-By Dan Murphy
Reflecting on the publication of his first novel “Short” earlier this month,West Cedar Street native Cortright McMeel credits his Beacon Hill roots for much of his decision to pursue writing as a profession.
McMeel, 39, grew up as a neighbor of noted author and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll and his wife, novelist Alexandra Marshall. Besides offering encouraging words to the aspiring writer, Carroll contributed a short story to the literary magazine that McMeel and a friend launched as students at Milton Academy while Marshall was always willing to read McMeel’s unpublished manuscripts and offer feedback.
When McMeel shifted directions and chose a career as a commodity broker and energy trader after earning a BA in English at Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, another neighbor, accomplished author John D. Spooner, advised him to still find the time to write.
“These three people have as much with me being a writer as anyone,” McMeel said.
In “Short,” McMeel, who currently works as a senior trader in electricity futures for Denver-based Rainbow Energy, draws on his professional experience. He admits, however, that the book offers a more glorified portrayal of an occupation that usually finds him sitting in front of his computer screen, trying to predict weather patterns.
“I made the novel like a James Bond version of what I do,” McMeel said. “There are traders bombing the grid, poker tournaments, exotic locales and larger-than-life villains.”
“Short” has already garnered praise from The Denver Post and the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine. Meanwhile, McMeel is busy promoting the book on the national circuit, including a recent reading at Manhattan’s National Arts Club.
Next month, McMeel will return to the Boston area, with an in-store appearance at Barnes & Noble in Burlington on Jan. 27. Readings at Cheers and a yet-to-be-determined local independent bookstore are also planned for late January.
Looking forward, McMeel reveals that his next novel will explore “the underground of the world of Mixed Martial Arts,” but he acknowledges that his recent success didn’t come easily.
“I have four failed novels in my desk drawer a result of 15 years of hard labor,” McMeel said. “My advice to any struggling writers is never surrender.”