Q&A With Philip R. Craig of 'A Vineyard Killing'

While Martha's Vineyard usually conjures up serene thoughts of the sea, the sun and summer fun, author Philip R. Craig's "A Vineyard Killing" reveals a very different aspect of the Massachusetts island.

Read the following online Q and A with Phillip Craig, author of "A Vineyard Killing," one of the selections featured in "Good Morning America's" "Read This!" book series.

The book's main character is J.W. Jackson, a retired Boston policeman and part-time private investigator who lives year-round on Martha's Vineyard with his wife and kids. Although the former policeman is happy to have left his crime-fighting life behind in the big city, trouble seems to find him anywhere.

In "A Vineyard Killing," Jackson finds himself with a new mystery on his hands during the cold month of March, a few months before the tourists arrive. The mystery is set around the attempted murder of a devious real-estate tycoon who has been trying to force locals, including J.W., to sell their island homes for less than they're worth.

If you would like to read an excerpt from "A Vineyard Killing," click here.

Then you can read the following online Q and A with author Phillip Craig:

Q: Congratulations for being picked as part of "Good Morning America's" "Read This" series. I have been a longtime fan of your wonderful Vineyard series. They help me with my ocean withdrawal. I briefly met you and your lovely wife when you came to speak at the Cazenovia Library in Cazenovia, N.Y., and thoroughly enjoyed your talk, especially how you developed your story line, not knowing the ending until the end. After all those years of writing, and the closet full of rejections, I am so happy for you that the world has finally realized what a great storyteller you are. Keep them coming, even though I remember that you stated that you would like to develop a new character. Is that still true?
— Sally

A: Dear Sally,
I don't remember anything about introducing a new character. Maybe I should listen to what I say more carefully! Thanks for the nice note!

Q: The first chapter book excerpt I read was great! Will you consider making a movie from this story?
— Marie

A: Dear Marie,
I don't have much to say about whether or not a movie will be made from my books. Personally, I doubt if that will happen because most of the activity in my books takes place inside the narrator's head and that is not something that can be rendered on film. It's possible that someone will take the idea of the books and transform it into something that can be photographed; if so, I'll be delighted!

Q: I have read most of your books and have enjoyed all of them. However, I have not been able to find the first three books, A Beautiful Place to Die, The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea, and The Double Minded Men. Any suggestions of where I can buy them? I look forward to your next book.
— A Loyal Fan, Nancy, Mendon

A: Dear Nancy,
Avon is reprinting the first four books in the series in paperback editions. "A Beautiful Place to Die" is now available under its original title; "The Woman Who Walked Into the Sea" is now available as "Death in Vineyard Waters" and "The Double Minded Men" is now available as "Vineyard Deceit." Next summer "Cliff Hanger" will be out under a new title which I've momentarily forgotten. Meanwhile you might find used copies on the Internet under "used books." Good luck in your search!

Q: I just wanted to say that I discovered you some time ago and have read every one of the Martha's Vineyard Books. I love the characters and the special recipes. This winter I needed some comfort and old friends and found your newest book to fill the bill. Thank you. Look forward to "the rest of the story."
— Diego

A: Dear Diego,
Thanks for the nice note. I hope you'll be pleased to know that I've written the 2004 book (Death at a Vineyard Mansion) and I am working on the book for 2005. Meanwhile, Scribner has purchased Second Sight, another book I've co-written with William G. Tapply, featuring J.W. Jackson and Bill's protagonist, Brady Coyne, attempting to stop more bad buys on the Vineyard.

Q: Can you tell me more about your past works?
— Gale

A: Dear Gale,
If you look up my Web site (PhilipRCraig.com) you'll find a list and summaries of all of my books and more information about me than any sane person would want to know. The Martha's Vineyard mysteries began with A Beautiful Place to Die, which was published in 1989, and has continued ever since. A Vineyard Killing is the 14th book in the series.

Q: Just finished reading the excerpt of your novel set in Martha's Vineyard, and liked your simple, direct style. Why did you choose this style for this novel? I have a true-crime novel in progress and will appreciate any tips re the selling of a first novel. I wish you much success. Thanks again, C.A.

A: Dear C.A.,
I wish you much success. Never give up on your writing. Keep in mind that every published writer was once an unpublished writer and that next year's best seller isn't even in print this year. As for my style, I've never thought much about it. I like to write in the first person, although there are limitations inherent in that point of view that are sometimes undesirable. If you're writing a true-crime book, you should consider the nature of third-person and first-person points of view. You might want to take a look at "Percy Lubbock's Aspects of the Novel," which is a good study of point of view. Good luck with your book.

Q: I am looking forward to reading A Vineyard Killing. Do you only write mysteries?
— Val

A: Dear Val,
I'm currently writing a non-mystery and a cookbook, but I don't know when I'll get them finished. I've written nonfiction essays, too. At the moment I've written the 2004 book in my mystery series and I am working on the book for 2005.

Q: I enjoy your books so very much and look forward to each new one. Thanks for the great stories and wonderful characters. Love the tongue-in-cheek attitudes toward children, marriage and sex. Thanks so much. When is your next one coming?
— Pauline

A: Dear Pauline,
Thanks for the nice note. The next book, "Death at Vineyard Mansion," will be out in June 2004. Meanwhile, I'm working on the 2005 book.

A: I have a hard time with reading small print anymore, but I'd like to read your latest book. Do you have this book with large print? — Doris

A: Dear Doris,
Deveral of my books have been published in large print. "A Vineyard Killing" is, I think, one of them. I know it's being published in large print in England. I suggest that you inquire about A Vineyard Killing at your local library. You can also get some of the books on tape from the Library of Congress through your library. Good hunting!

Q: Where did you come with the ideas for your characters? Are they based on anyone you know? — Ann

A: Dear Ann,
No, I don't base my characters on any people I know, although some readers here on the island are sure that I've done exactly that! They see people they know as the prototypes of characters in my books when I've never even thought of those people! My characters come out of my imagination. Often they create themselves. I introduce them, thinking they're certain kinds of people I need for my story, and then they become people I never expected them to be. This happens to writers all the time.

Q: I enjoy your writing very much and I'd like to know what your favorite book of all time is.
— David

A: Dear David,
My favorite novel is "The Brothers Karamazov," by Dostoevsky. I guess my favorite book of all time would be "The Complete Shakespeare."

Q: Do you live on Martha's Vineyard year round? If so, do you find solace and creativity in the winter months as well as the bustle of the summer months? Do you have children? And do they love the Vineyard as much as you do? — Rebecca

A: Dear Rebecca,
I do live on the Vineyard all year, and I write all year, too, both in summer and winter. During the winter there are fewer tourists but the island is rich with activities, including concerts, theater productions, etc. … My wife and I both sing in the island chorals society and otherwise have more to do than time to do it. My son and his children live on the island. My daughter and her children live in Colorado. They, too, love the island.

Q: What do you think makes a great mystery? What does the author need to have in the story in order for it to be an engaging mystery?
— Sarah

Dear Sarah, You, as a reader, know the answer at least as well as I do. I think you need to create major characters whose lives are of interest to readers. Readers have to care what happens to them. If they don't care, they don't finish the book. Mystery novels are like all other novels. They have to deal with interesting characters and circumstances, and resolve those circumstances satisfactorily. Some smart person once said that the appeal of mystery novels is that justice triumphs in the end, which is unlike what happens in real life.