VJ Books Blog

(azstarnet.com, Jan. 8, Valerie Vinyard)

In 1996, Michael McGarrity quit his day job as a deputy sheriff the Monday after his first novel came out in hardback.

“Having a book published to me was like winning a gold medal in the olympics,” said the 68-year-old, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., with his wife of 45 years. They have one son, Sean Eli, who’s 40 and takes photos of McGarrity and creates the maps for his books.

With “Dead or Alive” (Penguin Group), McGarrity has embarked on his 12th Kevin Kerney adventure.

Because of his former career as a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Fe, McGarrity has experience with many of the things that Kerney encounters.  “I write from reality,” he said. “Because I’m an ex-police officer, that makes me part of a brand of brothers.”

Another McGarrity book, “Death Song,” was released in paperback Dec. 26. In January, “Tularosa” and “Mexican Hat” will be rereleased in paperback.  He holds degrees in psychology and clinical social work and is an honor graduate of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy. In 1987, he was honored as Santa Fe’s Police Officer of the Year.

“I could both arrest you and give you therapy,” he said jokingly.  McGarrity recently spoke by phone about life and his newest novel.

How do you come up with ideas?
“I haven’t got a clue. . . . I usually just have a springboard of ideas. It’s like turning an engine on.  “Then I have to have a locale; they have to live in a real place. And when I’m starting, it’s got to already have a title.”

Do you read a lot of mysteries?
“I don’t. I don’t know if that’s strange or not.  “I just read nonfiction when I’m writing. I think Sherman Alexie is brilliant. He’s funny and tragic.”  “For fiction, I love Tony Hillerman. . . . I thought Richard Bradford was a genius.”

Tell me about your newest book, “Dead or Alive.”
“A lot of people think that mysteries have to be full of a lot of clues. In ‘Dead or Alive,’ I just put this bad guy (Craig Larson) right there. That turned this book into a thriller.

“In New Mexico, it is not uncommon for people to be accidentally let out of prison. That’s what happens here a couple of times a year. So that’s what I did with Larson.

“With Larson, he comes to us in a way already as a murderer. He begins to realize this is his true calling. Killing is so enjoyable to him. In a way, it’s putting a natural born killer in his awakening stage.”

How did you develop your protagonist, Kevin Kerney?
“I wanted to create a protagonist who didn’t have a lot of emotional baggage, who was someone who was really well put together, loved what he did and was a stand-up guy. I wanted a character who was fully drawn.”

Is Kerney based on anyone you know?
“I like to say that he’s better looking, more intelligent and nicer than I am.
“I borrowed the name from Stephen Watts Kearney (former U.S. Army of the West commander).”

Have you ever dealt with a criminal as heinous as Craig Larson?
“Yeah, I have dealt with people that are that bad. They should never be on the streets again.” How long does it take you to crank out a book? ” ‘Crank,’ that’s a good word. Fourteen to 16 months, depending on the research I do.”

What do you do for fun?
“I drink a good single-malt scotch. . . . I’m not really a hobbyist. I go hiking. I’m a country boy, so I’m up at 5:30 in the morning. I hang out with friends. I don’t hang out with writers.

“I’ve been married an amazingly long time. The reason it’s worked is she’s not the same person I married. And I’m not the same person she married.”

Do you miss police work?
“I did for the first three years, because I’m an adrenaline junkie. . . . But it’s a young person’s profession.”

What’s next for you?
“I’m not really ready to talk about it. I’m not being coy, but I’m going to do something that’s really different, and I’m delighted that my publisher is letting me do it. . . . I’m stepping away from the series for a while, but I’m not abandoning it.”

See signed Michael McGarrity‘s books at www.vjbooks.com