South Florida has been irresistible for crime writers, among them Carl Hiaasen, Edna Buchanan and Harry Crews. Now John Dufresne, most famously the author of the novel Louisiana Power and Light, has joined that list with his first mystery novel.
No Regrets, Coyote is Dufresne's eighth novel, and it begins with the killing of an entire family in the fictional South Florida town of Eden. When the police get to the scene of the crime, they find a typed note, which they insist is a suicide letter.
But an amateur detective named Wiley "Coyote" Melville, a local therapist with an eye for detail, doesn't buy it. He thinks the murderer is out there, and along with his sidekick, Bay Lettique, Coyote sets out on a gripping and off-kilter mission to solver the murder. Dufresne speaks with NPR's Jacki Lyden about his book and its characters.
On his main character, Wiley "Coyote" Melville
"He's a therapist by trade, and he's called in occasionally because he has what a psychologist calls 'robust mirror neurons.' He's able to look at people and look at their furniture and look at the way they behave themselves and sort of determine ... where it is they're going and what people's motivations are. ...
"[At the same time], he's carrying on with his business. It's like, we all have our lives — whatever trouble's going on in our life, we still have to live it. He has to go to work every day and he has these clients that have various degrees of difficulty that he's trying to work with, and he's also got some problems in his own family."
On Coyote's sidekick, Bay Lettique
"Bay is a professional poker player who used to run an illegal poker game and would call Wiley in to see if anyone was cheating, he could notice who it was. ... And it was usually cops, and they'd have to pay off the police benevolent association so nobody got in trouble.
"And Bay was also like his real estate attorney at one time and all that, and so now they're best buddies. And Wiley worries about Bay and the fact that he can't keep himself away from the poker table, but Bay is successful at it and makes his living that way."
On writing his first murder mystery
"I had been writing these, what I like to think of as literary fiction, for want of a better word, and I got an opportunity — a couple opportunities actually — to write mystery stories with a collection called Miami Noir and then another called Boston Noir.
"I've always written about mysteries, but the mystery is generally about like, who are we? Who are these other people? And why are we doing what we do? And this time the mystery is about not a venial sin, in that sense, but a mortal sin. There's crime and ... a crime has to be solved, but I got to page 250 in the manuscript and I didn't know whodunit."