I recently met Jeff Lindsay for a chat in the lobby of his hotel in the Melbourne CBD.
During our discussion Jeff described a moment from his last Australian tour when he was in Canberra after two weeks in Australia and had not yet seen a kangaroo.
“Let’s go,” said his Australian publicist.
“No!” he replied.
“I’m not going until you show me some kangaroos.” (He couldn’t go home to his wife and kids without photos of kangaroos.)
He was promptly driven to the other side of the carpark, had some kangaroos pointed out to him and they were off.
This got him wondering: If the kangaroos had been everywhere all along, why hadn’t anyone bothered to point them out to him in the past two weeks?
Now on his second tour of Australia in as many years, Jeff has the low-down on Australia (including the varying likelihood of seeing kangaroos in different places around the country) and is more than comfortable adopting Australianisms and making them his own.
“G’day bugger,” he greeted me with a smile and a handshake.
We discussed his desire to write more plays in the future. He had written plays for theatre before getting the first Dexter novel published. I asked him what his plays would be about and he said: “About myths.” Not mythology of the Freudian or Jungian kind but “personal mythology and American mythologies”.
We discussed how various people have approached using mythologies in fiction, and in non-fiction. We discussed the personal mythology of William Butler Yeats and how it lends originality to his poetry. We discussed some of the absurdities of rigidly adhering to Freudian or Jungian mythologies and how this has come out in particular instances of literary criticism. Jeff recounted a famous exchange between Jung and Freud in which Jung asked Freud if the large cigar in Freud’s mouth was not a phallic symbol, to which Freud replied that it was also a good cigar. Jeff noted that Freud’s response here sums up his own attitude to much of Freud’s work; sometimes (or most of the time) a cigar is just a cigar. I wished him well for his public discussion with Sue Turnbull on archetypes in fairytales to take place a few hours after our discussion.
We discussed his next Dexter novel, Double Dexter, and Jeff revealed the opening and premise of Double Dexter (the first time he has done this publicly):
“Double Dexter opens with Dexter ‘doing what he does’ to a pedophile… but he’s been seen. The pedophile escapes and runs off into the night. The guy who saw Dexter decides to destroy Dexter by becoming him.”
As Jeff has discussed publicly before, he is very happy with the way the TV adaptation of the Dexter novels has been done.
We discussed what Jeff liked to read as a child. He enjoyed Edgar Rice Burroughs, starting out with Tarzan and moving onto his mystery stories. Then he became interested in the writing of John D McDonald. One thing in particular he liked about John D McDonald’s writing was his character’s asides, making judgements about society, and this is something he borrowed for Dexter.
Jeff said that he rarely reads crime or serial killer novels, not thinking of the Dexter books as ‘crime genre’ novels but as good stories which happen to also have criminal aspects in them, and doesn’t think of himself as a ‘crime writer’ but as a writer.
He explained that he most enjoys reading historical fiction and biographies (as well as dabbling in “some intellectual stuff”, such as Bruno Bettelheim’s and Harold Bloom’s literary criticism) and, to him, no-one compares to Patrick O’Brian for historical fiction writing. Jeff said he enjoys the technical skill and detail with which Patrick O’Brian writes, as well as the broad range of his writing. “Every time I read Patrick O’Brian I learn something new technically. Patrick O’Brian writes not just a great series but some of the greatest literature.” Jeff also cited Conn Iggulden as a historical novelist whose writing he enjoys and I pointed out that Australian author Grant Hyde had also recommended Conn Iggulden’s writing in his interview which went up on The Australian Literature Review just hours earlier.
Jeff also said that he enjoyed meeting a range of authors while in Australia and an Australian author who stood out for him was Leah Giarratano, having had a discussion with Leah for a session at the Perth Writers Festival and read her latest novel Watch the World Burn.
Jeff Lindsay is a writer with intellectual depth and breadth as well as one with an ability to communicate accessibly and without pretense. He can go into detail on a range of topics, effortlessly moving between them and bringing them together. I look forward to seeing both what’s ahead for Dexter and what’s beyond Dexter in Jeff Lindsay’s writing.
The Australian Literature Review