About Bill

Wrangler/writer/broadcaster William L. “Bill” McGee, age 94, rode peacefully to his last roundup on October 30, 2019, from his home in Napa Valley, California

About Bill McGee

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Bill McGee was born in 1925 in Livingston, Montana and grew up cowboying on cattle ranches around the cow town of Malta on the Montana Hi-Line.

Bill’s writing career began in the 1960s and spanned six decades. He wrote 22 books, including five World War II Pacific war histories and five memoirs. Bill enjoyed a 32-year career in broadcasting from 1958 to 1990 and wrote twelve “how-to” guidebooks for broadcast sales and marketing.

His signature writing style has been described as journalistic, spare, and “as precise and economical as a Mickey Spillane novel.” (Marine Corps League Magazine)

Bill had the reputation of being a straight-shootin’ author. When asked about his writing habits, he said, in his deep voice and Montana drawl,There’s only one way to write… ass in seat.

When describing Bill, I like to quote a line by South Dakota cowboy poet Charles Badger Clark: “Cowboys are the sternest critics of those who would represent the West. No hypocrisy, no bluff, no pose can evade them.” This describes Bill McGee. Gruff-natured and quick-tempered at times, but solid on qualities that mattered…  dependability, trustworthiness, honesty.

I met Bill in 1981 at a Thanksgiving gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area

Despite our differences (I was a Valley girl), something clicked. I knew Bill McGee, a genuine Montana cowboy-turned broadcaster-turned writer, was the one for me. We were married for 38 years and never looked back.

I happened to be a good typist and it wasn’t long before Bill roped me in to type his manuscripts. In the beginning, I just typed and said nothing. Then I began gently suggesting an edit here or there.

Nevada dude ranch wrangler and author, Bill McGee, 1947

Back when: On the Flying M.E., 1947

I was particularly enthralled with Bill’s stories about his time from 1947 to 1949 as the head dude wrangler on Nevada’s exclusive Flying M.E. dude-divorce ranch outside of Reno. His stories were like a Hollywood movie coming to life, with names like Astor, du Pont, Clark Gable, and Ava Gardner. I urged him to write about those years.

In 2000, we collaborated on our first book, The Divorce Seekers – A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler

We went on to collaborate on five more – a WWII Pacific war history on military logistics and four memoirs – and my name was on the cover of each, alongside Bill’s.

Bill lived his life in seven acts – cowboying, bluejacket, world trade business, restaurant owner, broadcast sales and marketing, and lastly, World War II Pacific war historian. With my help, he wrote about six of these acts in a series of memoirs (the seventh is still in the chute awaiting its final polish). You can read about all of Bill’s books-in-print on our sister site, WilliamMcGeeBooks.com.

Our writing collaboration lasted 20 years. As a husband and wife writing duo, I think we did wellexcept, perhaps, for the urge to edit each other’s copy.

When Bill wasn’t working or writing, he loved the outdoors. He scaled the summits of mountains, ran the Colorado River, skied, played tennis, and golf.  He hiked the trails in Yosemite, the Sierras, and the Tetons and was one of the first volunteers to help build the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail.

Once or twice a year, Bill donned his Western tux to escort me to opening night at the ballet and other galas. However, as the saying goes, he never got above his Montana raisin’.

Bill was a good editor. In 2003, he became legally blind and from then on I read our manuscripts aloud to him. I rarely finished the first sentence without him interrupting me to make an edit. But he always improved the copy.

After Bill’s passing in 2019, I was participating in a Hospice Grief Group for spouses. It was suggested we each write a letter to our dearly-departed, and then write what we thought they would write back to us. In my letter to Bill, I would open by thanking him for bringing me into his writer’s world – as reluctant as I was at first to be a part of it. Then I would share this 700-word tribute to him. I think Bill would have written back to me with something like, “Well, Sandra, it’s okay, but let’s cut it in half and edit.”