Jeff Lindsay has likely painted weird Florida with finer brushstrokes than nearly any other author. After seven best-selling books about Miami-based serial killer Dexter Morgan, Lindsay is back to say goodbye to his beloved anti-hero. In his latest in the series, Dexter is Dead, Lindsay gives Dexter an ending worthy of his iconic status.
New Times spoke with Lindsay about his latest book, living in South Florida, and the state's bizarre reputation:
New Times: Is Dexter really dead?
Jeff Lindsay: I don’t want to spoil anything, but is he really? It seemed like you could revive him should it be deemed necessary?
Well, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t actually paid for the book, but I would say that after you’ve paid for the book, you need to form your own conclusions. But I am thinking this is the last Dexter book.
Was killing him really the only way out?
No, I toyed with the idea of life in prison for a while because I’m a merciful guy. And I was going to give it the…well, there is a wonderful old movie Kind Hearts and Coronets, it has Alex Guinness in it. He is in prison for murder that he didn’t commit. So, he writes a confession for a dozen others he did commit. In the end of the movie, they say, “You are pardoned. You are free to go.” And he goes running out, hooray, and he rides off in his carriage and then remembers he left the confession in his jail cell. So, I thought of something like that too. But in the end, I think it had to end just exactly the way it did end.
I read in a Reddit AMA, that you said you hadn’t seen the TV series finale. Have you seen it now? And if so, do you approve?
No, I haven’t seen it. I am still getting hate mail about it, as if I had anything to do with it.
Are you staying away for any particular reason, or is it just inertia?
You know, I got three seasons behind. I was on the road for almost a year and I was all over the world. And I’m not a big binge watcher, I can’t do it anyway. And so, there was so much new stuff by then, that I never caught up.
Do you feel like the character of Dexter has turned into a cultural phenomenon almost out of your control?
I like to say I have an Edgar Rice Burroughs complex. Because you can go anywhere in the world and say, “Tarzan” and people will turn around and make the Tarzan sound. But you say, “Edgar Rice Burroughs” and people say, “Excuse me, I just have to get by you.” No one knows who that is. He was the creator of Tarzan. So, I feel like, to a certain extent, that has happened to me too.
Florida is a weird state. My dad calls it “America’s septic tank.” What do you love about the state and does it influence the way you write?
Well, we like to say that all the nuts roll downhill to Florida… I grew up there and it is my home, and every time I live somewhere else, I miss it. It’s got its hooks in me, that’s one thing. But, I love the way the sky looks when a storm rolls in. When the hair on your arms stand up and your skin tingles and the lightning hits and incredible rain. You think there is going to be a hurricane, but then, 20 minutes later it is gone. The sun is out and in half an hour the streets are dry again. Just little things like that. I love taking the boat out in the early morning and watching the sun come out over the water. It’s my home. I will wax poetic about it if I’m not careful.
So, it’s that weird edge of danger and alluring that is so captivating about the state?
Yes, would you put down that I said that? That’s pretty much it… I’ve said before that there is something surreal about Florida — a beautiful sunset, a palm tree and a headless body at the bottom of the tree. It all feels different.
There is a lot of food in your books. Dexter is almost always thinking of his stomach. What is your favorite place to eat in Florida?
You know, I think having one favorite place is like having one thing you eat for breakfast. So, it gets dull. So, it depends on the food and the weather and the mood. There is a place in Florida that has really good sushi that no one really knows about. There is a place in South Carolina that I’ve been to that serves wild game, but served in a nouveau-cuisine manner.
If you were on death row and you had to pick a last meal, what would that last meal be?
Something with a lot of courses… I read about these guys on death row and [the news stories] always say his last meal was something disappointing, like chicken fried steak, onion rings, and vanilla ice cream. God, they should have killed him sooner. But why not do something spectacular? You are only going to do this once… But I really couldn’t say, because it’s too hard.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice at a vulnerable point in your career, what would you say?
I would say, “Don’t be a schmuck! Finish the book!”
Is that about Dexter?
Yeah, it took four years to write it because I kept thinking, no one is going to want to read this crap.
But, I’ve read that you actually find some serial killers to be very sympathetic, who specifically and why?
No one specifically, just reading studies in general and talking to psychologist and forensic psychologists. And that’s one of the things they do. They learn how to act like they are sympathetic, but they don’t have empathy.
I met a woman in Australia. And she came up after one of the events and she was talking, but I was a little distracted. I said, “I have to go.” But then she said, “I never knew, until a few years after he died. When we found the skeletons under the house.” And I said, “Tell the next appointment I am going to be late.”
This poor old lady. She said her life was horrible. He didn’t kill her obviously, but he didn’t love her because he wasn’t capable of feeling love. But, as she said, in those days you didn’t just walk out. If you got married, you stuck with it. But there were a dozen or more skeletons buried underneath her own home. And he put them there, presumably when they weren’t quite skeletons.
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Do you believe in the idea of the perfect murder? How would you murder someone if you were to go about it?
You know, about 80-some-percent of murders go unsolved. So there might be too much emphasis placed on the whole idea. But with the perfect murder, you’d have to have no connection to the victim, which kind of defeats the purpose.
But you’d have to pick a complete stranger and kill them and either dispose of the body so that it looks like a convincing accident or, in my case, take it out to the Everglades and put it in an alligator hole.
Florida has a lot of great places to dump a body.
Yes, it is the best
Jeff Lindsay will read from Dexter Is Dead at Books & Books, Tuesday July 14, at 8 p.m. Visit booksandbooks.com for more information.