Author Bill Tapply died Tuesday evening after a two-year struggle with leukemia. Tapply was a prolific writer, producing more than 40 books and thousands of magazine articles, mostly about fly fishing and the outdoors. He was perhaps best known for his more than two dozen New England-based mystery novels, including the recent Bitch Creek and Gray Ghost.
Tapply was a professor of English at Clark University in Worcester, MA. His handbook, The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing a Modern Whodunit, is used in writing classes and workshops across the country. He was a contributing editor for Field & Stream, a columnist for American Angler, and a member of the editorial board of The Writer magazine. He and his wife, novelist Vicki Stiefel, also mentored writers from their farm in Hancock, New Hampshire.
One of Bill’s “students,” author Norman Zeigler, sent us the following note about his friend:
Bill was a gentleman and a gentle man. When I was sick and mainly housebound and down and out and working on my first book, he offered unending encouragement and astute critiques that helped make it better. He was the best mentor a journalist turning author could have. His favorite writer was Hemingway and, like Hemingway, he believed strongly in being economical with his written words.
His love of the outdoors flowed through his writing like the waters of a cold, clear spring. And fly fishing was one of his biggest passions. The most famous character in his mystery books, Brady Coyne, was also a dedicated fly fisher.
He was kind, generous, thoughtful, smart, loving, talented, and highly intelligent. What more is there? His passing leaves a giant hole in the lives of all who knew him, and especially all who love fly fishing.
To paraphrase Hemingway’s tribute to a Ketchum friend who died: Best of all he loved the woods and streams and ponds and other wild places. Now he will be a part of them forever.