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Interview: Jeff Lindsay

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jefflindsay400Jeff Lindsay ended the career of his popular serial killer character, Dexter, this summer. Dexter is Dead saw the murderer who preyed on murderers snared at last in a rather ironic way. What the Dexter series illustrated – both on the page and on the small screen – is what a good character writer Jeff Lindsay is. So, what will he will be doing after Dexter’s demise? Well, he’s turned to another Florida character – Billy Knight – that he came up with back in the 1990s.

Last month, the first Billy Knight mystery, Tropical Depression, was reprinted by Diversion Books, and on 27 October a new Billy Knight book will be released. We decided to ask Jeff Lindsay about this old character and his new book Red Tide…

First off, what will crime fiction lovers love about Red Tide?
Wow. I am never any good at tooting my own horn – one of the main reasons I quit acting, where it is job one. But I would hope readers will like the characters a lot – I’ve always worked hard at painting my characters. And I think the plot has some good twists, as well as some new elements most people don’t know about (I’m avoiding the word “zombies”).

What made you decide to go back to writing Billy Knight after all this time?
I had some time between books, and I was poking through my old files looking for something else. And I found Tropical Depression, and re-read it. I remembered that a lot of people were passionate about it, and I thought maybe it shouldn’t have died like that.

redtide300Can you tell us a bit more about him and how he’s developed since the previous book, Tropical Depression?
Billy hasn’t aged a lot physically, but he’s older emotionally. The Brits used to have an expression for the kind of wisdom you gain only by getting lumps: “That’s another wrinkle on my arse.” Billy has a couple more arse-wrinkles.

Lots of our readers will know you for Dexter. How does Billy compare to your serial killer, from your point of view as the author?
Billy is a self-consciously good man, Dexter was wickedly, happily amoral. Billy tries to set things right, Dexter just tried to get away with things. They’re very different, in almost every aspect.

What made you decide to end the Dexter series?
Well, shoot, everybody’s got to go sometime. Dexter was very good to me, and I wanted him to go out on top – before anybody, including me, got tired of him. I think I did that.

Dexter Is DeadWere you happy with the way the TV series came out overall, and how much do you feel it diverged from your writing?
It diverged a whole lot from my writing. Every season got a little further away. But as to how I felt about it – it was a terrific show, one of my favorites. Mind you, I still get hate mail about the final episode, and I had nothing to do with it.

When readers think of Florida perhaps Disney World and manatees come to mind. Why do you find it such a compelling setting for crime fiction?
The most important reason is that Florida is my home, and the goblins in your own closet are always scarier – and more familiar – which helps in portraying them. Aside from that, I think the beautiful setting is a perfect backdrop for true ugliness.

Who are your own favourite authors and influences?
Any Florida writer who doesn’t mention John D MacDonald is either lying or a fake. But for me, there was also PG Wodehouse, Shakespeare, Rex Stout, Heinlein, Vonnegut – I mean, I read a book a day for most of my life, so it’s a long list.

Will we see more of Billy Knight, and what details can you share on that?
I don’t really know right now. I’m not being coy – I just haven’t put any thought toward it yet. Maybe I’ll know more when I see what kind of reception Billy gets this time around.

Watch for our review of Red Tide, soon. If you like Dexter, you might also like these serial killer series.

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