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Closer All the Time (paperback)

Paperback, 208 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-934031-67-4



Available as an e-book in these formats:

Amazon Kindle

Barnes and Noble Nook

Apple iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch

About this Book:

Winner, Fiction, 2016 Maine Literary Award

The inhabitants of Baxter, Maine, are going nowhere fast—but not for lack of trying. In this deftly written jewel of a novel, veteran author Jim Nichols strings together the bittersweet stories of several different characters bound together by shared geography and the insular nature of small-town life. There’s Johnny Lunden, a well-meaning war veteran with a penchant for the local bar and a deep but doomed love for his family. There’s eight-year-old Ted Soule, who shares a first kiss with the Ophelia-like Nadia, the daughter of his Russian neighbors, and Tomi Lambert who observes the confusion of the adults around her as they struggle with accepting their fates. In a wonderfully authentic New England setting, Nichols explores the nature of connection––hoped for, missed, lost, and found.

Closer All the Time

"Closer All the Time offers a look at life in the fictitious small town of Baxter, Maine, through stories linked by common places and characters. The characters are powerful, and their struggles keep the reader flying along from chapter to chapter, even without a traditional narrative."
—Heidi Sistare, Maine Sunday Telegram 
For the full review, visit here.  

"These intertwined narratives create a memorable novel that vividly renders a town and its denizens. Jim Nichols never condescends to his characters. Though readers might question their choices in life, we never doubt their humanity."
—Ron Rash, author of Serena and Something Rich and Strange

"Jim Nichols is one of my favorite writers, not just because he writes with such—dare I say—feminine insight about men’s men. But I also love the oddball worlds he opens up: behind the scenes of a cheesy roadside attraction in Maine, the daily work of skycaps at an airport, the conversations between amateur boxers, the mechanics of flying a small plane. His men and boys become so real, I feel as if I know what it might have been like to grow up surrounded by brothers."
—Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys

“Jim Nichols makes me happy. These characters are parents, kids, aunts and uncles, lovers, neighbors, workers, deep and yet accessible selves.  They keep secrets then they share them, spy kisses, shoot high and fail, fall low and yet win. I felt like I was among friends, friends who worried me, challenged me, rejected me, loved me, paid back my attention, revealed their truest selves, moments so intimate I'd sneak off to read, moments so joyful I'd laugh through my tears.  Closer All the Time is a novel built of stories, and a story built of sentences so beautiful I want to keep them like wild honey in a jar.”
—Bill Roorbach, author of The Remedy for Love and Life Among Giants

Closer All the Time is perhaps best described as a succession of vignettes that accumulate to form a kind of community portrait, for it is Nichols’s mythical village of Baxter that tenderly cradles his character’s lives and their stories—and at a moment in our culture when there appears to be no surplus of authenticity, Jim Nichols tells those stories without ego.”
Josh Bodwell, Fiction Writer’s Review 
Read the full review and an interview with Nichols here.

“These beautiful stories follow a chronological progression, focusing first upon the youth of the town, then the tender infatuations of adolescence and the heartbreak and tribulations of adult life. The soul of the book is Baxter, a place where the locals scrape and struggle and try to understand why. Nichols makes it clear that despite the travails and confusion, there is always a tendril of hope that connects back to the community.”
Bill Lundgren, The Bollard
Find the full review here

"Jim Nichols' Closer All the Time shows his deep affection for the struggles and the heart of working class lives. In a style reminiscent of Hemingway, Nichols spare, plainspoken prose buzzes with emotional grit and tenderness, bringing dignity and vulnerability to alcoholics, poachers, and bullies. Damn Beautiful!"
Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue

“... the threads all intertwine to some extent creating a loose fabric of insightful, credible, and heart-warming tales from start to finish.”
James Fisher, The Miramichi Reader
Read the full review here

“[Jim Nichols] infuses his characters with that real, down home flavor, which easily resonates with the reader.”
––RJ Heller, BDN Blog “Life Downeast”
Read the rest of the review here


Award-winning Novelist Jim Nichols Returns with “Blue Summer”

Award-winning Novelist Jim Nichols Returns with “Blue Summer”

Islandport Press Set to Release Emotional Coming-of-Age Novel in September

Yarmouth, Maine (June 12, 2020)—Author Jim Nichols, award-winning novelist, explores fate, abuse, and delayed justice as they play out on an emotional and gritty landscape in his new coming-of-age novel, “Blue Summer."

Scheduled for national release on September 8, “Blue Summer” is published by Islandport Press and reunites the same editorial team that produced “Closer All the Time,” winner of the 2016 Maine Literary Award for Best Fiction. “Closer All the Time” is lauded for its masterful weaving together of connected stories and unforgettable characters in Nichols’s singular voice. Writer Bill Roorbach says the book is “built of sentences so beautiful I want to keep them like wild honey in a jar.”

Now, Nichols’ “Blue Summer” brings us forty-year-old musician Cal Shaw, a man who has seen better days. He now lives in a trailer park in Florida while coming to terms with addiction. He also contemplates his idyllic 1960s Maine childhood, which was shattered by two blows: the death of his father and arrival of a violent stepfather. As jazz and girls became his youthful escape, young Shaw’s search for love and forgiveness was torn apart by loss and domestic abuse. “Blue Summer” is the story of the justice he eventually delivers, and underpinning it all is a beautiful melody he calls ‘Blue Summer.’

“Like ‘Closer All the Time,’ Nichols braids a complicated and haunting story in ‘Blue Summer’,” said Genevieve Morgan, fiction editor at Islandport. “Like a song that gets stuck in your head, these characters land and won’t let go.”

Nichols draws inspiration from his experiences growing up in Maine. He worked a variety of jobs including bartender, pilot, taxi driver, orange picker, travel agent, and dispatcher for an air taxi service. His writing has appeared in numerous regional and national magazines including Esquire, Narrative, and Night Train. He has written two previous novels, "Hull Creek" and "Closer All the Time." He lives in Warren, Maine.

Islandport Press, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, is a dynamic, award-winning publisher dedicated to stories rooted in the essence and sensibilities of New England. For more information, please call visit or email 

Me and John Prine by Novelist Jim Nichols

Me and John Prine by Novelist Jim Nichols

John Prine, the legendary country-folk singer and songwriter, died April 7 from complications related to COVID-19. He was 73. Prine broke out in the early 1970s after he was discovered by Roger Ebert and Kris Kristopherson. He went on to influence generations of artists, writing songs about the everyday experience of ordinary people with uncommon depth and honesty. Prine performed in Maine several times, including once early in his career when his driver was our own Jim Nichols, author of Closer all the Time and the upcoming Blue Summer, who was working then as a driver for a local limousine company.



Me and John Prine

By Jim Nichols

We lost a remarkable artist to COVID-19 last week, John Prine.

Prine was one of the finest and most acclaimed songwriters ever, a remarkable folk-country performer, and a major influence on a generation or two of musical artists. He was special to me for all that and because of the three days I spent in his company some forty-odd years ago.

It happened back in the seventies. Prine, who by then had recorded such classics as “Hello in There” and “Angel from Montgomery,” was out on tour with Steve Goodman, who would later win a Grammy for his American standard, “City of New Orleans.” They were making it work, but it was still a low-budget affair.

I was just a young guy working as a driver for the Portland Airport Limousine Company. One July day at the Jetport, I happened to be first in line when Prine, Goodman, and their road manager, Danny Cronin, stepped off a Delta flight and came looking for a ride to East Stoneham, located northwest of Sebago Lake, where they were booked to play the Evergreen Valley Music Festival.

This was much more than a money-maker for me, because Prine was already one of my musical heroes. I ushered them into the black Cutlass—gave a smug look to my buddy Steve, who, standing second in line, immediately flipped me off—and away we went.

It turned out to be a fare for the ages.

Prine was quiet, but amiable, Goodman was a joker, and Cronin, who sat in the front next to me, was just plain nice. During the next two hours I grew comfortable enough with them to let slip that I'd been playing (rudimentary) guitar and writing (three-chord) songs for all of a year. I was nervous to mention this, but Goodman immediately blurted out, "Well, let's hear something! A capella!"

The way I remember it, I launched into the chorus of my latest creation, the “Church's Fried Chicken Song,” which featured the immortal lines: Wait on the customers, pick up the lot, sweat like a chicken when the weather gets hot.

It got me a laugh.

For the rest of the drive I was more mascot than hired driver, and by the time we reached East Stoneham they decided I should call my boss and tell him they needed me for the entire three days of the festival, so they'd have someone to drive them around between shows and run any errands they might need run. 

And that's what I did. It was a dream gig. I got to sit around the pool during the day, watch the performances (the Eagles had backed out, but Poco took their place and Ramblin' Jack Elliot showed up, too) and hang out with my new friends and other musicians afterward in the hotel, where they gathered every night to drink and smoke and play and sing for the sheer fun of it. 

We all sat around and they played a lot of old country and bluegrass songs from the likes of The Louvin Brothers and Tom T. Hall. It often became the Steve Goodman show; he was an amazing guitarist and seemingly knew every song ever written. Prine joined in enough to make it memorable. 

I, of course, never wanted it to end. But it did, and so, mostly, did my short-term status as friend to the artists. Soon I was a driver again, and we were on the way back to Portland. Everyone was tired and not even Goodman had enough energy to joke around. Nobody said much of anything. By the time we got to the Jetport and they'd piled out, grabbed their gear, and trudged into the terminal, I had to remind myself to be content with how nice they'd been for three days and what an amazing gig I'd had and how jealous my fellow driver Steve would be.

But then Prine came back out of the terminal, walked over and in his squinting way looked me in the eye, held out his hand, and said, "Thanks, man, almost forgot." And that made all the difference.

RIP John Prine, we won't see your like again. And, that goes for Steve Goodman, too.

A Conversation with "Closer All the Time" Author Jim Nichols

A Conversation with

"Closer All the Time," a new novel by award-winning author Jim Nichols, is the first title to be selected for our annual fiction program. Writer and guest blogger, Jennifer Van Allen, sat down with Jim to ask him about his curious road to writing and the inspiration behind the book. 


Jim Nichols

About this Author

Jim Nichols grew interested in fiction writing while working as a ticket agent for a commuter airline in Rockland. Born in Brunswick and raised in Freeport, Maine, Nichols has worked variou



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