New McGarrity book set in Tularosa Basin

By Elva K. Osterreich, Associate News Editor

Alamogordo Daily News
May 19, 2012

Michael McGarrity, an author well liked in the Tularosa Basin, has changed the direction of his writing talent from crime mystery to historical fiction.

Over the years, The New York Times bestselling author has written gritty, smart mystery stories around the main character Kevin Kerney, a New Mexico rancher/police officer who was born in the Tularosa Basin.

Now, McGarrity has brought together the "back story" of Kerney's family and their migration west into Texas and New Mexico. The book "Hard Country" is the first installment of an epic Western trilogy, according to a press release about the recently released book.

"McGarrity fictionalizes the history of the American Southwest from 1875 to 1918," the release says.
McGarrity said he lived in the Tularosa Basin, where much of the story takes place, many years ago. He got to know the area encompassed by White Sands Missile Range well as an enlisted man in the Army.

"I spent much time there," McGarrity said. "It became a place I love and embrace warmly."

Becoming enthralled with the landscape, history and people of the area, McGarrity created the Kerney character with his experience in the Basin.

"When I wrote my debut novel, I picked an protagonist with a deep and pervading connection with the land," he said. "I have been researching and researching and researching."

Initially, McGarrity went to his publisher with the idea to write a single book about the history of the Kerney family, but he soon realized there was too much he wanted to include and asked to write a trilogy. Fortunately, McGarrity said, his publisher knew him well enough and had seen enough of the new project that he agreed.

"I have this unique opportunity to create a trilogy with four generations of a fictional family," he said. "I don't know of any other writer who has accomplished a trilogy of a back story."

McGarrity said reviews coming out about "Hard Country" are already being compared to classics such as "Lonesome Dove," "Sea of Grass" and "Big Rock Candy Mountain."

"If those comparisons hold, in terms of the general public, I'm going to be very happy," he said.
While McGarrity had an idea of where he wanted the book to go when he started, he had a lot of research to get it done.

"I had to immerse myself in a historical era I could only begin to imagine," he said. "I had to learn the language of the period I was writing about. Even the physical landscape looked a lot different."
Not one to carefully plan out his books, McGarrity said he did have to start with an outline to present to his publisher.

"I had to do an outline but once I started writing I kind of threw that out," he said. "I kind of get a springboard idea and take off from there. Careful, cautious outlines are not the kind of storytelling I can do. I have to kind of follow my instinct."

When McGarrity was in the Army in the late 1950s and early '60s, he had no thought of becoming a writer.

The era was a very busy time at WSMR and many of the missile programs were in full swing at that time, he said. The world was in the midst of the Cold War.

"At that point I was considering a military career," He said. "But then I chose going to college."

But McGarrity always did a lot of professional writing and describes him self as a voracious reader.
In his late 40s, McGarrity had the chance to take a summer off and write a book.

"I wrote a novel," he said. "It was very bad, but a lot of fun. I found it fulfilling and kept doing it."
When McGarrity was 56 years old, his novel "Tularosa" came out. Today, after 12 bestselling Kevin Kerney crime mystery novels, "High Country" takes a new turn.

"I am very excited about 'Hard Country,'" he said.

At McGarrity's first "Hard County" signing in Albuquerque, the great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter of Albert J. Fountain came to meet him and have their books signed.

"To have them come to a book signing in Albuquerque, and have me sign books, was wonderful," McGarrity said. "I think if the folks of the Basin -- from Lincoln to Mayfield to Las Cruces -- will like this book, I am going to be totally delighted."

McGarrity will visit Alamogordo with two events during his southern New Mexico tour this week. On Thursday, he will present a Lunch and Learn program at the First National Bank Atrium beginning at 11:30 a.m. Reservations are required for this free event. Call 437-4880.

On Sunday, May 27, he will sign books at Hastings Books, Music and Video beginning at 3 p.m.

Contact Elva K. Osterreich at