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"I once asked this literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said, 'ransom notes.'"

—Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) in Get Shorty, 1995, screenplay by Elmore Leonard and Scott Frank based on Leonard's novel.


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Dexter’s Final Cut

by Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday, September 2013, $25.95

Art imitates art in the seventh of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels, as Showtime TV’s version calls its final “Cut!” in its eighth and last season. Everybody’s favorite serial killer may be severing his relationship with Hollywood on the small screen, but, on these pages, it’s just beginning.

BTN (Big Ticket Network) is in town to shoot—a pilot, that is, for a CSI rip-off that will be a make-or-break vehicle for aging ingénue Jackie Forrest and famous-on-the-verge-of-has-been Robert Chase. Chase’s role: to “shadow” Dexter. He tells Dexter, “I need to watch you, learn what you do, figure out how to be you.”

“But why?” Dexter shoots. back “Don’t you like who you are?”

Dexter could be asking himself the same question. As the cast does its ridealong research, it turns out Dexter’s “Dark Passenger” has a prime-time counterpart as well, who makes an entrance with the mutilation-murder of a pair of Jackie Forrest lookalikes. While the rest of the Miami PD appears star-struck (even Deborah grudgingly takes a shine to her shadow, Jackie), Dexter struggles with how to ditch Chase—who has become obsessed with his role model—while tracking his next worthy prey.

Then forensics retreats backstage as Dexter instead is tapped as the bodyguard for one of the stars. Room-service meals and Town-Car transport give the always hungry hunter a taste for the high life, whetted by his deepening relationship with his charge. As Dexter compares his grisly existence to the glitz, he seriously considers a change of scene.

Perhaps Dexter—who, like many celebrities, often refers to himself in the third person—relates more to the amoral actors than to his so-called peers. “After all, I had been acting my whole life, playing the part of a human being and a very nice guy, two things I certainly was not.” It is just this distraction that blunts his own killer instincts, leads to a third murder and all but destroys Dexter’s carefully crafted cover of “normalcy. “

As fans know, the books and the show diverged in characters and development long ago. What Lindsay’s prose brings that was not as easily transmitted even through HDTV is his protagonist’s nonstop point of view—the wit that masks his affectlessness and the longing to feel anything besides a scalpel between his fingers. This time out, with tongue still firmly in cheek, Lindsay also offers an insider’s look behind the seamy scenes of an industry that has long hidden its own bad behavior behind a beautifully coiffed public image. And Lindsay seems to have picked up a plotting clue or two from those teleplays, with an end-of-season cliffhanger that leaves viewers…er, readers breathlessly awaiting the next episode.

—Cheryl Solimini