Posted today on DorothyL:

Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 20:19:03 -0400
From: “William G. Tapply”
Subject: sad news

I am sorry to have to report that my dear friend Philip R. Craig died
today after a short illness. Phil wrote the Martha’s Vineyard series
of mysteries featuring J. W. Jackson, and he and I collaborated on
three novels with J.W. and my Brady Coyne, the third of which, Third
Strike, will be out next November.

Bill Tapply

   A short autobiography of Mr. Craig can be found at It will be for his books that he will be remembered by his readers, however. And from his books it was easy to understand what kind of person the author was. In their own way, in some imprecise fashion, of course, they are also the core of his biography.

   Like clockwork, every year from 1989 to the present except one, another excursion to Martha’s Vineyard and another case for former Boston cop J. W. “Jeff” Jackson and his wife Zee (nee Madieras), whom he married early in the series.

   After falling in love with the island, Jackson settled down to a life of fishing and occasional private investigation, often bringing him and Zee into considerable personal danger.

Vineyard Poison

   Here’s an excerpt taken from A Case of Vineyard Poison:

   It all started with a bluefish blitz at Metcalf’s Hole on South Beach. It was early summer and the bluefish were everywhere. After hitting the yard sales, Zee and I had taken a lunch out to Pocha Pond, on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning. I had unfolded the old bedspread I use for a beach blanket, and while Zee lay on it in the lee of the tall rushes that grow there and read, I waded out for some chowder quahogs. For some reason, Pocha Pond doesn’t seem to have any small quahogs, only big ones. How they make the jump from teeny seed to chowder size with no intervening steps is a mystery to me, although the Great Quahog God probably understands it perfectly. After I had my small basket full, I waded back to shore, and ogled Zee, who looked splendid in her wee bikini.

    “Nice bod,” I said.

   Zee lifted her eyes. “By next month, you’ll be a married man, so you’re going to have to learn to stop drooling over single women.”

    “Next month is July. This is still June, and you’re still single, so don’t rush me.”

    “Come here,” she said. “I want to explain something to you.”

   I went to her.

    “Lean down.”

   I leaned down. She tossed her book, and pulled me down on top of her.

    “Help, help,” I whispered. “I’m being assaulted.”

    I was wet and cool, and she was warm and dry. Pretty soon we were both warm and wet.

    “There,” said Zee. “Let that be a lesson to you.”

Vineyard Beach

   Another excerpt, this one taken from Death on a Vineyard Beach:

   Zee and I got married at noon on July 13, a date artfully chosen by me in the hope that since it was my birthday, one of the four dates I usually remembered — the Others being New Year’s Day, Christmas, and the Fourth of July — I had a fighting chance of recollecting my anniversary in the future.

   It was a beautiful Martha’s Vineyard day, with a warm sun in a cloudless sky, and a gentle north wind to keep things comfortable for all of us who had abandoned our summer shorts and had dressed up for the occasion. There were people with regular cameras and video cameras moving around shooting pictures. Apparently we were going to get the whole thing on record.

Vineyard Holiday

   In this excerpt from A Deadly Vineyard Holiday, J. W. has just met a young girl on the beach:

   There was an odd combination of sophistication and innocence about the girl, and, being just about old enough to be her father, I tried to imagine what it would be like to watch other people fish and not know how to do it myself. But I had been fishing as long as I could remember, thanks to my own father, who had gotten a rod into my hands before I could read.

    “You want to give it a try?” I asked.

   Her eyes widened. “Yes!”

   I got my spare rod off the roof rack and put a Ballistic Missile on the leader.

    “This is a good casting plug,” I said. “And the bluefish love it.”

   We went down to the water, and I showed her how to throw the bail on her reel, to hook the line on her trigger finger, to take the rod straight back, and to bring it straight forward, releasing the line at about a 45-degree angle to the horizon.

   Then I made a couple of casts, showing her how it was done, and gave her the rod.

    “Don’t try to cast too far, at first. Just concentrate on throwing straight out. And don’t worry about making mistakes. Everybody makes them.”

    “Okay.” She threw the bail, hooked the line with her finger, and took the rod back. Her first cast went into the surf right at her feet.

   The Books. Adapted from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, and from Mr. Craig’s own website:

CRAIG, PHILIP R. (1933- 2007)

* Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn (n.) Doubleday 1969 [Sweden]
* A Beautiful Place to Die (n.) Scribner 1989 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea (n.) Scribner 1991 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* The Double-Minded Men (n.) Scribner 1992 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Cliff Hanger (n.) Scribner 1993 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Off Season (n.) Scribner 1994 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* A Case of Vineyard Poison (n.) Simon 1995 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Death on a Vineyard Beach (n.) Scribner 1996 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* A Deadly Vineyard Holiday (n.) Scribner 1997 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* A Shoot on Martha’s Vineyard (n.) Scribner 1998 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* A Fatal Vineyard Season (n.) Scribner 1999 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Vineyard Blues (n.) Scribner 2000 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Vineyard Shadows (n.) Scriber 2001 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Vineyard Enigma (n.) Scribner 2002 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* A Vineyard Killing (n.) Scribner 2003 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Murder at a Vineyard Mansion (n.) Scribner 2004 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Vineyard Prey (n.) Scribner 2005 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Death in Vineyard Sand (n.) Scribner 2006 [J. W. Jackson; Martha’s Vineyard]

* Death in Vineyard Waters (n.) Avon 2003; originally published as The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea (Scribner, 1991).
* Vineyard Deceit (n.) Avon, 2004; originally published as The Double-Minded Men (Scribner, 1992)
* Vineyard Fear (n.) Avon, 2004; originally published as Cliff Hanger (Scribner, 1993)

First Light


* First Light (n.) Scribner, 2001 [J. W. Jackson & Brady Coyne; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Second Sight (n.) Scribner 2005 [J. W. Jackson & Brady Coyne; Martha’s Vineyard]
* Third Strike (n.) Scribner 2007 [J. W. Jackson & Brady Coyne]

   Brady Coyne is a Boston attorney who has had numerous cases to solve on his own. Both the authors and their characters, as it turns out, are old fishing buddies, and it came as no surprise when readers found them respectively writing and solving murders together.


Delish: The J.W. Jackson Recipes, co-written with Shirley Prada Craig (Vineyard Stories, 2006)

[UPDATE] Later the same day. A lengthy personal tribute by Bill Tapply to his friend and collaborator, Philip R. Craig, is online here.