Monday, August 29, 2016


Well almost, but over 70 people turned out to hear me talk about the American West trilogy, which flabbergasted the lady from the library friends who introduced me on Saturday morning and later commented that she'd never seen more than 15 folks show up for an author event before.

After my talk, Peter De La Fuente and I both signed copies of the final book in the trilogy,THE LAST RANCH, before repairing to Longcoat Gallery where we signed copies of the limited edition print "White Sands Hideaway" -- which as the Ruidoso News said in a Friday feature article "graces the cover" of THE LAST RANCH. (As indeed it does.)

Did you know that "White Sands Hideaway" twenty years ago also graced the cover of my debut novel, TULAROSA?" How's that for some cocktail party small talk?

It was a grand day in Ruidoso. Thanks to the friends of the library, Corey Bard, the director, Becky from Books Etc., who handled the sales, and Dave and Judy at the gallery. And a special thanks to my friend, artist Peter De La Fuente.
Read what the Ruidoso News had to say about it here...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

RIP Di Bingham

It is with great sadness that I must inform you of the passing of Ms. Dianna Bingham, who died peacefully at her home in Brisbane, Australia, late last week.

As many of you know until recently Di created and ran my website as a volunteer for almost sixteen years.  Over time she became a dear friend, trusted advisor, and my biggest and best Aussie fan. Almost everyone on my website mailing list (including me) always looked forward to her little personal messages from "down under" that accompanied my monthly updates.

I'll miss my faraway friend. Her strength, courage, generosity, and loyal friendship were unmatched.

Monday, August 15, 2016

An Appreciation of Michael McGarrity’s American West Trilogy and its concluding volume, The Last Ranch by Robert L. Patten

I’m delighted and honored to share with you a major review of my American West Trilogy, by Robert L. Patten,  distinguished scholar and  Senior Research Fellow at the University of London.

An Appreciation of Michael McGarrity’s American West Trilogy and its concluding volume,
The Last Ranch

By Robert L. Patten
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of English Studies,
School of Advanced Study, University of London

Michael McGarrity’s trilogy of the New American West tells the epic story of a large part of the US that never makes it into our national imaginary. Tied not to northern Europe but to the Iberian peninsula and through Mexico up the Rio Grande to the Sangre de Cristos, the southern eruption of the Rocky Mountains, this vast West comprising parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah came to be part of the United States by treaties between 1836 and 1848. McGarrity’s history begins at the close of the Civil War, when Yankees and Rebels, cowboys and Indians, traders and gunslingers, rode westward to scrape out livings on the hotly contested high deserts watered by the snows of the upper Rockies.
            John Kerney, veteran of the Civil and Indian wars, opens this series, scrabbling a living in West Texas, and thereafter in the Tularosa basin where the struggle for a sustainable living continues. Full circle, the end of the third volume sees John’s great grandson, Kevin, returning from Vietnam to face the new challenges of domestic life. In between the four generations of Kerney men and women interact with a hard, harsh, withholding, achingly beautiful and deadly, land, and its similarly diversified inhabitants--ranchers, outlaws, raiders, and settlers.
            The land anchors these stories; its vistas and bosky sanctuaries beautifully captured by the paper wrapper painting of the Kerney ranch by Peter de La Fuente, grandson of Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, artists who themselves left the ground of Valley Forge Pennsylvania to settle in the shadow of the Sacramento Mountains. 
            The amazing thing about these novels is that they portray, in the lead figures, a persistent, tough, sometime amoral, goodness that is captivating. They try to survive without doing violence to others or the land; and their dying, while in a long view inevitable, is in the close-up of their difficult and courageous efforts to subsist, crushing. I quit the first volume twice, because I too much loved the strength and honesty of the characters to see them pass.
            This remote land is not exempt from global warfare. That’s another way in which McGarrity understands the paradox of Western settlement: Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, make men’s fortunes and take their lives with inescapable fatality. The railroad comes to transport food and provisions for troops, whether stationed in the old forts that dotted the frontier, or in the growing cities housing major bases. And after World War II, the largest and most toxic land grab of all is conducted with ruthless efficiency by the government. White Sands Proving Grounds takes up 3,200 square miles of southern New Mexico: turning towns into cities, ranches into missile ranges, and the clear air of the high desert into an atmosphere poisoned by the exhalations of the first atomic bomb.
            What, then, distinguishes McGarrity’s trilogy from other great works about this part of the world, such as Paul Horgan’s Pulitzer and Bancroft prize-winning biography of the Rio Grande and Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop? This trilogy captures sympathetically both the characters and sensations of the region Cather so sharply depicts and the clashes among Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo cultures that through often violent and fiercely tribal ways together shaped and exploited the riverine land. All who came to these lands believed they belonged to them—90% of the Mexicans living in the region when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1836 chose to become American citizens.
            All that scope, all that history, all that space, is encompassed in McGarrity’s narrative. But it is discovered, experienced, and wrestled with by characters distinctive in their style, passions, and outcomes. Perhaps most wrenching is Patrick Kerney (1875-1964), orphaned, lonely, bitter, determined, who makes and loses his beloved ranch and his family, and yet modulates in his later years into a nearly silent witness to a century’s transformations. He manages not to hang onto anything much, but those with whom he lives and works are as loving and heroic as, down deep, he is. No one is better drawn or more moving than his wife Emma; her efforts to survive, provide a home and education for her sons, and understand her dogged, absent husband elevate her to the pantheon of strong women who shaped the West as much, sometimes more, than their men.
            Patrick’s son Matthew dominates the second and third volumes. Injured in Sicily during World War II, he arrives home only to have his land seized, a crazed convict seek to kill him, a marriage go sour, and a young son materialize who somehow has to be nurtured and raised. He loses often, but never gives up. This third volume, The Last Ranch, is the most mellow and domestic of the trilogy, though it is set during the cruelest time the West has known, the atomic era. A lot of it is concerned with small-scale events: housing, small-time ranching, rodeos, education, growing up and growing old. That era is one I know firsthand. Every detail of McGarrity’s reconstruction of post-war life is perfectly on pitch. The muted gains and set-backs of the postwar decades are rendered in a precise, unadorned prose that resonates deeply with the feel of those times.
            Time after time, in the midst of this historical reconstruction, McGarrity shocks. Events slash the fabric of lives and dreams like lightning igniting forest fires. Time after time people have to rebuild their loves and lives, or lose one or both. Unlike fiction, history doesn’t always reward winners or punish the guilty. McGarrity knows this, writes this unconsoling truth. So the background of millennia of occupation and abandonment, and the foreground of individual journeys, merge in a comprehensive and hugely moving panorama of a great part of America.
            It’s a story that hasn’t been told enough, isn’t understood by its own denizens, much less those north and east of the Mississippi, and is utterly fundamental to any conversation we might have nationally about our heritage, our purple mountains’ majesty, the scarcity of fruited plains, and the resolute destructive and creative builders of a mestizo civilization comprising ranches, minerals, grand parks, the theft and redirection of water, Las Vegas NM and Las Vegas NV, Hollywood and Santa Fe.
            The McGarrity trilogy achieves an encompassing history real, heart-stopping, and harshly beautiful. For its achievement it should be a contender for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.    

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Signing & Talk Video

For those of you over the years who haven't been able to attend one of my book signings and talks, here's your chance to see me in action. And for those of you who may have attended one of my past book signings but have yet to hear me speak about THE LAST RANCH and my American West trilogy, here's your chance.

The event was hosted by my dear friends, John Walcott and his wife the writer Jann Arrington-Walcott, on Sunday evening, July 10 in the community center at Aldea of Santa Fe. It was a full house and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

 I hope you do also.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Has Book Reviewing Changed For Better or For Worse?

Just prior to the release of "The Last Ranch" in May, a very positive review of the book was posted online at "Tonstant Weader Reviews" with a note that a review copy had been provided by my publisher. It got me to thinking about how much the world of book reviewing has changed since my debut novel, "Tularosa" was published in 1996.

Twenty years ago, most newspapers, including my hometown paper the Santa Fe New Mexican, had journalists who served as book editors and who routinely got advanced reading copies of books from publishers asking for review consideration. Because of that a whole lot more authors had their books reviewed and a whole lot more readers were drawn to books they might not have otherwise discovered.

For the writer, if the print reviews were positive -- and even better yet plentiful as well -- chances for strong sales could skyrocket. It was always a happy occasion when good print reviews came in from Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, New York or another major market. That doesn't happen anymore for most writers.

Nowadays with the growth of the Internet and increasing popularity of reader reviews on websites,  book editors at newspapers have become all but extinct and a writer's chance of having a book featured and reviewed in a major print market is almost nil.

While I can understand how economics can make publishers decide not to run a weekly book page, I'm not so sure that's a good thing. Doesn't their livelihood depend on readers reading? Wouldn't they want to encourage that by recommending worthwhile books? I know booksellers would love it.

Fortunately the Santa Fe New Mexican continues to review books and I truly appreciate that. But with social media, author websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. now dominating, do newspaper reviews even matter in the digital age?

I think so, but what do you think?

"The Last Ranch" reviewed at

Tonstant Weader has reviewed "The Last Ranch". Read the review here...

Monday, July 18, 2016

"The Last Ranch" reviewed in the Florida Times-Union

I’d like to share the July 8th review of “The Last Ranch” in the Florida Times-Union newspaper. It’s nice to know the book continues to receive print media praise.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Going to a Booksigning? Buy a Book.

During the last twenty years, I've had the good fortune to travel across the country from coast to coast, signing and talking about my books in bookstores large and small. I continue to enjoy
meeting readers who appreciate my novels enough to take time out of their busy lives to attend those events and expresses their enthusiasm for what I've written. It also gives me an opportunity to thank them and show my gratitude to the booksellers who have helped build my career as a successful writer.

Very often, these booksellers are book lovers and small independent proprietors filling a vital role in the cultural well-being of their communities, and doing it all on a very slim profit margin while competing against the Internet giants that drastically undercut prices. I sometimes silently wince when a reader at an independent bookstore event asks me to a sign a copy of my book purchased online at a deeply discounted price. It just isn't fair to the booksellers, and I watch as they grin and bear it.

With that said, I'd like to suggest a new bit of book-buying behavior the next time you go to your local independent bookstore and attend an author event: Always buy a book. Any book.

Buy a copy of the book by the presenting author for yourself, or if you already have a copy get one for a friend. Buy a book for a child or grandchild, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Buy a book by another writer you admire, a book in a different genre you haven't yet explored. If money's tight, buy a bargain book that looks interesting. And if you can afford it, leave with an armful of books and the pleasant anticipation of the enjoyment of what lies ahead once you open that first new  book to page one.

Book signings are hard work for booksellers. Books must be ordered, arrangements for scheduling must be made, publicity and marketing has to be readied, displays put up, books unpacked, chairs and tables put up and then put away, book repacked, and everything tidied up. And don't forget the author, who may need an introduction, a lectern, a microphone, or have other special requests. All  done by the bookseller for very little profit.

With this in mind, please don't treat the author talks and signings you attend as evenings of free entertainment. At the end of the event walk out of the store with books you've purchased. Any books. The independent booksellers will love you for it.
With a tip of the hat to Dorothy Massey, owner of The Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The hardest-working bookseller I know, and truly a great lady.

Friday, July 1, 2016

"The Last Ranch" reviewed in Pasatiempo Magazine

Reading the Friday morning paper over coffee this morning brought a very welcome and unexpected surprise. There was a great review of “The Last Ranch” by Robin Martin in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Pasatiempo Magazine that is really a wonderful critique of my now complete American West trilogy. She writes that, “In addition to being full of adventure, each book is a true historical novel, an accurate picture of the American West. McGarrity’s writing is as clear as the desert air … and he has a talent for telling good stories. (His) trilogy of the Kerney family ranch is the story of most ranches in New Mexico. Anyone who is a fan of the author’s popular Kevin Kerney novels should read this authentic Western trilogy….”

It doesn’t get any better than this. Clink on link to enjoy the entire review.