Peffer, Randall S. 1948- (Randall Scott Peffer)

views updated

Peffer, Randall S. 1948- (Randall Scott Peffer)


Born June 16, 1948, in Natrona Heights, PA; son of Chester Robie and Marian Peffer; married Marilyn Howell (a teacher), May 3, 1970; children: Noah. Education: Washington and Jefferson College, B.A., 1971; University of New Hampshire, M.A., 1973. Politics: Independent.


Home—Andover, MA. Office—Department of English, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA 01810. Agent—Theron Raines, Raines & Raines, 475 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10017.


Teacher of English at a private school in Mercersburg, PA, 1973-78; Wooden Boat, associate editor, 1974-78; Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, instructor in English, 1978—.


Critic's Choice award, Baltimore Sun, 1979, for Watermen.


Watermen (nonfiction), Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1979.

New York and Pennsylvania and New Jersey, photographed by Pete Souza, The Society (Washington, DC), 1997.

Puerto Rico, Lonely Planet Publications (Oakland, CA), 1999.

Logs of the Dead Pirates Society: A Schooner Adventure around Buzzards Bay, Sheridan House (Dobbs Ferry, NY), 2000.

Virgin Islands, Lonely Planet Publications (Oakland, CA), 2001.

Killing Neptune's Daughter (mystery novel), Intrigue Press (Denver, CO), 2004.

Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues (mystery novel), Bleak House Books (Madison, WI), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Reader's Digest, National Geographic, Yankee, Sail, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, and Finance; author of travel articles syndicated in major newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, Denver Post, and the Chicago Tribune. Associate editor of WoodenBoat, 1974-78.


Randall S. Peffer is a writer, editor, and educator who has taught at several private schools, including the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The author of numerous travel articles for newspapers and other publications, Peffer has also published nonfiction and fiction books. His travel guides include Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, both of which he wrote for the "Lonely Planet" series. His first book, Watermen, documents the lives of the fisherman of the Chesapeake Bay area, and garnered Peffer the Baltimore Sun Critic's Choice award. In 2004 Peffer added fiction to his repertoire, publishing his first mystery novel, Killing Neptune's Daughter.

With Logs of the Dead Pirates Society: A Schooner Adventure around Buzzards Bay, Peffer returns to the maritime writing that he became known for with Watermen. The book discusses the trips that Peffer takes each summer with a group of his students to study the marine biology of Buzzards Bay, using the Sarah Abbot, a research schooner, as a base for their experiments and lessons. The book serves as part travel guide, part lesson in marine biology and ecology, and part history of the region. Peffer's stories about the area include information about the Native Americans who lived there prior to the Revolutionary War, the industry and economy of the area during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that included the building of ships and whaling expeditions, and a description of the setting in modern times. John Kenny, in a review for Library Journal, called Peffer's effort "a good book for armchair sailors and an excellent view of historic Buzzards Bay."

Peffer's first mystery novel, Killing Neptune's Daughter tells the story of Billy Bagwell, who is reluctantly returning to his hometown of Wood's Hole on Cape Cod for the funeral of Tina, the girl he once loved, or at least lusted after. The homecoming stirs up a lot of memories for Billy, not all of them pleasant, and many of his memories that are linked to Tina turn out to be distressingly dark. This trend seems to point to something deeper in Billy's subconscious that he does not want to remember. J.B. Thompson, writing for Reviewing the Evidence, admitted an early reluctance to read the book as it was not to his usual taste, but he concluded that, by the end, Peffer's work had "evoked an emotional response from me that I hadn't expected to encounter" and that "the structural flow that I thought had bothered me was an intentional design aimed at sucking me into a darkly colorful and well-written tale of sex, murder and deliverance."

Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues, Peffer's next mystery, tells the dual story of Provincetown drag queen Tuki Aparecio, who is accused of committing arson and murder, and Michael DeCastro, the homophobic defense lawyer who is assigned to Tuki's case. While Peffer does include the investigation into the crime, he primarily focuses on the relationship between these two men and their gradual understanding of each other. Booklist critic David Pitt considered the book to be "an intriguing, offbeat mystery."

Peffer commented: "I am particularly interested in writing about vanishing breeds and fringe lifestyles. I find these subjects rich in fresh tall tales and vibrant, hard-times humor. For me these tales and this type of humor form the essence of the American spirit: pure American optimism still exists. I'll write about that wherever I can find it."



Boating, February, 1980, Linda Moran, review of Watermen, p. 39.

Booklist, May 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues, p. 38.

Cruising World, July, 1980, Roger Marshall, review of Watermen, p. 185.

Library Journal, May 15, 2000, John Kenny, review of Logs of the Dead Pirates Society: A Schooner Adventure around Buzzards Bay, p. 117; July 1, 2005, Ann Kim, review of Killing Neptune's Daughter, p. 58.

SciTech Book News, September, 2000, review of Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, p. 47.

Yachting, February, 1980, John Rousmaniere, review of Watermen, p. 112.


Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine Online, (February 23, 2008), Linda J. Hutchinson, review of Killing Neptune's Daughter.

Randall Peffer Home Page, (February 23, 2008).

Reviewing the Evidence, (February 23, 2008), Drewey Wayne Gunn, review of Provincetown Follies, Bangkok Blues; J.B. Thompson, review of Killing Neptune's Daughter.