Philip R Craig and a Trip to Martha’s Vineyard


The first thing I must admit is that I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard. I do, however, have it on my trip bucket list. The main reason for this is author Philip R Craig whose novels have taken me on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

I have written before about authors who have set my mind to traveling the same paths they are following.  Chief among these is the aforementioned Philip R Craig. We first discovered Mr. Craig when we vacationed in Provincetown. As we often do, we wandered into an independent bookstore in town. As we looked around I noticed a paperback mystery set on Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t remember the title of that first purchase of one of Mr. Craig’s novels, but I do know it has set me on a reading journey to the island of Martha’s Vineyard that still continues.

Mr. Craig was the author of 19 mystery novels set there. He co-authored three books with William G. Tapply that were also set on Martha’s Vineyard and paired Tapply’s  character , a lawyer named Brady Coyne, with Craig’s jack of all trades, J. W. Jackson.

catboat by Dana Morris via wikimedia commons

Craig’s first novel introducing J. W. Jackson was “A Beautiful Place to Die.” J.W. Jackson is a former Boston policeman who retired to Martha’s Vineyard after being shot while on the job in Boston. This shooting resulted in a serious injury leading to his retirement, but that didn’t keep him from being drawn into any mystery that landed on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard.

J.W. lives in an old fishing shack that his father had on the Vineyard. He has worked hard to turn it into a very livable home for his family. When the series begins J. W. is not a family man, but as happens in real life, J. W. finds his love and starts his family.

J.W. describes the island and its several towns in great detail thoughout the series. Most of the Martha’s Vineyard mysteries contain a map of the island so you can follow along as J. W. describes what is happening on the island.  He complains about the tourists in-season and the fact they seem to think they are at Disney World and walk down the middle of the main street. He has friends among the local police who usually try to get J.W. to stay out of their investigations. Of course, he cannot help but get involved and usually has a large part in the outcome of the story.

Oak Bluffs by John Pelham via wikimedia commons

I enjoy his descriptions of the different towns on the island. It is surprising to find so much diversity on one small island. He talks a bit about the local people and groups that want to make changes to the island. He accepts the huge mansions being built on some of the land where he used to hunt and fish as a boy. He loves fishing for blues and he likes digging for clams with his quahog rake in the waters around the island. J.W. sometimes sells a few of the blues he catches. He always takes the clams to his home and prepares them to be served in some delicious dish. J.W. seems to be an excellent cook and there are usually some nice recipes at the end of each book. Mr. Craig and his wife Shirley published “Delish,” a cookbook containing over 200 of their favorite recipes.

Mr. Craig passed away in 2008. His final novel “Vineyard Chill” was published that year. Since making my first purchase of a Vineyard mystery I have been lucky to find many more. We have found his novels in used book stores locally. I have found some at discount book stores in outlet malls.  I have read several that were available from my local library. I have found them available to purchase as paperbacks or e-books online. I still have a few of the books yet to read. I have mixed feelings about reading my last Philip R Craig novel. It will be a bittersweet moment.

I hope you will follow my lead and find one of the Vineyard tales told by Mr. Craig. I promise you an enjoyable read that will make you long for a visit to Martha’s Vineyard. When you get there, be sure to say hello to J. W. Jackson for me.

Next: Travel Through the Eyes of an Author

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