Sunday, June 17, 2018
Books

Novelist John Dufresne takes on the crime-fiction noir

John Dufresne has published novels, short story collections and writing guides, but his latest book, No Regrets, Coyote, is his first crime novel.

Set in the fictional South Florida towns of Eden and Melancholy, it's the story of "volunteer forensic consultant" Wylie Melville. Nicknamed Coyote by one of his cop friends, Wylie is a therapist with an unusual talent for "reading" crime scenes — which leads him into all sorts of interesting trouble in this darkly funny and cleverly written specimen of Florida noir.

Dufresne, 65, a longtime faculty member in the MFA writing program at Florida International University, talked about No Regrets, Coyote before a recent book signing in Tampa.

What led you to try writing crime fiction?

I had a chance several years ago to write a story for the Miami Noir anthology, thanks to my friend Les Standiford, who also teaches at FIU. I happened to be in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the time. I was walking in the footsteps of Dostoevsky, in Raskolnikov's path, and it set a nice sort of mood. That story (The Timing of Unfelt Smiles) was in Best American Mystery Stories 2007.

Then a few years later another friend, Dennis Lehane, asked me to write a story for Boston Noir, and that one (The Cross-Eyed Bear) was in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. So I thought, maybe I can do this.

How was writing No Regrets, Coyote different from writing your earlier books?

I wrote it the same way, I think, except that I had to think more about plot than I was used to. I was having a lot of fun writing it, and then I got to page 250 and realized I didn't know who did it. I thought, you can't have a guy walk in now with a gun. You're already here.

So once I figured out who committed the crime, I had to go back and rewrite to make it fit.

I felt kind of bad about it until someone told me that he had talked to Tony Hillerman, and Hillerman said he didn't know the endings of his books until the last page. He wrote just like I do.

Why did you make the Internet and other technology so important to the plot?

We're basically living in a world without privacy. I'm working on a sequel where Wylie and Bay (his best friend) are in Las Vegas, and that immediately became a theme for that book. In one of those resorts there might be 5,000 cameras. They can look at your hand, at whatever you do. It's part of that complete loss of privacy.

I was talking in class recently about George Orwell's 1984, and one of my students said, "It's here."

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