Sl!n Scrbhneoir (Good-bye, Writer)

By Chad Galts / September / October 2002
June 29th, 2007
Mark Mcgarrity, an author of a popular mystery series and the outdoors columnist for the Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger, died July 4 after falling from a stairway outside his Morristown, New Jersey, apartment. He was fifty-eight. Under the pen name Bartholomew Gill, which he took from his maternal grandfather, McGarrity wrote fifteen novels featuring Peter McGarr, a flinty Dublin homicide cop with weaknesses for Guinness and James Joyce.

While McGarrity's death might have raised the eyebrows of the writer's most famous protagonist, New Jersey police believe the death was accidental: McGarrity had apparently locked himself out of his second-floor apartment and fell while trying to enter it through a window.

Born and raised in Holyoke, Massachusetts, McGarrity began writing the McGarr series after finishing a master's at Trinity College in Dublin. He had moved to Siena, Italy, and quickly ran out of things to read in English. So, he said in a 2001 BAM interview, "I thought I'd do the next best thing and began to write a novel."

McGarrity published McGarr and the Politician's Wife in 1977 and over the next twenty-five years produced mysteries whose development paralleled that of his ancestral homeland. Once a heavy drinker and smoker who tracked thugs to their hideouts down backcountry boreens, McGarr became a nonsmoking teetotaler, and his criminals moved into overpriced city-center flats in Dublin. McGarrity also published five novels under his own name, though none of them equaled the success of the McGarr books. The Death of a Joyce Scholar, nominated for an Edgar Award in 1989, was his best-received work. The sixteenth McGarr novel, Death in Dublin, is due out in January.

A supporter of young and aspiring writers throughout his life, McGarrity sustained himself and his family with a wide variety of jobs and enterprises, at one point running a Niles, Ohio, bar for steelworkers and autoworkers. He joined the Star-Ledger in 1996 as a features writer and had been their outdoors writer since 2000.

He is survived by his former wife, Margaret Dull McGarrity '66; a daughter, Madeline; and a brother, George.

- Chad Galts

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September / October 2002