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Author Philip R. Craig passed away on May 8, 2007 after a brief battle with cancer.
Philip R. Craig was born on Dec. 10, 1933, in Santa Monica, Calif., and he and his sister and three brothers were raised on a small cattle ranch in southwest Colorado, near Durango.
The school library was a closet with some old (early 1900s) books in it, including Tarzan novels. Phil had seen Tarzan movies, but had never guessed that there were Tarzan books, and over the next few years he read 24 of them, thereby establishing himself as the reigning Tarzan expert of southwest Colorado. In that same closet were two or three novels about The Campfire Girls, so he read those, too, and became a Campfire Girls expert. About this time he started writing poetry and prose fiction. Later, in Durango High School, under the influence of a wonderful English teacher, Sharley Pike, who loved anyone who liked books and writing, he wrote more poetry and prose.
He went to Boston University with the intention of becoming a minister. At BU, he was an avid fencer (All-American in 1955) and eventually got a degree in religion and philosophy. But before graduating in 1957, he had become more interested in literature and writing than in philosophy and religion. Phil studied poetry with Robert Lowell, who quickly persuaded him that he had no future in that field, and studied prose with Gerald Warner Brace, who encouraged him to write fiction. Phil claimed to be a terrible student and barely graduated because he really majored in fencing and minored in bridge. In fact Phil was invited to join the Olympic fencing squad, but a knee injury and a total lack of money prevented him from accepting. Still, he received his degree in 1957, largely, he always thought, because Boston University just wanted to get rid of him. In December of that year, he married Shirley Jane Prada of Edgartown, whom he had met at a fencing salle while in college.
In 1962, Phil was awarded an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where Vance Bourjaily was his advisor. During summers on the Vineyard during the 1960's, he covered Island matters as a stringer for the New Bedford Standard Times.
From 1962 until 1965, he taught English and journalism at Endicott Junior College in Beverly. In the spring of 1965, he read a freshman theme aloud in class to illustrate some point. The theme included either the word "damn" or "hell" (he forgot which), and he was summarily fired by the dean, who said, "You're too creative for us, Mr. Craig." In the fall of 1965, Phil joined the faculty at Wheelock College in Boston, where he continued to teach English until the spring of 1999, when he retired as professor emeritus of English and became a full-time writer.
Best known to many as a novelist, Phil wrote his first novel (Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn) during his noon lunch breaks in the back room of Al's Package Store in Edgartown, where he worked summers. It was published in 1969, when he was 35. His second (A Beautiful Place to Die) was published in 1989, when he was 55. During the 20 years between appearances in print he wrote and submitted novels that no one wanted to publish. Every year since 1989, Scribner has published a volume of Phil's mystery novels, all of which are set on Martha's Vineyard. A Vineyard Killing was the July, 2003 selection of the book club on Good Morning America. Scribner also published First Light and Second Sight, novels co-written with William G. Tapply, author of the Brady Coyne mysteries. Along with his wife, Shirley, Phil wrote a cookbook based on the recipes in his mystery series. It's called Delish: the J.W. Jackson Recipes and was published in September 2006 by Vineyard Stories. The eighteenth book in the J.W. Jackson mystery series, Vineyard Stalker, will be released this June, and Third Strike, the third book co-written with William Tapply, will be out later this year. The final, as yet untitled, book in the J.W. Jackson series will appear around June of 2008.
Phil and his wife Shirley retired to their summer home in Edgartown. Phil's ashes were spread in the waters of his beloved Vineyard.
Excerpted from a more complete biography written by his son Jamie and maintained on the official Philip R. Craig website.