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“I may not be where I want to be, but I'm thankful for not being where I used to be.”
– Habeeb Akanea  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 11 November 2020  

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  “The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop”
  By Robin Widmar

   Books are, in a way, similar to food. Literary works filled with elegant prose demand to be slowly savored, much like a fine meal at a Michelin-starred eatery. Mass-produced books by prolific authors invite comparison to chain restaurant fare that satisfies the hunger but does little to fill the soul.
   
   Timothy Cotton’s “The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop” lands comfortably alongside hearty homemade stew and freshly baked bread on a snowy day, when there is no place to go and all day to get there. It is enjoyable, leisurely and worth going back for a second helping.
   
   Readers might recognize Cotton from his posts on the marginally famous Bangor, Maine, Police Department Facebook page, which he took over in the spring of 2014. Instead of dry, information-only press releases that form the basis of most public safety social media, he began posting stories about the people and situations that BPD’s officers encounter daily. His personable narrative and dry Maine wit began to attract readers, and the page eventually racked up more than 300,000 followers from around the world. It only made sense, then, for Cotton to write a book.
   
   “The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop” is a collection of Cotton’s short works, but contrary to what the title might imply, it is not all-cop all the time. In fact, slice-of-life stories fill much of the book. The subjects vary widely, from a scant half-page musing that brings to life an April evening in Maine, to a poignant essay that pays tribute to Cotton’s grandfather and the lessons he imparted to a young Timothy. A lawn chore segment opens with this relatable line: “Disappointment and dandelions are my go-to lawn ornaments.” Many of his tales, much like Aesop’s fables, wrap up with nuggets of down-home wisdom such as “Don’t let life get in the way of life” and “All we have is each other.”
   
   It can be difficult to separate the man from the badge, and passing references to his chosen career appear in some tales that otherwise have little or nothing to do with law enforcement. Cotton subtly notes how years spent interviewing people in his job worked into the ability to strike up a conversation about an imperfect truck with the perfect stranger who owned it. A brief discourse on being present in the moment, set against an autumnal backdrop, was drafted while assisting detectives in the recovery of a murder weapon. “It was a beautiful day, and these were my thoughts that filtered through the success and the ugliness of that day,” he writes.
   
   Cop stories act as bookends to the collection, with real life at the beginning and fictionalized, inspired-by-real-life tales at the end. For those who were hoping for a hefty dose of “Got Warrants?” — arguably one of the most popular features on the BPD Facebook page –- Cotton delivers 40 pages of his trademark police blotter-style stories, all written with his unique creative flair. He also includes “the rest of the story” (as the late Paul Harvey would say) behind the now world-famous Duck of Justice –- a taxidermic wood duck that Cotton rescued from a garbage can, which went on to become a beloved unofficial mascot of the Bangor Police Department. The Duck of Justice story of renewal has made “thousands of folks continue to smile. Everyone deserves a second chance to shine.”
   
   While the stories are the prime attraction, Cotton’s writing and perspective on human behavior will invite readers to come back for more. He is a natural storyteller with a gift for ironic wordplay (“The cool breeze brought in the smells of spring in Maine — pine, cedar and the residue of the residents at Young’s dairy farm”) and a fondness for alliteration. Some stories are funny, some are sad, but all are told from the heart. This is not highbrow literary fare, but the family friendly yarns are rife with warmth, honesty, common sense, compassion and the impetus to always do better.
   
   Isn’t that something we can all use a little more of these days?
  
 
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