is presenting the virtual event.

Mayor lives in and writes about Vermont and has so through his 31-book series on fictitious detective Joe Gunther. He began the trek in 1988.

“Joe started then with the book, ‘Open Season,'” he said. “I am now editing book 32.”

The acclaimed writer, who is currently a death investigator for Vermont’s office of the chief medical examiner, has also been a detective for the Windham County sheriff’s office, a volunteer firefighter/EMT, a theater photographer, a political advance-man and a researcher for TIME-LIFE books.

Mayor used to write history books; he still has an affinity for reading them – that and science books. And while he has favorite mystery writers, he doesn’t read murder mysteries.

He was offered a job writing for People magazine back in the day when it began as a section in Time magazine and the powers-that-be decided to off-shoot it into its own publication.

“When they offered me the job, we all said ‘There’s no way that’s going to fly! Do you have any deck chairs for the Titanic?'” he recalled with a laugh.

When he’s writing one book in the series, he said he knows he has the commitment for the next entry but doesn’t give it anymore thought.

“I don’t worry about plotting it out,” he said. “I am editing 32 and haven’t even begun thinking about 33. Around Christmas, I’ll start worrying about that.”

Mayor said he occasionally has insights on what the next book will be roughly about and likes to do his due diligence.

“I’m very detailed oriented,” he stated. “I like to go out and talk to a lot of people and see a lot of places. In the process, I might come across something and think ‘that’s kind of nifty.’ But that’s all I need. But I stop right there. I don’t develop it in my head.”

It doesn’t take beating himself up to get the creative juices flowing and Mayor said he writes when he gets the urge.

“I keep lots of notes and keep lots of files,” he said. “And I have ‘McGuffin’ lists.”

A McGuffin by definition, is an object in a movie or a book that serves merely as a trigger for the plot.

“I always think of Hitchcock when I think of a McGuffin,” Mayor said. “I have a list of McGuffins. Which mean they can be crucial, they can be irrelevant, they can be glue, they can be substance. They can be any number of things.”

Mayor by his own account, leads a pretty crazy life.

“A McGuffin is a trigger in my head,” he said. “And I have in the past, constructed an entire book based on a McGuffin. There is no such thing as a bad McGuffin.”

This year with the pandemic, his schedule had been chock full of virtual events.

“Yesterday I got on my motorcycle and drove to two places and signed stock,” he said of signing books. “Otherwise it’s Zoom after Zoom after Zoom.”

He said he blogs but only under duress and leaves Instagram and other social media platforms up to his wife, whom he called, “the front office.”

When Mayor looks at his fabled resume and different careers, he has a favorite for sure.

“Funnily enough, I do,” he said. “For years, I thought I would be the oldest EMT in history because I so loved going out on calls and helping people. Well, I’m no longer an EMT. You just listen to the swan song and say, ‘You’re done.'”

For 18 years, he’s been a death investigator and he’s just under 1,000 in total in almost two decades of work.

“There hasn’t been one yet that I didn’t learn from, enjoy and be useful at,” Mayor said. “These are insights into anthropology, into psychology and into culture. Everything is there. This is the stuff of human essence.”

Like any good storyteller, Mayor said the police and other officials look to him for his expertise.

“They have their jobs to do but they don’t want to do anything until I get there,” he said. “They don’t want to touch the body. They don’t want to go through his pockets. They don’t want to open up shirts and check things. That to me is the essence of making the dead breathe again.”

With that endless fascination, that has become Mayor’s favorite job.

“I love this job,” he said. “I had nine calls last week and every one was unique.”

For more information on this or other Toadstool events, visit 222.toadbooks.com or call (603) 673-1734.