The secret is out on Florida. It’s wild place, strange and beautiful, with a twisted past and an equally twisted present. And while there is no shortage of writers mining Florida for its in-built audacity, few are capable of imbuing the strangeness with heroism and compassion. Such is the accomplishment of John Dufresne’s latest novel, No Regrets, Coyote.
On the surface, NRC satisfies the requisite needs of the crime novel. There’s a body at the opening of the book—quite a number of bodies actually—a scarcity of clues and plenty suspects to choose from. There’s a detective (or detective-type) who snoops around and a sidekick who might be more memorable than he is. There’s violence and humor and, by the end of the book, we’ve wrapped up the case. But that’s where the similarities end.
No Regrets, Coyote is the story of Wylie “Coyote” Melville, a therapist turned “volunteer forensic consultant” (“I read faces and furniture”) and his attempts to get to the bottom of the Halliday family murders. Yet, it’s also the story of Wylie’s endlessly dysfunctional family (an ex-girlfriend, a slightly schizoid sister, and an ailing father), of a charming squatter that takes residence in his yard, of departmental corruption in all its guises, of a poker-playing, sleight of hand artist that talks about magic as though he were talking about writing, of the slew of patients—and their convoluted love lives—that parade through Wylie’s office. It’s a story of betrayal, love and loss, the ties that bind, and the horrors that we are capable of when we believe we’ve run out of options.
That said, the most surprising quality of this book, especially for a crime fic novel, is just how big its heart is. There are a number of moments that are so tender and compassionate that you forget, if for a moment, that there are vicious murderers on the lam. In tackling the literary thriller, Dufresne showcases his considerable talents (wit, wordplay, insights into human nature, astounding capacity for character) but to compare this book to those of Chandler’s or Leonard’s or Hiassen’s would be to misrepresent the book. This is a literary thriller, with the emphasis on literary. The plot isn’t front and center in NRC. It’s the characters, their hearts, their desires, their failures and their attempts to right the wrongs that drive this book forward.
In advance of his reading at Skylight Books, we spoke with John ... continue reading