The Sedgwick-Deer Isle Bridge FILE PHOTO

Deer Isle setting for crime thriller

BLUE HILL — Retired Maine State Police Detective Stephen Pickering strikes one as a man for whom many things come easily.

That was certainly the case for “Bad Moon Rising,” his first novel, which was published by North Country Press in June.

Pickering said he spent 30 days writing the thriller at his Blue Hill home.

“I just started typing and this is what came out,” Pickering said. “It was easy. I’m not saying that to be flip or anything.”

Retired Maine State Police Detective Stephen Pickering has written a crime thriller based on Deer Isle. PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

Retired Maine State Police Detective Stephen Pickering has written a crime thriller based on Deer Isle.

The crime novel is set on Deer Isle. Inspiration came from an actual kidnapping in the Stonington village of Oceanville in March of 1980.

Thirteen men from Massachusetts and Florida, part of an organized drug ring, were waiting for a vessel to put in at the deep-water harbor at Settler’s Landing when six local youths stumbled upon them. The teens were threatened and held hostage. Luckily, former Stonington Police Chief Richard Sweetsir was tipped off that something was up and the plot was uncovered.

In “Bad Moon Rising,” two young brothers stumble upon a similar scene, but the whole plot ends differently.

Pickering began his own private investigation practice when he retired from the state police in 2006.

The former detective sergeant’s wife, Betty, encouraged him to start writing one winter when his private investigative work had slowed. That was in 2008-2009.

“She thought I would write a Dave Barry…” Pickering said. “I just started typing and this is what came out.”

“I never envisioned myself writing a book,” he said. Betty added, “He likes writing. He’s really good at wording things.”

“I read a lot, Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Stephen King, stuff like that,” Pickering said.

Getting a publisher to take the novel was another aspect that came easily to the former lawman.

Bad Moon Rising book coverHe sent the book to one publisher and got a rejection letter.

But then he read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and realized that “Carrie” was published because King knew someone who knew someone at a publishing house.

Pickering realized he did know someone with publishing connections, retired game warden John Ford Sr., who wrote “Suddenly The Cider Didn’t Taste So Good,” among others.

Ford was joining a new publisher, North Country Press, and agreed to send “Bad Moon Rising” along.

North Country Press wanted to publish the crime fiction with one caveat — Pickering had to eliminate a certain cuss word.

“‘Steve, you have the F word in here 49 times,’” Pickering recalled publisher Patricia Newell telling him.

“I replaced it with what the hell or heck,” he said. “I was happy to make that concession if they were willing to publish the book.”

Newell said “Bad Moon Rising” fits well with North County Press, which is based in Unity.

“A majority of our readers seem to be interested in stories that take place on the coast of Maine, so his manuscript was worthy of consideration,” Newell said.

“Readers should find this crime fiction, based on a true story, highly engaging and exciting,” the publisher said. “He came recommended by best-selling author John Ford Sr., whose third book, “Deer Diaries,” will be out in August. The plan is for Steve to join up with John Ford (and retired Maine state trooper Mark Nickerson (“Blue Lights in the Night”) on their speaking tours, entertaining crowds around the state telling tales of their careers in law enforcement.”

Someone who was surprised that Pickering became a police officer is Chuck Boothby, his 11th-grade English teacher at Deer Isle-Stonington High School. That was in 1973.

“Steve back then was way into music,” Boothby said. “As a result, he was a really good poet.”

Boothby saw the announcement of the book launch party in June and attended. Student and teacher had not seen each other since high school.

Pickering thought his teacher would be surprised he’d written a novel.

Boothby recalled telling him, “I was surprised you’re a state policeman. I thought you were going to be a writer right away.”

The retired teacher enjoyed the novel and said “the story moves so fast.”

“I think the story is really about a Deer Isle father protecting his kids,” Boothby said. “I think that’s the bottom line. That’s a really important topic. Families protect themselves in hidden, secret ways.”

Here’s a bit from a crucial scene in the novel:


“Something inside Arnold had taken his military training and combat experience and combined it with the desire and primal need to protect his children. Discipline and the sense of duty normally controlled battlefield actions and decisions. Protecting one’s children changed any need to show restraint or mercy.”


“It’s also a story about Maine vets,” Boothby said. “We’ve got a lot of vets in this state that are trained killers and they’ve been in war. What does that do when a father has to protect his kids?”

Pickering acknowledges that his novel’s main character is somewhat like him.

“There are some elements of Sam in me,” he said.

Both are Deer Isle natives who became state police troopers and then were promoted to detectives. They are fathers. Their fathers are fishermen. Both find love at a local real estate office.

“It’s easier to write about a character if you’re imagining that person,” the retired detective said.

One can imagine Pickering at a crime scene back in the day as a trooper in the novel discovers a couple of dead bodies: Patrick O’Halleron and Anthony Silveira.


“I see what your problem is,” he said to O’Halleron, “but you look like you’re taking a nap,” he said as he moved his gaze to Anthony. O’Halleron’s crushed larynx and throat were obvious even to the untrained eye.”


“Bad Moon Rising” makes people laugh just as Pickering, a consummate story teller, does.

Here’s a scene in which a local real estate agent, Julia, has had her first interaction with bad guy Frank Silveira.


“Some guys just don’t get it, Julia thought. Actually no guy gets it at first and it takes a while for the big head to educate the little head in the ways of women. Most men never graduate from that class and Frank, or Mr. Richards as he was today, never even signed up for the course.”


One character is painted in less than rosy colors, that of Sam Peterson’s wife, Sharon.

Pickering said Sharon is a composite of all the police wives he’s known. However, he said he used to deal with one officer’s wife who would never relay messages from work to her husband. Sharon fails to relay a message to Sam in one scene, which has disastrous consequences.

Here is Sam thinking about his marriage early one morning.


“Sharon and Sam had been married for what, nine years, it seemed like ninety years. He wished Meatloaf had released “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” prior to 1974. Maybe he would have reconsidered his decision that May evening in the seat of his father’s Ford pickup truck.

At least he had two wonderful, healthy sons who thought the sun rose and set on their father. Sam mused that for every silver lining there had to be a dark cloud and Sharon was Sam’s dark cloud.”


Woven through the tale are bits from other crimes, such as the December 2002 Main Street shootout with an inmate who stole a police cruiser.

One of the troopers in the novel, Dan Gervais, was inspired by the late gentle giant, Dave Giroux of Blue Hill.

Pickering chose the novel’s name, “Bad Moon Rising” because he liked the Creedence Clearwater Revival song of the same name.

People who enjoy police television dramas such as “CSI” or “Bones” would like his novel, Pickering said. People who have problems with violence may not like it, he said.

There is violence in the book.

Pickering describes Frank Silveira, the bad guy, as “a brutal bastard.”

By the book

What: “Bad Moon Rising” author Stephen Pickering will sign copies of his book

When: Noon-2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, Sherman’s Maine Books and Stationery, Bar Harbor

Second signing: 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, Witherle Memorial Library, Castine

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.