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‘Got Warrants?’ warrants your attention

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Writers spring from all walks of life. And they can arrive at the vocation via any number of paths. Some follow the academic path, moving through MFA programs designed to help them hone their crafts. Others find the calling later in life, moved to share their stories after having lived them.

Tim Cotton falls into the latter category.

A police officer, Cotton’s talents were first made apparent via the viral spread of the Bangor Police Department Facebook page. His combination of observational humor, wry wit and situational awareness turned the department’s posts into must-read material, with the page’s reach expanding into the hundreds of thousands under Cotton’s watch.

And hey, when you’ve got that many people reading what you write, it only makes sense to write a book; Cotton’s “Detective in the Dooryard,” published last year, proved to be something of a hit. And what do you do when you have a hit? Aim for another one.

Cotton’s newest book is “Got Warrants?” (Down East Books, $24.95), a compendium of some of the highlights from the BPD Facebook page’s regular feature of the same name. Said feature is a celebration of the lighter side of policing, offering up humorous observations of some of the illicit nonsense that folks will sometimes get up to.

What Cotton has done here is bring some of that feature’s many highlights together in a single volume, creating a collection of quick hits that unfold at a rapid pace over the course of the book’s 224 pages. These are stories of what happens when crimes and complaints take humorous turns, as well as how the officers on the scene react to said turns.

It’s worth noting that Cotton eschews any sort of mean-spiritedness with regard to the items he’s included. These stories aren’t intended to shame the subjects in any way; there are no names or other identifying specifics. Instead, the writer opts to focus on the small-town charm of these situations, giving the reader brief glimpses into the foolishness that people will inevitably get up to.

Along those lines, if you’re looking for the darker side of the street, you’ll have to look elsewhere. These pages are well-lit looks at situations devoid of cruelty or evil. There’s nothing sinister at work in “Got Warrants?” And that’s a good thing – the item began its life as an attempt to bring a little more levity into the world, so it only makes sense that the book would lean into that concept.

As for the tone, well – Cotton is unwavering in his self-deprecation. He has a particular gift for phrasing that accentuates the comedic and is always looking for the humor (though he himself confesses that there are almost always more laughs to be found in these stories). There’s a conversational quality to these stories – likely carryover from the direct-address attitude of the eponymous Facebook feature – that makes them extremely readable. That readability – compounded with the brevity of each individual items – makes this book an ideal candidate for any home’s reading room.

(Yes, I’m calling it a bathroom book. And yes, that’s very much a compliment.)

The motley rascals and rapscallions that populate these stories – some 80 or so in all – are not portrayed as bad people. They are portrayed as people who have made errors in judgment or other mistakes that have invited the attention of the authorities. Whether we’re talking about an argument in the tiny town of Clifton that wound up leading to an impending honor-defending brawl in a Bangor parking lot (“Ain’t No Party Like a Clifton Party”) or the increasingly tangled tale spun by a guy who’d like to complain about someone stealing his weed (“Maine Moose Moss”), there are definitely chuckles to be found. Heck, even if you just wanted to hit up the stories about shoplifters putting things in their pants (there are several) or people being a little too loud as they’re getting amorous (ditto), you could have a pretty darned good time.

And that’s the point, really. Cotton tells these stories because he wants you to have fun. It doesn’t matter to him if you’re getting some giggles from these foibles or getting a surprise bit of wiseacre wisdom (sometimes from Cotton, other times from his subjects); all he’s really interested in is bringing that little bit of light into your day. Honestly, it’s very much the same energy as Cotton’s first book – “The Detective in the Dooryard” and “Got Warrants?” are as similar in tone as they are in voice.

(Not to mention the fact that both books feature Cotton’s penchant for what some might call excessive alliteration. Not me, mind you – I’m a longtime fan of getting alliterative with it. But even Cotton has confessed that folks have told him it’s a bit much.)

Look – you’re not picking up this book in hopes of discovering great literature. This isn’t a book steeped in some deeper meaning or anything of the sort. It’s not what critics would call “important” – which is exactly how Tim Cotton likes it. “Got Warrants?” is reflective of his own personal ethos in that way; he just wants to share with you his view from the dispatch desk. It’s a light, breezy collection of anecdotes featuring people and behaviors that will undoubtedly ring familiar to anyone who has spent time living in a small city.

All in all, “Got Warrants?” warrants your attention.

“Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind.” - TC

Last modified on Wednesday, 06 October 2021 08:36

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