Mystery writers Nevada Barr and Keith McCafferty have never met, but they are members of a two-person society of mutual admiration that spans nearly three years and several states. Barr is a celebrated novelist who's written 18 books featuring a national parks ranger named Anna Pigeon. McCafferty is a Field & Stream editor working on his fourth novel, the latest in his critically acclaimed series about fly fisherman turned citizen deputy Sean Stranahan.
Barr and McCafferty first crossed paths, in a literary sense, when his second novel showed up at her New Orleans home in 2012. Presumably the frequent recipient of such advance copies written by less established genre authors, Barr had no plans to read The Gray Ghost Murders. But then Hurricane Isaac blew through the Gulf Coast, leaving her without power for several days. With little else to do, Barr picked up the book, copies of which now bear her name alongside this ringing endorsement: "Truly wonderful . . . fresh, quirky, and yet utterly believable . . . a mystery that unfolds with grace and humor against a setting of stunning beauty and danger."
McCafferty calls Barr one of his favorite authors. "Her endorsement means a heck of a lot and is an exceptional honor for me," he wrote on his website, www.keithmccafferty.com, last year.
The two will finally meet Tuesday, April 8, at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. Barr was initially scheduled to hold a solo reading for her latest novel, Destroyer Angel. She then asked that McCafferty join her from his home in Bozeman, Montana, for a dual signing event.
McCafferty says the gesture reflects the collegial spirit of the mystery writing community. He believes the genre is one of the publishing industry's most supportive, also citing encouragement he's received from fellow Western mystery writers C.J. Box and Craig Johnson.
"Johnson's success is to my advantage, and my success is to someone else's advantage, too," he says. "We all realize that we sort of need each other. We need people who read books, period."
McCafferty particularly lauds the literary contributions of Poisoned Pen owner Barbara Peters. The store is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
"People like Barbara are knights in shining armor to us writers," he said.
McCafferty is a relative newcomer to mystery writing, having spent a storied career as the award-winning survival and outdoor skills editor at Field & Stream. He says he'd long hoped to write a novel, but the final impetus came several years ago while on assignment for the magazine. McCafferty spent three nights alone in the mountains in below-freezing temperatures without sleeping bag or tent; one night he could use only a tarp to warm himself. With the mercury hovering around 13 degrees, he didn't get much sleep.
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"I thought, 'Maybe it's time to write that book,'" he laughed. "I walked out of the mountains after three nights, and I was determined I was going to write that novel and finish it."
McCafferty's now finished three novels, all of which involve fly fishing and fly tying -- a favorite creative pastime of his since he was just 5 years old. In fact, the covers of some of his books feature artist's illustrations of ties McCafferty made himself. During the book-signing, he plans to present Barr and Peters with their own hand-tied flies as mementos of the evening's events.
The signing will be at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore on Tuesday, April 8, at 7 p.m.