Denise McLaughlin’s husband likes to grab a book from the library rack at the train station.

The other day he picked up The Bannerman Solution, by John R. Maxim.

Published in 1989, the novel’s hero is Paul Bannerman, a covert agent. Suddenly, according to Maxim’s website,

death is running in Westport, Connecticut — one in a nationwide network of secret “halfway towns” where the country’s most dangerous former agents have been “retired.”

At war with powerful elements within his own government — a war not of his making — Bannerman has been lured to this place of yard sales, minivans, commuter trains and murder. The plan is for Bannerman and those he ran to die here, quietly. But Bannerman has other plans.

Denise says much of the action takes place at Mario’s — hey, covert agents like steaks and martinis too. The book also highlights “the town librarian.”

Maxim’s next book — The Bannerman Effect — is also set in Westport.

Hidden behind a Maginot Line of safe houses and front operations in quiet Westport, Connecticut, are Paul Bannerman and his elite group of contract agents. They don’t look any different from their neighbors. They run restaurants, a medical clinic, a travel agency — until something big brings them out of retirement.

Two more novels — Bannerman’s Law and Bannerman’s Promise — don’t mention Westport (at least, Maxim’s website doesn’t). But then — a decade later — came Bannerman’s Ghosts.

Paul Bannerman was back — and back in Westport.

They’re called Bannerman’s People, and they could be the bartender, the gardener, or the librarian–but, in fact, they’re former operatives who’ve “retired,” en masse, to the sleepy, affluent community of Westport, CT. It’s the peaceful life they crave–and they’ll go to any lengths to protect it and one another.

Now a Machiavellian entrepreneur sets his sights on one of their former associates — a “ghost” named Elizabeth Stride, long rumored to be dead — Paul Bannerman and his neighbors must mobilize. Very quickly they discover that their mission is about much more than fealty and friendship, as they find themselves in the midst of a terrorist’s deadly game.

According to his bio, Maxim was an advertising executive who lived in Westport.

John R. Maxim

One night, sitting in the bar car on his commute home, he decided to quit and try writing. (Presumably he stopped at Mario’s too, to fortify his decision.)

His first novel, Platforms, sold within 6 months — without an agent. Bannerman soon followed. (And Maxim moved to Hilton Head.)

Denise McLaughlin — whose husband picked up The Bannerman Solution at the train station (across from Mario’s) — wondered if I knew anything about the series. I don’t. In fact, I’ve never heard of it.

Ask me about The Swimmer. Or Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! Or The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit — all stories set in Westport (and all later made into movies).

They were written decades before the Bannerman series. But somehow Maxim’s novels never seeped into the Westport oeuvre, the way those other tales did.

Then again, what happens at Mario’s, stays at Mario’s.

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