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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Pittsford Author Writes Wartime Thrillers

Larry Booker writes World War II-era novels set in Ireland from his home in Pittsford. His two books, McGrath's Detail and McGrath's Murder,will soon be followed up by a third, to complete a trilogy.

The retired teacher and a former member of the U.S. Navy joined VPR to talk about his writing practice.

What is your daily writing practice?

"I don't really have a daily writing practice but I do keep a notebook. When I have a thought or an idea for my novel, I put it down in my notebook. When I have a series of ideas that will form a chapter, well, then I can write the chapter. When the book is finished, then I revise it again completely. I'm always thinking about the storyline for the book. It's never very far from my thoughts."

Three themes stand out in your books: Ireland, World War II and the weather.

"It is set in Ireland because I'm completely Irish. My great-grandparents landed in Vermont from Ireland in the 1850's and they settled on a farm in Danby, Vermont. World War II has always held a fascination for me, as I imagine it probably has for millions of people. I had cousins from Vermont who served in the war. And of course, many of the movies of my childhood and my youth dealt with the war, hence, my exposure to it and interest in it. As far as the weather is concerned, in my teenage years, I became interested in it ... then when I was in the Navy, I wanted to go to air traffic control school however since I'm color blind, that was out of the question. So I ended up in weather observer school. Then after school, I spent the next 26 months taking weather observations in England, stationed on an RAF base which had taken part in The Battle of Britain. That's where I got the idea for the McGrath books."

As a retired teacher, can you look back and remember a teacher of yours who influenced your writing career?

"My second-year Latin teacher in high school, Mr. DeParma. [He] made Latin and Caesar's commentaries on Gaul come alive to the point where I expected Caesar to come into the classroom! Most of all, Mr. DeParma taught diligence, perseverance and persistence which, of course, are all necessary if you want to become a writer."

On coming to writing novels later in life

"After the Navy, there was college, family and my career so I didn't really have the time to write really until I retired. Now, I write much of the time. But I'm finding writing is an escape for me. The more I write, the more I want to write."

On challenges you face when writing

"My biggest challenge is not having the time to write during the summer. I prefer to be doing outdoor activities... writing has to take a vacation till the fall. The lawns have to be mowed and I have to tend the garden. (Another challenge is) sometimes I get to a point where I can't find a reconciliation to a situation in my knowledge, so I set the book aside and do something completely different."

On encouraging others to write

"I like to see what the opening chapter is, figure out what the closing is and how do I develop one chapter to another and just sit down and start writing on a pad, take my ideas and... mold them and meld them... eventually, it works out. But again, put the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and just start writing!"

Booker will read from his work at The Rutland Free Library on on Nov. 10 and at The Ilsley Libraryin Middlebury on Dec. 16.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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