This week’s Crime Cafe guest post comes from crime fiction author Phillippe Diederich, writing under the nom de plume Danny López. He’s giving away a copy of his latest Dexter Vega mystery, The Last Breath. And that’s one hella awesome cover that book has!
All you have to do to enter the giveaway for the book is to email Danny at phildiederich[at]gmail[dot]com. Make the subject line “Crime Cafe giveaway”, so he’ll know why you’re emailing him. You have until Tuesday, March 19, to send your entry.
With that said, be sure and check out Danny’s guest post!
Solving the Mystery of Dexter Vega in The Last Girl and The Last Breath
by Phillippe Diederich (aka Danny López)
Like life, every story is a mystery. We turn the page to find out what happens. But it’s the main character and his deeper conflicts that make our hearts beat faster. We all have problems, and Dexter Vega is no different. He is not a hero and he is not an ant-hero. He’s just a guy trying to make it through another day.
When I set out to write this series, I wanted to create a character people could relate to. Dexter is having a hard time making ends meet. He’s divorced and has a complicated relationship with his 7-year old daughter who lives in a different city. But even when he gets to spend time with her, he has difficulty relating. He doesn’t know how to talk to her.
But Dexter’s biggest conflict is a changing world. Newspapers and journalism had been his life, and now that’s gone. He’s been dumped in a world that doesn’t need him. He’s having a hard time finding his place. His adopted home of Sarasota is changing as well. The new condominiums and high rises are closing in on him. He’s angry at the evolution of the town, yet this change is what is allowing him to find work and survive. Nothing, in the end, is all good or all bad, it’s a question of perspective—except his current case.
At the start of “The Last Breath” he’s trying to figure out his next move: Problem was, I was in the wrong profession at the wrong time. No one paid writers anymore. Everyone wanted free articles or an exchange of services. Eight hundred words for a burger—as if.
Or early in “The Last Breath” he’s contemplating progress in his neighborhood: A developer had cleared the land and was ready to start work on yet another condo building. I had attended the city council meeting with some of my neighbors arguing against the project, citing the history and character of our little downtown neighborhood. But the developer got his way. In Sarasota, they always did.
When addressing the sunset drum circle at the beach, he says to himself, “Just as with everything else in this town, the fun had been sucked out of something nice.”
In the first book Dexter is seduced into taking a case and almost pays for it with his life. In “The Last Breath” things are different. He purposely pursues a case for a client. He is coming into his own as a private detective, albeit unlicensed. Here, he has to put aside his own prejudices and ideas in order to see things for what they are and solve the case.
But the evolution of the case coaxes him out of his environment and forces him to face Sarasota and the people around him. No man is an island. And as he evolves, he also learns to see what is of value in his life—mainly his daughter Zoe. This is revealed in both novels as his preoccupation for Zoe changes by the end of each novel, and he comes to terms with what is important—to be there for her as a father.
For example, at the end of the “The Last Girl,” he finally steps up to the plate: I dialed my ex-wife on my cell phone and asked her to put Zoe on. “I have a lot to tell her,” I said.
But all this is tied to the plot. His life, solving the case and wrapping things up, are all part of the same narrative. In “The Last Breath,” he questions whether his client will stay married to his difficult wife, But most people cannot stand being alone. And as someone who had a distant relationship with his own daughter, I can understand his effort to get close to Liam.
I think we are all like Dexter. We are all searching for the right way to live, to be good parents, to life a full and purposeful life. And sometimes that search stresses us out and in turn can hurt those around us.
But what is the live well lived?
That is the underlying mystery in the Dexter Vega series. That is the biggest mystery of all—life.
Phillippe Diederich is the author of the novels “Playing for the Devil’s Fire” (Cinco Puntos Press, 2016), which was named the 2017 Best Young Adult novel by the Texas Institute of Letters and 2017 Young Adult Library Services Association Best Fiction for Young Adults; and “Sofrito” (Cinco Puntos Press, 2015).
He is also the author of the Dexter Vega mysteries “The Last Breath” (2018), and “The Last Girl” (2017), both written under the pen name Danny López and published by Oceanview.
His short fiction has been published in national literary journals including Quarterly West, Acentos Review, Burrow Press, Hobart and others. In 2017 he was awarded the PEN Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. His short fiction has been nominated for 4 Pushcart Prizes. He is the recipient of the Chris O’Malley Prize for Fiction from the Madison Review, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, and a John Ringling Towers Grant in Literature from the Sarasota County Artist Alliance.
The son of Haitian exiles, Diederich was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. During the 1990’s he worked as a photojournalist, covering news and feature assignments in the U.S. and Latin America for national publications.