This Man Has Created A Monster
Dexter came to Jeffry Lindsay ’75 at a Kiwanis luncheon in South Florida, not far from where the crime novelist lives and writes. Lindsay was sitting at the head table, preparing his remarks, facing a room filled with real estate brokers, car salesmen, ambulance chasers, and bail bondsmen. “And they’re talking and shaking hands—totally phony, annoying behavior—talking with food in their mouths, la la la la, handing out their business cards, and the idea just popped into my head that serial murder was not always a bad idea.” He began to scribble on his napkin, profiling such a character. “Now what if there were a guy like that? He killed only really bad people.”
In the months that followed, Lindsay amassed a gruesome library of books on sociopaths, murderers, and the G-men who hunt them. He interviewed psychologists and crime scene investigators. Cop friends turned him loose in the dead-files room, so he could pore over reports and photos, “the ultraviolent, horrible stuff. If you look at missing-persons statistics,” he said recently, “and if you put the numbers together, it seems possible that there’s an awful lot of very happy, very clever serial killers out there, too smart to get caught, just going about their lives. When the mood takes over, they go out and biff somebody.”
Out of Lindsay’s macabre research emerged Dexter Morgan: a fussy, neurotic forensic blood-spatter-pattern analyst for the Miami Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer with a lusty knife. Crime fighter by day and crime doer by night, Dexter suffers through the nine-to-five and departmental infighting while gleefully delimbing child molesters and trailer-park lowlifes in his free time. Can psychopathy possibly be endearing?
Miami is an essentially weird place. Artifice and grit are in constant competition. Luxury condo skyscrapers, scrubbed to the brilliant white of cruise ships, stretch like sails along the beach; their aquamarine windows flash high above the street’s barred shops, where you can turn your gold into cash, style your hair, and buy discount shoes, all at the same address. Cuban cafés sell medianoches—ham, cheese, pickle, and mustard, smashed and grilled on cheap egg-bread—and Dominican beer at any hour. When I arrived for a visit in April, I landed in a thick rainstorm, but a cheery recording on the airport shuttle wished me a “sun-sational” vacation anyway; pulling away from the curb, the driver ran over an abandoned Smarte Carte, a fair introduction to Miami driving.
Not far away, the home where Jeffry Lindsay and his wife, Hilary Hemingway, raise three daughters sits among a maze of cul-de-sacs, in a sleepy suburb awash with beach pastels. Lawn grass makes a valiant attempt against the sandy soil. Pelicans come in low over the terracotta roofs. Retirees in Bermuda shorts stop to chat at the mailbox. Riot-haired Lindsay, his chest like a keg and voice a sonorous baritone, greeted me in the driveway. “You’d better be Kevin, or I’m going to get the shotgun.”
Just inside the front door, the living room’s deep shadows offered welcome sanctuary from the summer’s enduring heat. Napoleon, a cursing cockatiel who’s vocabulary also includes the Lord’s Prayer, perched in his cage, while a miniature poodle and three remarkably fat cats lounged out back by the pool. A pink-handled BB gun and more serious firearms occupied the corner. On the wall were mounted the sword from a swordfish, a stuffed buck head wearing sunglasses, and—hanging among dozens of Hemingway and Lindsay family snapshots—a photo of the Dexter from the television program Dexter, with drops of blood and a grin on his face. “He’s part of the family now,” Lindsay said.
“When you spend seven or eight years with this character, you start thinking about sociopaths pretty seriously.” Standing in his kitchen, where the cutlery holder is a human figure with knives sticking through its body, Lindsay listed the easiest ways to dump a body in Florida: bury it in the woods, toss it down a sinkhole, wrap it in a chain and sink it in the ocean, drop it in the Everglades and let alligators take care of it. “Dexter’s not a vigilante,” he reminded me. “Vigilantes are trying to perform an act of justice. Dexter just likes to kill people.”