The man who fictionalized Longboat Key, beloved author Terry Griffin, turns final page

Longboat Key writer and resident Terry Griffin had a knack for fictionalizing the myriad of friends in his life.

In fact, he was so possessed and beholden by the beauty of Longboat key that he set the majority of his work in a mythologized Longboat Key landscape.

Terry Griffin created in the genre of the writer he simply called “the master,” John D. Macdonald.

It was in his freshman year of college where Griffin discovered the work of Macdonald and echoes of the writing formed a tapestry that continued through Griffin’s life and work.

Aside from writing, Griffin was known as a witty and affable man with an eager smile and a brand of Southern charm that has grown rare in a harried world.

H. Terrell “Terry” Griffin, author, passed away on Feb. 21 at the age of 76 on Longboat Key.

He was primarily known for his fiction novels, the Matt Royal mystery series set on Longboat Key. Much like his characters, Griffin lived a rich life.

Griffin earned his Coast Guard captain’s license when he retired from practicing law simply because he wanted to adventure about. He owned a 28-foot Grady White fishing boat but didn’t fish—he simply loved boating. Griffin first began coming to Longboat Key by boat with his family when his three children were young.

As a trial lawyer he practiced in Orlando, but spent as much time as possible at home on Longboat Key.

After retiring, Griffin started writing a mystery series set in the barrier islands off the southwest coast of Florida between Tampa and Naples. The plots involve many familiar landmarks past and present on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island such as PattiGeorges, Rotten Ralph’s, The Dry Dock, Bridge Tender, Sand Bar and nearby Starfish Grill in Cortez, to name just a few.

Griffin was born in Waycross, Ga., in 1942, but was raised in Sanford, Fla., where his parents were sharecroppers.

His dad grew up in a family of sharecroppers near Plant City, Fla., and held a number of low-paying jobs during Griffin’s childhood. The family endured hard times, which, as an author, he drew upon in some of the flashback scenes in his works.

A lover of history — Griffin had almost completed his master’s coursework in history at the University of Central Florida while he practiced law — Griffin intertwined the history of the Black Seminoles in Florida with murder and mystery on Longboat Key.

In 1960, at the age of 17, Griffin began a three-year stint in the U.S. Army as a medic in the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment and was stationed near the East German border. His “shock troop” army unit was known as “the point of the spear” ready to be the first to take the hit if war broke out. Griffin was there when the Berlin Wall went up.

Griffin returned to the U.S. to attend Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

He and his wife, Jean, had three children and two grandchildren, and when the couple retired, he finally had time to write for the first time in his life. Jean told him that if he was ever going to write the book he’d been talking about since they first met in college, he’d better do it.

Griffin is survived by his wife, Jean; his three sons Greg, Chris and Mike; his daughter-in-law Judy; his grandchildren Kyle and Sara; his brother Tommy Griffin; and his sister Nancy Thornton.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that memorial donations be made to The Bartch Transplant House of the Advent Health Transplant Institute in Orlando.

A Celebration of Life ceremony for Griffin will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 3 at First United Methodist Church, 125 N. Interlachen Ave., Winter Park, Fla.

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1 Response for “The man who fictionalized Longboat Key, beloved author Terry Griffin, turns final page”

  1. Patricia A Smith says:

    I just heard of “Terry’s” passing…….I am so sorry for his family. I will not be enjoying another Matt Helm adventure…..I loved his books…….he will be missed. He brought so much joy to his fans.

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