Jeff Jackson

Created by Philip R. Craig
(1933-2007)

Former cop J.W. “JEFF” JACKSON had enough of the mean streets of Boston. Thanks to a little shrapnel in his leg via Vietnam and a bullet lodged in his spine from his days in the Boston P.D., as well as a couple of pensions and a bit of income from odd jobs, he’s able to retire, at the ripe old age of thirty-five, to Martha’s Vineyard, in this series of popular, soft-boiled mysteries by Philip R. Craig.

All Jeff wants is some peace and quiet, and to maybe get in a little fishing, a little clam digging, a little cooking and maybe a little lovin’ with his inamorata, the lovely and witty Zee Maderias, a local nurse.

Mind you, he’s not exactly some wealthy retiree, living in the lap of luxury. He lives on the cheap, wears second-hand clothing,  salvages furniture from the town dump, and drives a fourteen-year-old Landcruiser. He’s not the most rip-snortin’, two-fisted guy either. He’s just a peaceful, affable guy who, although he’s not a licensed P. I. or anything, manages to get into some pretty private-eye-like situations for a guy that’s about as hard-edged as a PBS cooking show host. And to be sure, most of the time he seems more interested in cooking than sleuthing–so much so that in 2006, he and his wife, Shirley Prada Craig, published Delish: The J. W. Jackson Recipes.

A lightweight series, to be sure, but a pleasant enough way to pass a few hours. The later books find Jeff sinking deeper and deeper into domesticity, eventually evenmaking an honest woman out of Zee.  Definitely a comfort sorta read, ideal for the beach. The setting is nicely handled, capturing the laidback, fun-in-the-sun ambience of the Vineyard during the “season,” and the desolate “where have all the good times gone?” feel of the “off-season.”

One complaint — at least the first two books share the same quips, observations and local lore, sometimes word for word. It’s as though the success of the first novel caught Craig unawares, and he was rushed to produce a sequel. But he sure got the hang of it–from then on, Craig cranked out at least a book a year until he passed away in 2007.

And that was that, I thought. A mildly charming series, a little too smugly cozy for my tastes, but bearable. And I was truly saddened by the news of his death in 2007. So there the Girl Detective and I are, thirteen or so years after the series ground to a halt, flipping through the channels looking for a little video violence, when she lands on the Hallmark’s Movies & Mysteries Channel, and there for all the world to see is A Beautiful Place to Die, all about a retired detective and his local gal girlfriend at Martha’s Vineyard working together to solve a murder.

It’s can’t be, I thought.

But it was. It was even subtitled “A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, the first of a proposed series of made-for-television movies that, from what I’ve seen, make the original, vaguely pleasant novels by Craig look like they were written by James Ellroy in a bad mood, with major changes being made to the source material to fit the Hallmark formula. Jeff, for instance, is no Vietnam vet, but a young slice of beefcake with de rigeur stubble, and most of his quirks have been toned down to the point where he’s about just blandly affable–about as gritty as Barbie’s Ken. Zee is still around, but now she’s the M.E. And absolutely no part of this series was filmed on or near Martha’s Vineyard–it was all shot in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, a mere 3000 miles or so away. On the wrong ocean. But hey, it’s the Hallmark way.

UNDER OATH

  • “It wouldn’t be summer without a new Martha’s Vineyard Mystery.”
    — Boston Herald

NOVELS

ALSO OF INTEREST

  • Delish: The J. W. Jackson Recipes (2006; co-written with Shirley Prada Craig) Buy this book

TELEVISION

  • A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE: A MARTHA’S VINEYARD MYSTERY
    (2020, Hallmark’s Movies & Mysteries Channel)
    Based on the novel by Philip R. Craig
    Teleplay by Kraig Wenman
    Directed by Mark Jean

    Original airdate: January 12, 2020
    Starring Jesse Metcalfe as J.W. “Jeff” Jackson
    and Sarah Lind as Zee Maderias
    Also starring Eric Keenleyside, Chelsea Hobbs, Sunita Prasad, Bradley Stryker, Naika Toussaint, Kendall Cross, Keenan Tracey, Janet Kidder
  • RIDDLED WITH DECEIT: A MARTHA’S VINEYARD MYSTERY
    (2020, Hallmark’s Movies & Mysteries Channel)
    Based on characters created by Philip R. Craig
    Teleplay by Michael Vickerman
    Directed by Andy Mikita
    February 23, 2020
    Starring Jesse Metcalfe as J.W. “JEFF” JACKSON
    and Sarah Lind as Zee Maderias
    Also starring Steve Dhillon, Matthew James Dowden, Chelsea Hobbs, Eric Keenleyside, Johannah Newmarch, Sunita Prasad, Hugo Steele, Bradley Stryker
  • SHIPS IN THE NIGHT: A MARTHA’S VINEYARD MYSTERY
    (2021, Hallmark’s Movies & Mysteries Channel)
    Based on characters created by Philip R. Craig
    Teleplay by Gillian Horvath
    Directed by Mark Jean
    January 17, 2021
    Starring Jesse Metcalfe as J.W. “JEFF” JACKSON
    and Sarah Lind as Zee Maderias
    Also starring Chelsea Hobbs, Eric Keenleyside, Jason McKinnon, Camille Mitchell, Sunita Prasad, Bradley Stryker, Garfield Wilson, Nelson Wong
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks, Mike, for the lead.

One thought on “Jeff Jackson

  1. Oh my god! They turned Zee Madieras, a striking brunette of Portuguese descent, into a bland, blond Barbie Doll! I’m so glad I don’t watch TV anymore. This would sour my stomach permanently. Another great reason to boycott Hallmark products and “entertainment.”
    It sounds as bad as what they did to Robert B Parker’s Spenser.

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