Who is Jackson Walker?
I asked myself this question many times as I wrote Devil in the Grass. In the beginning, his name was Jack Webb, but one of the editors at Koehler Books, T Campbell, discovered that Jack Webb was a fairly prominent actor in the 50s and 60s. He was the main actor who starred in Dragnet. Okay, can’t have that. T gave me a good reason. He liked the story and the character and indicated that if the book does really well, there could be some recognition issues.
Jack is the name of my son. After writing the book, I realized how many Jacks there actually are as main characters in novels. I decided to call him Jackson, Jack for short when he is with someone familiar.
Walker is a strong name. In the end, I wanted Jack to finish strongly, and I think he does, but I will let you be the judge of that. Walker is also a very common native American surname. There is a strong native theme within the book and I thought it appropriate. So, the name Jackson Walker stuck.
I wanted Jack to have been well established at something and then to have failed. Football is big in the south and thus I made him a failed college and NFL quarterback. I’ve followed The University of Florida Gators since I was a teenager and thought it would be cool if he had played there. As a college athlete, as often happens, he found huge success that didn’t pan out at the pro level.
Jack’s mother dies while he’s at college and he has a hard time with the passing. He becomes apathetic and turns to pharmaceutical drugs and Jack Daniels. His indifferent play and apathy see him cut from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jack is half Seminole Indian and after the death of his mother, he turned away from his mother’s heritage probably because he was embarrassed by his short comings. His grandfather Nathaniel Portman (Gramps) is a proud man and I don’t think that Jack wanted to face him. Eventually he does though as he has nowhere else to run and Gramps and his cousins help turn his apathy into the strength that he showed as a young football player playing for the Gators. His cousins were not happy that he chose U.F. over Florida State. (Just an aside).
In the beginning of the book, Jack is buffeted somewhat by the plot as it unfolds. This is not the direction that one wants his protagonist to go. I do think that the buffeting in the beginning works though as his most tragic flaw.
After he is duped by the Church of Set, he is forced to change the direction of his actions. He can no longer go along for the ride. He is forced to be the hero that he once was as a local sportsman. I feel sorry for Jack after a time and some of my readers have said the same thing to me, which means that they are hopefully connecting with him. His actions in the end are truly befitting of a hero and he changes the course of the events with his actions. This is what you want from your hero.
I imagine Jack to be about 6’2″ with dark, slightly curly hair. His build is somewhat lanky, but strong. These are the kind of guys I never wanted to face in sports. The naturals, guys that are stronger than they look. He is good looking in an innocent way. His eyes are deep brown.
I do think that Sarah Courtney fell for him in the end, how couldn’t she. He was strong, clever and has a boyish innocence, which she in the end exploits to the benefit of the Satanists.
Boys these days have a hard time coming to grips with the world. We see it with our Jack. Sometimes you have to be hit over the head to truly make a change that is worthwhile. Now, I certainly hope that our Jack has an easier time than Jack Walker does, but in the end, I am proud of both of them.
As a side note, the picture is of me standing in front of Genes Books on Sanibel Island. It’s one of the cooler book stores. Hopefully Devil in the Grass will be on the shelves there in March. Devil will also be in Macintosh books Sanibel and the Beach Book Nook on Ft. Myers Beach. Thank you, Annette!