As well as being a novelist for Viking/Penguin Books, Keith McCafferty is the Survival and Outdoor Skills Editor of Field & Stream. He has written articles for publications as diverse as Fly Fisherman Magazine, Mother Earth News, Gray’s Sporting Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and on subjects ranging from mosquitoes to wolves to mercenaries and exorcism. Based in Montana and working on assignment around the globe–he recently spent a month in India trekking the Himalayas, fishing for golden mahseer and studying tigers–Keith has won numerous awards, including the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award.
Growing up in the Appalachian hills of southeastern Ohio, Keith preferred the back door to the front, the tangle of the woods to the concrete of the playground. Snakes were his first fascination, his formative years spent turning over rocks to see what coiled underneath. When his grandmother Inez stayed at the house at the edge of the hollow, she would stuff towels underneath her bedroom door to deter the snakes from slithering in. Trout eventually called him west, where he now pursues his passions for fishing, hiking and herpetology with his wife, Gail Schontzler, a fourth generation newspaper journalist, who remains not so wild about the snake part (the Valentine gift of a baby northern pacific rattlesnake, when Keith and Gail were fellow reporters on the Bakersfield Californian, did not go well). Keith has a son, Tom, a writer/artist/Seattle souse chef, who designed this web page, and who with his wife, Jess, recently gave him the gift of a grandson, Bailey. Keith’s daughter, Jessie, is a drug and alcohol counselor for the University of Montana. His other children include various stray animals that know who to tap for a soft touch. He has adopted a feral cat, Rhett, that lost the tips of its ears to frostbite and now sits on Keith’s lap while he writes, and a few summers ago he hacked back into the wild four baby Brewer’s blackbirds that were separated from their parents when their nest tree was uprooted from a tree farm and driven more than one hundred miles before being replanted.
Keith holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from Duke University and a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Michigan. Besides writing, past work includes cleaning rat cages in college (which made a surprisingly successful venue for after dinner dates, provided the coed was sufficiently olfactory impaired), hard labor in steel mills (playing poker in abandoned railroad cars on the banks of the Ohio River while the boss looked the other way), restoring trout habitat on the AuSable River for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, and an apprenticeship as a driller for the Washington Highways Department. In addition to writing more than a thousand magazines articles (several are linked here), his non-fiction work includes the L.L. Bean Family Camping Handbook and the L.L. Bean Hiking and Backpacking Handbook, which his son illustrated.
The Royal Wulff Murders was Keith’s first novel. It received a coveted red star review from Publisher’s Weekly, in addition to recommendations from best-selling authors C.J. Box, Craig Johnson and Henry Winkler, aka Arthur Fonzarelli, aka the Fonz! (Keith can’t believe it, either). The novel, a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, was also a Book of the Month Club and Mystery Guild selecti0n. The idea for the novel germinated during a long night in the wilderness while working for Field & Stream. His assignment was to survive a winter night without fire or adequate clothing, and it was during the interminable hours he spent shivering on the snowy breast of a mountain, wrapped in a scrap of tarp, that it dawned on him that there had to be an easier way to make a living. Writing a novel while sipping coffee and eating pain au chocolate in a French café, albeit in a French café in Montana and not on the Left Bank of the Seine, seemed a civilized and much warmer alternative.
Keith’s second book in the Sean Stranahan series, The Gray Ghost Murders, was chosen by Oprah’s Book Club as one of “5 Addictive New Mysteries We Can’t Put Down.”
His third, “Dead Man’s Fancy,” also received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which called the book complex, multilayered and “beautifully written.”
Keith recently finished his fourth book, “Crazy Mountain Kiss,” slated for publication in the spring of 2015.
If Keith’s critical successes translate into substantial sales, perhaps future novels will be written from La Closerie des Lilas or Deux Magots, on terraces haunted by Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Until that happens, he will continue to write from Montana coffee houses, covered foot bridges, park benches and, in trout season, from the passenger seat of his derelict Ford Explorer, nosed up to the bank of a stream, with fly rod very close at hand.