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