Tapply, William G. 1940- (William George Tapply)

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Tapply, William G. 1940- (William George Tapply)


Born July 16, 1940, in Waltham, MA; son of H.G. (a writer) and Muriel (a registered nurse) Tapply; married Alice Sandra Knight, 1962 (divorced, 1966); married Cynthia Ehrgott (a secretary), March 7, 1970 (divorced, 1995); married Vicki Stiefel, May 7, 2004; children: Michael, Melissa, Sarah, Blake, Ben. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Amherst College, B.A., 1962; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1963; Tufts University, postgraduate study, 1966-68.


Home—Hancock, NH. Agent—Fred Morris, The Jed Mattes Agency, 2095 Broadway, Ste. 302, New York, NY 10023.


Lexington High School, Lexington, MA, history teacher, 1963-66; Tufts University, Medford, MA, director of economic studies, 1968-69; Lexington High School, housemaster and teacher, 1972-90; Writer's Digest School, editorial associate, 1992—; Clark University, Worcester, MA, and Emerson College, Boston, MA, writing instructor, 1995-2003; Clark University, writer-in-residence, 1995—; The Writer, editorial board, 2006—.


Mystery Writers of America, Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Private Eye Writers of America.


Scribner Crime Novel award, 1984, for Death at Charity's Point.



Death at Charity's Point, Scribner (New York, NY), 1984.

The Dutch Blue Error, Scribner (New York, NY), 1985.

Follow the Sharks, Scribner (New York, NY), 1985.

The Marine Corpse, Scribner (New York, NY), 1986.

Dead Meat, Scribner (New York, NY), 1987.

The Vulgar Boatman, Scribner (New York, NY), 1987.

A Void in Hearts, Scribner (New York, NY), 1988.

Dead Winter, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1989.

Client Privilege, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1989.

The Spotted Cats, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.

Tight Lines, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1992.

The Snake Eater, Otto Penzler (New York, NY), 1993.

The Seventh Enemy, Otto Penzler (New York, NY), 1995.

Close to the Bone, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Cutter's Run, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Muscle Memory, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Scar Tissue, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

A Brady Coyne Omnibus, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Past Tense, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Philip R. Craig) First Light, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

A Fine Line, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Shadow of Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Philip R. Craig) Second Sight, Scribner (New York, NY), 2005.

Nervous Water, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.

Out Cold, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.

(With Philip R. Craig) Third Strike, Scribner (New York, NY), 2007.

One-Way Ticket, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.


(With Linda Barlow) Thicker Than Water (suspense novel), Signet (New York, NY), 1995.

Bitch Creek ("Stoney Calhoun" mystery series), Lyons Press (Guildford, CT), 2004.

Gray Ghost ("Stoney Calhoun" mystery series), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.


Those Hours Spent Outdoors, Scribner (New York, NY), 1988.

Opening Day and Other Neuroses, Lyons & Burford (New York, NY), 1990.

Home Water Near and Far, Lyons & Burford (New York, NY), 1992.

Sportsman's Legacy, Lyons & Burford (New York, NY), 1993.

The Elements of Mystery Fiction, Writer, Inc. (Boston, MA), 1995.

A Fly-Fishing Life, Lyons & Burford (New York, NY), 1997.

Bass Bug Fishing, Lyons Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Upland Days, Lyons Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Pocket Water: Favorite Streams, Favorite Fish, Lyons Press (New York, NY), 2001.

The Orvis Pocket Guide to Fly Fishing for Bass, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2002.

Gone Fishin': Ruminations on Fly Fishing, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2004.

Trout Eyes, Skyhorse Publishers (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens, Organic Gardening, Scholastic Coach, Drummer, Writer, Fins and Feathers, Worcester, and Outdoor Life; contributing editor to Field and Stream and Upland Journal; special correspondent, American Angler.


William G. Tapply is the author of a number of mystery novels featuring Brady Coyne, a Boston attorney serving a wealthy clientele. In an essay for the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, Jim Huang called Coyne "a skillful blend of amateur versus professional, serious versus frivolous, and intellectual versus physical." Coyne selects interesting clients to make his otherwise boring legal practice bearable. He also sees his career as a means to finance his avocation, fishing, which is Tapply's own great love and the subject of several of the author's nonfiction works.

Over the course of the series, Coyne has dealt with a variety of cases. A murder takes place on what is believed to be sacred Native American land in Dead Meat; an author dies under mysterious circumstances in The Marine Corpse; a Vietnam veteran's memoirs cause trouble for many people in The Snake Eater; and the controversy over gun control is a key plot element in The Seventh Enemy. The "Brady Coyne" series has won Tapply plaudits for his narrative skills. Lauding Tapply for writing "quietly and perceptively" in Death at Charity's Point, the story of Coyne's investigation of an apparent suicide, London Times contributor Marcel Berlins declared the book a "superior" thriller. Marilyn Stasio, critiquing The Seventh Enemy for the New York Times Book Review, called Tapply "a smooth stylist"; in a review of The Snake Eater for the same publication, she noted that "there's never a break in that practiced, flowing style he has mastered over a dozen books." Huang asserted that "Tapply is among the smoothest storytellers around—his books glide along quickly and effortlessly—but the plots tend towards the straightforward and they're not necessarily fair. He will introduce new elements in the closing chapters in order to facilitate a resolution…. But only rarely do Tapply's stories really disappoint."

While lauding the author's portrayal of Coyne's eccentric clients, Huang complained: "If Tapply has a significant flaw, it's in Brady Coyne's peculiar reticence about his own life and feelings…. The adventures leave no mark on Coyne." For instance, Huang observed, Coyne remains unperturbed after being nearly blown to bits in Dead Meat, and he is largely unaffected by pleas to help the homeless in The Marine Corpse. Stasio found The Snake Eater an exception to Coyne's usual stoicism. "Tapply wrings some rare passion from Brady Coyne," she remarked, adding: "This time his theme of friendship has jagged edges of anger and pain that cut through Coyne's reserve and draw blood." Huang granted that the character's customary restraint has its uses in the series: "Brady Coyne's wry, good-humored narration reminds us not to take it all too seriously." Tapply explained to Peter Cannon in Publishers Weekly that "Brady is a Yankee, and I suppose we Yankees tend to be reticent about our feelings. Books I read where the first-person narrators are terribly forthcoming about their feelings don't ring true to me. My writing philosophy is show don't tell."

Tapply's approach has clearly worked for the "Brady Coyne" series, and the author continues to add installments. In A Fine Line Coyne takes a packet of rare letters to a book dealer for authentication on behalf of his friend, Walt Duffy, a nature photographer who has been paralyzed in a recent accident. But when Duffy is killed during yet another accident, and his son Ethan goes missing, Coyne finds himself in the midst of a murder investigation. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that "the low-key, fly-fishing Boston lawyer with an overly developed need for self-reliance has never been in better form." Nervous Water sees Coyne involved in a family mystery, when his Uncle Moze seeks his help in locating his missing daughter, Cassie. Bill Ott, writing for Booklist, called this novel "another winner in an always-satisfying series." In a review for Publishers Weekly, a contributor felt that the "series remains fresh and Tapply underrated as one of today's finest regional mystery writers."

In First Light Tapply teams up his hero with mystery writer Philip R. Craig's character J.W. Jackson. Jackson is an ex-cop who lives in Martha's Vineyard with his wife and two small children. In alternating chapters told from the viewpoints of their respective characters, Tapply and Craig weave a story involving two missing women, clashes between real estate developers and environmentalists, and unexpected violence. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called First Light an "ultimately satisfying crime drama" that offers "an intriguing and evocative picture of this high-profile vacation spot." Library Journal critic Rex Klett described First Light as "a most captivating read."

The success of First Light led Tapply and Craig to continue the association of their characters in other collaborations. In their follow up Second Sight Brady Coyne tracks a runaway to Martha's Vineyard, where Jackson is currently a chauffeur and head of security for a famous singer. When the singer's bodyguard is killed, both Coyne and Jackson find their investigations leading them to a local spiritual retreat that has cultish overtones. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that, while "the plot is a bit far-fetched, with most of the page-turning action bottlenecked at the end," fans of both writers were likely to enjoy the mystery. Wes Lukowsky, in a review for Booklist, commented: "Colaborations … are often awkward, but this one … is an entertaining exception."

In 2004 Tapply began a new mystery series set in rural Maine. It features Stoney Calhoun, who lost his memory in a lightning strike five years prior to his introduction in the first volume of the series, Bitch Creek. After recovering from his accident, Stoney moved to Maine with his insurance money and began working at Kate Balaban's bait and tackle shop. It is while attending his duties at the shop one day that he encourages local college student Lyle McMaban to act as guide for a customer who is planning a wilderness trip. When Stoney later finds Lyle's body, guilt sets him off on the trail of the customer whom he assumes to be the killer. In a review for Publishers Weekly, one contributor believed that "a far-fetched and excessively violent resolution spoils the rustic mood" of the descriptions of rural Maine. Again reviewing for Booklist, Wes Lukowsky found that Tapply's effort "mixes crisp plotting and character development with a subtle sense of time and place."

Tapply continues the Stoney Calhoun series with Gray Ghost. In this volume readers continue to receive clues to Stoney's past life as he learns that he has mysterious abilities that seem to manifest themselves as he assists the local sheriff in yet another murder investigation. Serving as guide for historian Paul Vecchio, Stoney comes across another dead body, one that has obviously been tortured and then set on fire. Although Stoney is reluctant to play detective again, a series of events, including the shooting of Vecchio as he sits on Stoney's porch, push him into looking into helping with the case. Booklist contributor Wes Lukowsky wrote that the author "presents a complex plot with wonderful characters while teasing readers with small hints about his protagonist's murky past."

Tapply once told CA that he is reluctant to call his books mystery novels. "I write novels that, like most worthwhile novels, contain mysteries," he said. "I try to avoid formulas, although I suppose with a series character like my attorney Brady Coyne I have conceded that much. I place great emphasis in my writing on characterization, motivation, suspense, and humor—all of which seem to me important in all fiction. I try to tell stories rather than truths, but I think my stories convey some small truths now and then. I have been asked on occasion when I intend to write a ‘real novel.’ I reply, of course, that I already have."

More recently, Tapply told CA: "My father wrote a monthly column for Field & Stream for thirty-five years. I watched him work, absorbed his perfectionism, understood how hard writing was. This postponed my itch to write until I was in my thirties. When I began writing, I was fully prepared for the difficulty and frustrations. This, more than any writing lesson, has enabled me to stick to it.

"I've learned some things about the business of writing. We have to be businessmen as well as artists. I never anticipated any of that."

When asked which book was his favorite, Tapply answered: "My current book is always my favorite, because it's the only one I really think about. Still, I am fond of Sportsman's Legacy…. It's about my relationship with my father, and was the hardest piece of writing I ever had to do." When asked what effect he hoped his books would have, Tapply said: "I hope they will keep people up all night turning the pages."



St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, September 15, 1996, Bill Ott, review of Close to the Bone, p. 225; August, 1997, John Rowen, review of A Fly-Fishing Life, p. 1868; June 1, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Cutter's Run, p. 1735; August, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of Muscle Memory, p. 2036; August, 2000, Bill Ott, review of Scar Tissue, p. 2123; September 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Past Tense, p. 57; November 15, 2001, John Rowen, review of Pocket Water: Favorite Streams, Favorite Fish, p. 540; December 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of First Light, p. 632; October 15, 2002, Frank Sennett, review of A Fine Line, p. 393; September 15, 2004, Wes Lukowsky, review of Bitch Creek, p. 214; January 1, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of Second Sight, p. 825; July, 2005, Bill Ott, review of Nervous Water, p. 1907; February 1, 2007, Wes Lukowsky, review of Gray Ghost, p. 36.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of Past Tense, p. 1174; November 1, 2001, review of First Light, p. 1517; October 1, 2002, review of A Fine Line, p. 1432; July 15, 2004, review of Bitch Creek, p. 664; January 15, 2007, review of Gray Ghost, p. 55.

Library Journal, February 1, 1998, M. Anna Falbo, review of Close to the Bone, p. 130; July, 1999, Rex Klett, review of Muscle Memory, p. 141; September 1, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Past Tense, p. 239; January, 2002, Rex Klett, review of First Light, p. 158.

New York Times Book Review, December 26, 1993, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Snake Eater; January 22, 1995, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Seventh Enemy; November 5, 2000, Marilyn Stasio, review of Scar Tissue, p. 32.

Publishers Weekly, July 7, 1997, review of A Fly-Fishing Life, p. 58; June 28, 1999, review of Muscle Memory, p. 57; September 11, 2000, Peter Cannon, "PW Talks to William G. Tapply," p. 72, and review of Scar Tissue, p. 72; December 10, 2001, review of First Light, p. 54; October 28, 2002, review of A Fine Line, p. 55; August 16, 2004, review of Bitch Creek, p. 46; December 6, 2004, review of Second Sight, p. 46; August 1, 2005, review of Nervous Water, p. 48.

Times (London, England), January 31, 1985, Marcel Berlins, review of Death at Charity's Point.


William G. Tapply Home Page,http://www.williamgtapply.com (April 14, 2007).