The Mérida English Library community is fortunate to have many accomplished writers in our midst, and this good luck extends even to authors who are no longer with us. This edition of Author Spotlight turns its attention to two of our most-accomplished authors – Grant Spradling & David Heath.

David Heath moved to Merida in 2013 where he discovered a passion for writing. Before that, he and his partner, gourmet chef and architect John Johnson, built, owned and operated a country inn & restaurant – the Rancho de San Juan, northwest of Santa Fe.  The stories he collected during those twenty years became the basis for his first book “Tales from a Country Inn: The Rancho de San Juan Story” which was published in 2017 under his pen name D.G. Heath.

He quickly moved on to mysteries, escapist fun full of intrigue and set in locations from New York City to Death Valley, England to Honduras.  He published these in three anthology “Mystery Collection” books between 2017 and 2019. The year 2019 also saw the publication of his real-life exploits “Bedtime Stories and Other Tales” where he recounts his experiences in Hollywood real estate.  If you are waiting to read about a man who cooked and served dinner to Julia Child, or breakfasted with JFK the morning of his assassination, then look no further.  This is the book for you!

D.G. Heath returned to mystery in 2020 with the publication of “Yes ... We Have No Camels”, full of suspense, humor and romance as Sir Reginald Whitcomb of London’s Home Office and his charming wife, Lady Lynnette, investigate the disappearance of two workers from an Egyptian excavation site.

David was also an instrumental participant in the Mérida Writers Group, and a fellow MWG member says, “David's writing career was short, but he wrote well and published many interesting stories. He always had something new to present to the Merida Writers' Group."  He died in March 2022 but his words live on through his books and his blog.

The Mérida Writers Group, and the local literary community, also benefitted from the talents of Grant Spradling who co-edited the group’s short story collection “29: Short Stories and Memoirs by Emerging Writers” in 2013.  Grant co-created a two-volume lectionary supplement “Imaging the Word” in the mid-90s but he, like David Heath, began his writing career in earnest after visiting Yucatán.  His first book, “From High in the Mulberry Tree”, was published in 2005.  This collection of memoirs and short stories begins in the plains of western Oklahoma and ends seeing the world through the eyes of a Yucatecan dog, a direct descendant of Queen Isabella’s lap dog who nevertheless claims on more than one occasion not to be a snob about his heritage. 

He followed this with his first novel, “Maya Sacrifice”, in 2012.  This mystery novel follows amateur detectives Quincy Bruster, a wealthy poet-librettist, and his friend David Ward to Mérida where they encounter drug dealers, US Agents, vendors of contraband pre-Columbian artifact, and the horrors of local government bureaucracy.  Likewise, Grant’s 2013 novel “Palenque Murder: Death at the Maya Ruins” mixes contemporary circumstances with ageless rituals. Quincy and David reunite to investigate the murder of a well-known Key West author at that ancient site.

David Ward takes center stage in 2015’s “David Goes Home: Growing Up Gay in the Dust Bowl”.  Here, Grant calls on his experience as a retired Congregational minister to write the captivating story of Ward, a closeted Congregational Church minister who has returned home to Oklahoma for his mother’s funeral.  David is haunted by childhood nightmares which he discovers are fueled by his hometown sheriff who was murdered when David was a boy.  The mystery is afoot, as David seeks to crack this unsolved crime and discover the source of his near-pathological fear of being discovered to be gay.

Grant returns to his real life with a 2018 memoir, “Chelem Papers”, which recalls his childhood in the Oklahoma dust bowl and recounts his worldwide travels and adventures.  In a review, Chris Strickland writes, “Not simply an old man’s reverie, the stories in Chelem Papers are an exploration of the issues we all face: the need for intimacy, the search for purpose, the call to love, the frailty of the body, the dazzling possibilities of the divine in us.”

Grant died at age 89 on January 1, 2019, on what would have been the 50th anniversary of his partnership with artist Clifford Ames, who preceded him and to whom “Chelem Papers” was a tribute.

D.G. Heath and Grant Spradling left behind a treasure trove of literature.  Many of their books are part of MEL’s lending collection and available for purchase at the library or Between the Lines bookstore. 

Photo of Grant Spradling by Yucatán Magazine