COVENTRY — As he wrote “The Death of Harry Crow,” Leith C. MacArthur had no idea what would happen from one scene to the next. The words just seemed to pour from him, and because of that, he said, writing the mystery felt like an almost divine experience.
“Halfway through, I didn’t even know what was happening,” the author, a resident of Greene, said Tuesday. “And when it finally fleshed itself out, I thought, ‘wow, I can’t believe that.’”
And apparently he wasn’t the only one blown away by how the story unfolded.
The thriller, the fourth in MacAurthur’s William Snow series and the first to be published, was announced by Speak Up Talk Radio last month as a winner in its quarterly Firebird Book Award contest.
“This quarter’s authors and genres included the most diverse entries from around the world,” Patricia J. Rullo, founder of the Firebird Book Awards, said in a press release.
“The Death of Harry Crow” was one of 137 winners announced in 120 categories, taking the prize in the crime fiction and suspense categories.
The book follows William Snow, a Rhode Islander known locally as “the finding man,” as he investigates the disappearance of a teenager who vanished four years after a car accident killed her father, Harry Crow, and several others.
The protagonist has dedicated his life to finding missing children, MacArthur explained, after he was unable to prevent his own sister’s abduction and murder when they were children. He’s been haunted by the tragedy and, having seen his sister’s death beforehand in a vision, has been ridden with guilt since.
As Snow uncovers an inexplicable link between the missing teenager and the accident that killed her father, more people begin to disappear.
“The case eventually leads him to an uninhabited island, a madman known as The Driver, and the twisted truth behind the death of Harry Crow,” a description of the book reads.
“It’s one of the most bizarre mysteries I’ve ever encountered,” MacArthur said of the story, which took him around five years to write. “It results in a conclusion that’s really quite stunning.”
The book was released in June of 2020, and so far has received rave reviews. It’s earned 4.1 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, while on Amazon, it’s earned 4.8 stars out of 5.
MacArthur began the William Snow series some 16 years ago, inspired by a tragedy that had happened in his own life nearly a decade before.
“It occurred overseas, and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said. “This story just burst out of me, about a guy who feels so impotent and guilty about not having been able to prevent this tragedy.”
Writing has been a way for MacArthur to heal, he said, referencing an article titled “Writing to Heal” that he wrote last year.
“It’s about the process of writing to express oneself, and how one truly feels,” he said of the article, published on writing.ie. “It’s very hard to say to the world how you really feel about being alive and being human and the struggle of being human.”
Through writing, however, conveying those sentiments becomes less daunting.
“I’ve lived a very tumultuous life; a very unusual and sometimes very difficult life,” MacArthur continued. “I only started to heal once I started to write.”
MacArthur’s fascination with writing stems from the first time he read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” when he was 10, according to a bio on his website. Now 75, he’s spent the last four decades writing 10 books, including a memoir titled “An Artificial Life” and five William Snow books.
Originally from Boston, MacArthur moved to Rhode Island after a spectacular Fourth of July in Narragansett Bay.
“There was a jazz concert going on at Fort Adams, there were, like, 100 boats at anchor,” said MacArthur, who used to race power boats. “It was a beautiful day, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to live here.’”
After around 20 years in Warwick, MacArthur relocated to western Coventry in 2013. Now semi-retired — he runs The Volvo Guy, buying and selling used Volvos — MacArthur plans to release some of the other books in the William Snow series over the coming years, he said.
“The Death of Harry Crow” can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or on MacArthur’s website, leithmacarthur.com.