Books. I love books. I love the smell of hardcovers and paperbacks and bookstores. I love the feel of them in my hands. I love reading books on-line and I love listening to audiobooks when I’m out and about running errands. I love books. Books are the window into any and every world that you wish to visit. As far back as I can remember, books have been a part of my life. My parents read to me all the time—not just at bedtime but all the time. Quite often when I was young, if I said I was bored my parents would say, “Why don’t you pick up a book?” and more often than not, I would. Quite often, when people find out that I’m an author, I will hear them say, “I wish I read more,” to which I always think, “Why don’t you?” I have all but stopped asking people this question out loud because I am invariably told that they just don’t have the time. This of course will be followed by an in-depth review of Game Of Thrones or Grace And Frankie.
Reading is a wonderful thing and it is my favourite way to keep Martha’s Vineyard with me all through the year. There are a lot of books that take place on our favourite parcel of land and most of them are pretty darn good. Edgartown Books is my favourite bookstore in the world and they have a terrific “Local Authors” section. Their friendly staff will be more than happy to help you find the book you are looking for. If you know of any that I have not mentioned here, please list them in the comments below. For the purpose of this post, I am sticking to fiction. I have read a lot of history about the island but I feel like that will eventually be a separate post altogether. So, without further adieu—read and enjoy…
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. Technically, this book (and the movie that followed. Did you know there was a movie?) doesn’t take place on Martha’s Vineyard. In fact, the author Peter Benchley was much more of a Nantucket guy than a Martha’s Vineyard guy; however, the movie was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard and there will forever be a connection between the two.
Martha’s Vineyard hasn’t changed that much since it stood in for the fictitious Amity Island and many of the actors were natives. JAWS paraphernalia is sold just about everywhere on-island and there is a certain amount of island pride surrounding the film. It is very difficult at this point to read Benchley’s suspenseful prose without picturing South Beach, State Beach, Menemsha, or Edgartown Village. It’s a fun read. I highly recommend picking it up if you haven’t already and sinking your teeth into it…read it before you go swimming.
Cynthia Riggs is a wonderful writer with a substantial series of books behind her. Each floral-titled mystery takes place in the same world on Martha’s Vineyard. Her nonegenarian, amateur sleuth Victoria Trumbull has been the focus of more than ten exciting stories to-date and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the ones that I have read. They are cozy mysteries perfect for fireside reading all winter long. You don’t have to read them in order to enjoy them (I didn’t) but should you wish to do so, the first one is Jack In The Pulpit.
Judy Blume made her name back when I was very young writing for young adults. If you were reading in your pre-teen or teen years in the seventies or eighties, chances are you read “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”, “Super Fudge”, or “Blubber”. Well, in 1998 Ms Blume wrote a considerably more adult book called “Summer Sisters”.
Periodically, I will surf the net looking for new books and/or films pertaining to the island. Imagine my surprise when I came across this one! Judy Blume? That Judy Blume? I bought it immediately. Summer Sisters did not disappoint. It’s about the complications of a lifelong friendship that revolves around summers on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a compelling read. If you enjoy character driven novels about life, this is the book for you.
Philip R. Craig
Philip Craig influenced me a great deal. He wrote suspenseful mysteries on my favourite island. His novels have good recurring characters that you want to read about over and over, and his books could get dark by times. Philip Craig was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. In fact, he was doing it so well by my estimation that he held me back from doing it myself. Then, very sadly, Philip Craig passed away.
It was then and only then that I decided that I could pick up the torch! In no way do I think that I have replaced Mr Craig but I like to think that I have succeeded him. Furthermore I think that would make him happy. I learned a lot from his books and I strongly encourage you to pick up every single one. When I first discovered him—I devoured him. I scoured the internet and book stores until I was able to check every title off my list. I was very sad once I had read them all. The first one is “A Beautiful Place To Die”, followed by “Dead In Vineyard Waters”. You can google the rest. You won’t be sorry that you did.
Richard North Patterson
Richard North Patterson is a great writer. He’s a “wash-ashore” which means he was born elsewhere but now lives on Martha’s Vineyard. I think it was a fan of my books who recommended his books to me. I had never heard of him. Mr Patterson has written several books in several different series but just one series takes place on Martha’s Vineyard—The Blaine Trilogy.
The Blaine Trilogy consists of Fall From Grace, Loss Of Innocence, and Eden In Winter. I thoroughly enjoyed all three. They are novels with a definite masculine flavour which I found refreshing. The Martha’s Vineyard novels that I had been reading of late were definitely more feminine. Long gone are the days of Philip R Craig’s retired Boston cop J.W. Jackson. These are dark, character-driven mysteries with a tempestuous father-son relationship at their heart. I highly recommend them.
The name Elin Hilderbrand is well-known across New England. She has a Summer Series, a Winter Series, and a Paradise Series. I’m not entirely sure how many books she has written but there are a lot of them! If she is going to write about a Massachusetts island, she usually chooses Nantucket. That is the island of her heart and I applaud her for it; however, I have come across two of her books so far that have a heavy helping of Martha’s Vineyard added to the pot for good flavour—”The Identicals” and “Summer Of ’69”.
I really enjoyed both of them, especially “The Indenticals”. If you are looking for fun beach reads then look no further than Ms Hilderbrand. She’s a lot of fun. Also, if you are already a big fan and you know of more of her books that take place on Martha’s Vineyard, please let me know! I’d love to hear about them.
Crispin Nathaniel Haskins
Please tell me you saw this coming. Call it a shameless plug if you like but I write Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries and I’m proud of what I do. I am standing on the shoulders of all of the great writers who came before me and I hope, in my own small way, to inspire others to do the same. There was never any question in my mind that I was going to write novels. I thought for a while that they would be horror novels but even then, my horror always had a mysterious twist. I’ve loved ‘who-dun-it’s’ since my early childhood which was filled with Agatha Christie and Scooby-Doo. When I hit four years old and Steven Spielberg threw JAWS into the mix, my winding up here was inevitable, wasn’t it?
I have written five Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries so far and I’m stewing on my sixth. I try my best to make each one better than the ones which preceded it. I suppose whether I succeed or not is a matter of opinion. Each one sells better than the last and for that, I am eternally grateful. Every time someone decides that I am worth their hard-earned money, every time someone thinks enough of their purchases to write a positive review on Amazon, and post a photo on social media, I cannot tell you how much it means to me. Each of those moments tells me that I am on the right track. I guarantee you that Elin Hilderbrand, Cynthia Riggs, and Richard North Patterson all feel the same way. Every one of us is still that storyteller we once were, when we were younger and unpublished. And while we have all hit differing levels of success, I know that we are all doing what we love to do and we are writing about a very special place and an amazing community. Hey, it’s the Vineyard!