As the final edition of Griffin Garnett's "Arlington trilogy" was published, plans were formulating on how to publicize his novel "Marcus" around the country. Then, just three weeks after its release in May, the 92-year-old author's plans changed dramatically — Garnett was diagnosed with lymphoma.
"Down I came with cancer, and they gave me six months to live," he said.
Tricia O'Hara, his publicist, was stunned. "We were devastated."
But there was Garnett, a World War II veteran, signing books and chatting with well-wishers at the American Legion Post #139 in Arlington earlier this month — cancer free.
"Much to everbody's amazement, the way I responded to radiation and other therapies, I was pronounced cured," he said. "But I'm as weak as a kitten, and I'm trying to get my strength back."
O'Hara calls it "divine intervention ... now he has a clean bill of health."
With that, the original plan is back in place: to use "Marcus" as a way to raise awareness and funds for veterans who have been left behind by society. O'Hara said there are over 300,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. She and Garnett have arranged to have a portion of every book, published by PublishAmerica, purchased through them or at author events to go to Circle of Friends for American Veterans, a non-profit organization dedicated to influencing public opinion and affecting public policy in support of homeless veterans. Contact O'Hara at 703-303-8753 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to buy signed copies. Visit www.vetsvision.org for more on Circle of Friends. "Marcus" is also available wherever books are sold, according to Garnett.
GARNETT SERVED in the Navy during WWII as a skipper of the L.S.M. (Landing Ship Medium) 130. Under his command, the vessel fought in the Philippines and was involved in the invasion of Balikpapan Borneo. He served as a reservist until his honorable discharge as a Lieutenant in 1954.
He's lived in Arlington for 66 years, many of those as a trial lawyer. "I've been very happy here. Raised a family — I have a lovely wife and two sons. They were well-educated in public schools. We've loved the area," he said
Garnett started writing in around 1978, having dabbled in it while attending the University of Richmond in 1936 and George Washington Law School in 1939. He pursued his passion seriously in the 1990s at the tender age of 76. His first book, "The Sandscrapper," was a nominee for the Library of Virginia Fiction Award. "Taboo Avenged" was published two years later, and "Marcus" followed this year. "Marcus" tells the tale of the title character, a holdover from Garnett's first novel. Like his other books in the trilogy, major parts take place in Arlington and Washington, D.C.
"It's his life, just after he returns from the war in the Pacific. It begins on Dec. 22, and continues for the next three years," he said. "He was quite an unusual character in the Navy, but that's only part of the story."
Garnett said the book isn't the mystery "Taboo Avenged" was. "If you want to classify it, it's an adult, realistic mainstream novel."
It's also his favorite. "There's more craft in this book than the other two," he said.
GARNETT HAS a book event coming up at the Alpine Restaurant, Glebe Road and Lee Highway, on Wednesday, Nov. 29 beginning at 1:30 p.m.
After that, O'Hara said the plan is to try and take "Marcus" nationally, both to create awareness for Garnett and for those veterans he hopes to help through his work.
And what about another work from the 92-year-old author?
"I've seen enough, and done enough to write books from now to kingdom come," he said.