Monday 15 August 2011

A Short Q&A Interview with Dexter Author and Creator Jeff Lindsay, Beginning His UK Blog Tour!

Photo Copyright © Ed Miller
Please excuse the hyperbole in the title of this post, but as trailed on Friday with a review of Dexter is Delicious, today I've got a rather exciting Existential Ennui exclusive for you: a Q&A interview with author Jeff Lindsay, creator of the hugely successful series of crime novels starring serial killer Dexter Morgan (which, of course, begat the equally hugely successful TV show)! The interview was arranged by Jeff's British publisher, Orion, to mark the UK publication in paperback this week of the aforementioned fifth Dexter novel, Dexter is Delicious, and is the first stop on a short UK blog tour for Mr. Lindsay to promote the book. Jeff will next be popping up on Blogomatic 3000 on Tuesday with a guest post, then Another Cookie Crumbles will have an extract from Dexter is Delicious on Wednesday, and finally on Thursday Shots will be hosting a competition to win lots of splendid Dexter swag. So make sure you swing by those fine blogs later this week!

I mentioned in the previous post that one or two of the questions I sent to Jeff got a bit garbled somewhere along the line, so, contrary sod that I am, I'm reproducing the worst culprit exactly as Jeff received it, as both the question and Jeff's response make for amusing reading. The interview isn't particularly extensive (certainly not as lengthy as my recent interview with spy fiction author Anthony Price) as I was slightly restricted in the number of questions I could throw Jeff's way (which is why some of them are longer than Jeff's answers). But even so, the results are reasonably revealing on a number of issues to do with Dexter is Delicious. So, without further ado, let's get to it!

. . . . .

NICK JONES: Jeff, thank you for taking the time to answer my, as it turns out, somewhat prolix questions. Dexter, it seems to me, fits into a long and dishonourable line of especially villainous antiheroes, often sociopaths or without conscience, and yet still compelling or even sympathetic – the likes of Tom Ripley, Parker from the Richard Stark novels, Hannibal Lecter, even. Are these characters you're familiar with or think could be antecedents of Dexter? And what is it about such characters that readers find appealing? (And when I say "readers", I mostly mean me.)

JEFF LINDSAY: You're right, very prolix. People think I am being cute when I say this, but I don't know any of these characters, except Hannibal Lecter. Saw the movie, and then read the book. Everyone tells me there's a genre, but – I mean, really. Serial killer genre? What's wrong with people? I really don't know why Dexter is appealing – it surprised the hell out of me. 

Dexter is Delicious marks the return of Dexter's brother, Brian, last seen at the end of the first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), and it seems as if Brian's sticking around. Why did you decide to bring him back? Or was that always the plan. Or indeed, is there a plan with the novels?

There is no long term plan. There's usually not even a plan for the next chapter. I really admire P. G. Wodehouse, and he used to have incredibly detailed plots, all planned out. And I know other writers who can casually say, "Oh, yeah, eighteen books from now, when they get married . . ." I wish I could do that. But if you saw my office you'd understand. Sometimes I can't even find the desk. At the moment, I think Brian will be around for a while, unless a piano falls on his head. 

Obviously the novels and the TV show are different beasts, but there are parallels between the two, particularly in Dexter is Delicious, where, as in Season Four of the show, Dexter has a new baby, which in turn leads to him to question his impulses, his Dark Passenger. Do you think your novels and the television series still intersect or feed off each other? Do ideas flow back and forth between them?

I am not caught up on the show, so from my end, no. I can't imagine taking ideas from them. I do sometimes notice bits on the screen that are in the books, but maybe it's a coincidence. 

One of the themes of Dexter is Delicious is cannibalism, possibly drawing on the infamous 2003 court case in Germany where the victim volunteered to be eaten. Was that an inspiration, and why did you alight on cannibalism as a plot element?

I remember the case, but it wasn't consciously an inspiration. I don't know what got me thinking about cannibalism; maybe I was just hungry one day and there was nothing in the fridge. . . . Anyway, I got interested, did some research. And I found that a very large percentage of the Cannibal Community – yes, there really is one; worse than serial killer genre, huh? – a surprising number of people really want to be eaten. Desperately. They go to the chat rooms and beg. I was appalled and fascinated at the same time, and I just went with it. 

[Here's where the formatting on my questions started to go slightly awry – this one is the worst of the bunch, so I'm reproducing it exactly as Jeff received it.] There  a scene in the novel where a victim  father offers Deborah [Dexter's cop sister] half a million dollars if she l tip him off to the perpetrator when she catches him, and her fellow officers subsequently reveal they e been offered similar bribes in the past. That was quite a surprising moment for me, chiefly because it felt quite  eal  as if it was something actual cops had told you about. Was it? Do you get assistance from police officers in your research for your books?

Ooh, our grammar is really slipping here – is it happy hour where you are? I'll have a pint of Guinness, please. . . . .

Yeah, a lot of cops have similar stories. My favorite was from an undercover DEA guy I know. This guy is the most rigidly moral man I ever met, and I asked him if he was ever tempted by the huge piles of cash he saw every day. He stared at me really hard, and then he said, "I made up my mind Day One. If I ever find seven million dollars in cash. . . . I call the wife and say, meet me at the airport, we're outta here." He paused a long time and then said, "I found six once, had to think about it. . . ."

The city of Miami is almost a character itself in the Dexter books; I've been there a couple of times and the constant references to the heat and the traffic strike me as both accurate and intrinsic to the novels. What is it about Miami that works for you as a setting for Dexter's adventures? Could he work anywhere else?

Miami is where I grew up, and where I learned to drive. Home town. I don't know, where else would I put it? Pittsburgh? Isle of Wight? Dexter is my Homey, we ain't going nowhere. 

Thanks again for taking the time to respond, Jeff.

Cheers, Mate.

. . . . .

And there you have it. I don't know about you, but I definitely think there's legs in "Dexter Does the Isle of Wight". Don't forget to check in on Blogomatic 3000 tomorrow for Jeff's guest post, Another Cookie Crumbles on Wednesday for that Dexter is Delicious extract, and Shots on Thursday for the competition. (And look out for the next Dexter novel, Double Dexter, in October.) And I'll be back before too long with another Violent World of Parker cross-post (on Joe Gores's Dead Skip) and some more signed editions.


  1. Really enjoyed the candid nature of this Q&A and appreciate Jeff's honesty concerning his disorganization. He could have been pretentious. but I like the fact that he's just making it up as he goes along.