Local author Gary McCarthy displays his newest western novel — “Restitution” — that will hit the shelves within the next few weeks.
While working as an economist in Carson City, Nev. in 1970, McCarthy wrote his first western novel. Believing it to be one of the best westerns ever written, he sent it to numerous publishers in New York — all of who rejected him.
After “moping around for about a month,” McCarthy said he began writing a second novel. Over the next four years, McCarthy wrote four more western novels while still working as an economist. In 1973, he took a writing class in Reno to further sharpen his skills. He persistently sent his novels to New York hoping one would get published. He was consistently rejected with each submission.
McCarthy faithfully saved every rejection letter sent to him. After acknowledging that his writing was improving after noting that each novel seemed even better than the last, McCarthy’s persistence increased.
“The novels were getting better. I knew that one day, they would buy one,” he said.
McCarthy’s “day” came in 1975. Double Day Publishers sent him a letter. The letter started off very similar to all the other rejections he had received. Then the second paragraph revealed the company wanted to advance McCarthy $1,750 against any future royalties received from the sale of the book.
The book that changed McCarthy’s life was “The Derby Man.”
“I grabbed my wife and spun her around the kitchen,” McCarthy said. “I told her I was quitting my job and writing fulltime.”
Although McCarthy’s novels did begin to sell quite well, he continued to work as an economist until 1980. At that time, he devoted his career to his writing, concentrating on creating western and historical novels.
“There were lean years and good years,” he said.
One of McCarthy’s successes is a series of four that tells the human history of some of America’s most popular national parks. The first of these, “Yosemite,” received widespread recognition for its historical accuracy while “Grand Canyon,” “Mesa Verde,” and “Yellowstone” are known to be among McCarthy’s finest works. The series focuses on the history of the four areas from the first entrance of the white man until each area became designated as a national park.
“Learning history through well researched fiction is a viable, attractive alternative to the traditional textbook approach which concentrates on dates and events rather than the dynamic personalities which bring history to life,” he said. “When I complete a novel, I inform my readers which characters and events existed in fact … or in fiction. I believe readers love to be educated as well as entertained.”
While researching Mesa Verde for the series, McCarthy attempted to learn everything possible in reference to the Anasazi people. He later discovered that the Hopi people are descendants of the Anasazi. The Anasazi lived in cliff dwellings until drought and bad soil weakened the people.
After researching the people of Mesa Verde and the conditions they were living in, McCarthy reached the conclusion that they left the area before they became too weak to move. He says they may have been forced to leave the weakest behind — including children and the elderly. McCarthy came to the realization of the devastation the Anasazi must have felt when leaving.
“When I write about people, I have come to the conclusion that through the years, while history changes, human emotions remain the same,” he said. “Those people had the same emotions we do today.”
McCarthy is currently working on an audio series entitled “The Medicine Wagon.” Popular amongst travelers ranging from over-the-road truck drivers to families, each series of three compact discs sells for only $15. McCarthy stresses that as in all of his writings, the audio series is completely family-oriented — containing no profanity or sexual connotations.
“The Medicine Wagon” features the son of a prominent Boston doctor in the 1860’s. The young man is in his final year of medical school when he kills a person with a single punch in self-defense. The man of the family he has killed has underground mobster connections. Ultimately, the man is found guilty after the murder trial has been altered.
On his way to prison, the young man’s family helps him escape. The “medicine man” is then forced to flee to the West where he attempts to keep his true identity a secret. McCarthy is working on the fourth in the series of “The Medicine Man.”
While working on “The Medicine Man” series, McCarthy has learned a great deal about medicine of the 1860’s to ensure the historical authenticity of that era.
McCarthy has the ability to write a western novel — which averages 70,000 words — in six to eight weeks while writing four hours each day. He is paid an average of $7,000 per western and $25,000 per historical novel.
The McCarthys came to Williams from Lake Havasu City three years ago to escape the heat. They initially purchased a small home with the intentions of spending the summer in Williams and wintering in Lake Havasu.
“We fell in love with the community, the slow pace and the beauty,” McCarthy said. “When October came and we were to head back to Havasu, we both decided to remain in Williams all year.”
The McCarthys have since purchased a larger home and become a part of the community. After being a Rotarian for 25 years, McCarthy soon became involved in the Williams Rotary Club. He is currently serving as president of the club.
“Writing can be lonesome,” he said.
McCarthy said he has always enjoyed the social aspect of what Rotary has to offer. He is always recruiting new members for the club.
“I’ve had fun and had a successful run. I still enjoy writing. It never gets old because I enjoy the research behind the novels,” McCarthy said.
Since paperback novels are placed on the shelves monthly, the life of a paperback is short. Usually a paperback novel is only out one to three months before it is gone forever, McCarthy said.
Whenever one of McCarthy’s novels is released, he purchases a minimum of 50 for himself since individuals often approach him wanting to know where they can purchase his novels. McCarthy’s paperback novels can be found locally in the western section of the Williams Public Library. Autographed copies of McCarthy’s work can be purchased at Canyon Feed, 614 N. Grand Canyon Blvd.