Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Dexter 1-3

This entry is part 71 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

Today is a good day.

I’ve not done much, but I get to be positive.

How rare is that?

See, today (29-Sep-2018) I finished the first draft of my next novel. The sequel to The Black Sheep’s Shadow, which isn’t even due out until November. This sequel, once completed is due out in May 2019.

Don’t quote me on that. Some of you may remember the plan was initially for the Black Sheep’s Shadow to be released in May 2018, but a terrible start to the year pushed me back and back until we end up here, six months late for release, with the book coming out almost exactly a year after my last – Poor Choices.

I could get upset about this. Have got upset about this numerous times, but as I said, today I’m feeling positive. So today I ignore all the badness.

Tomorrow I will start the final draft of The Black Sheep’s Shadow, and I’m bloody excited. By the time this blog comes out (early November, I believe) it will probably about be out.

If it is, you should get it.

At the moment I’m proud. It may be that the final draft strips this pride away – that often happens – but for now let’s sit back, and basque in positivity.

Ahhh, isn’t that nice?

Oh yeah, and I suppose we should start our latest review.

Dexter and Me

To me, first and foremost, Dexter was always Michael C. Hall and the Showtime television series.

I remember sitting in my bed watching it with my roommate during uni. He would drink pints upon pints of milk, and we would rack up six, seven, eight episodes in a row, sometimes taking short naps in the middle.

We watched the first six seasons like that, and I loved every minute of it. A love that was reaffirmed when I returned to it a few years later, started again and watched it almost all through this time.

I say almost. I’m not sure I finished the last season. Though everyone complains about the ending, so I’m sure this is no bad thing.

Besides, I know what happens.

Earlier on the day I write this blog, I have persuaded my girlfriend to start watching it. One episode is done, and I hope we will get through the whole thing.

We shall see.

It was one of three series I watched vast amounts of with my flatmate. The other two being Breaking Bad and How I Met Your Mother.

Breaking Bad and Dexter are now, I believe, two of the greatest TV shows I have ever watched.

No doubt.

Breaking Bad is generally recognised as being so, along with Game of Thrones but Dexter, while popular, doesn’t get the same level of reverence.

It should.

Not only is it a cracking mystery show with a unique premise in its serial killer cop main character, but it’s also funny and moving, and the characters are all outstanding.

The baddies, especially the out of this world good John Lithgow, elevate the show again, and the way Dexter relates to people is what carries it along.

I’ll watch it through with Fay now, if I can and, given a chance, I’d watch it again in a couple of years time.

It’s that good, that even when you know all the twists and turns, it doesn’t make it any less brilliant.

Maybe it’s not surprising it was a hit. After all, it came from a hit series of books, and this always gives shows a good chance.

But is Dexter a standard adaptation from book to screen, or is it something else entirely?

Dexter 1-3

I bought the first Dexter books because of the TV series, and I cannot for the life of me remember if I bought them one at a time, all at once, or in groups.

What I do remember is that at some point I read books one and two relatively close together, and, from the bookmark I found in three and the memories that came swimming to mind as I read the first pages, I must have got a couple of chapters into book three, though certainly no further than that.

So a lot of this I remembered, but I still enjoyed rereading the books, and I gave all of them a four out of ten.

This because three seemed too harsh. They were a seven, but as ever, Goodreads’ scale was far too restricting.

The Good Stuff (or what the show took)

The TV show and books match regarding premise.

Dexter is a sociopath who has to fake emotions to get through day to day life. He is a Blood Spatter Analyst for the police and also a serial killer with a difference.

As a youngster, Dexter’s foster father discovered he was a sociopath and taught him only to kill bad people. This is something he has taken to, and he follows what he calls The Harry Code religiously even now his foster father has gone.

This makes for an exciting jumping off point, and what stands out as the critical triumph in both TV series and books is the main character himself.

Dexter is unfeeling (mostly) but also incredibly funny. In the books, his dry wit and sarcasm make his conversations and first-person narration a joy to read, no matter what is happening in the plot. In the TV show Michael C. Hall, with his voice-overs, captures the character perfectly.

Given this, I would have enjoyed the books even if the plots were terrible, and they were not.

However, they also weren’t brilliant. The TV show takes the plot of the first book and improves it, before going in completely its own direction from series three.

The plots of the three books I read were all interesting enough. But they rushed along a little quickly with not so much of the depth to the mystery as the show had.

That is not to do them down too much. Lindsay is focusing on character. As with the show the way Dexter interacts with his sister, his colleagues, and even the baddies is excellent, and it is this that carries the book rather than any mysteries.

Still, it would have been nice to have had a little stronger plot.

The Not so Good Stuff (or what the show didn’t take)

So the plots weren’t so good, but we can let the book off because the show has so much more time and space to get it right. It was able to build up the main plot and add numerous exciting subplots over twelve episodes the book could not have fit in without this being Stephen King length, and that wasn’t what Jeff Lindsay was going for.

That’s fine, and I can let it off.

What isn’t so good is the supernatural elements.

I am not against supernatural fiction. I love Stephen King books as mentioned above. Maybe I would have been right behind it in Dexter if not for the TV series.

See, in the adaptation, the supernatural elements are taken out entirely. Dexter is nothing more than a sociopath with a moral guidance system, also known as his dead foster father.

I think this works fantastically well.

In the books, we can see there is something mystical going on from the first book. It is heavily implied there is a second force in Dexter, compelling him to kill (his Dark Passenger) and he even describes himself as “We” when he’s out killing.

In the first couple of books, this is a minor element and mostly annoyed except for when Dexter’s dreams give him essential plot information to help solve the mystery, which feels like cheating. This is done away within the show.

The third book, however, veers wildly off into supernatural territory, involving Gods and possession and all sorts of weird stuff.

Again, this might not have been so bad, but it just doesn’t work as well as when the show plays it straight.

The books, despite this, were still fab. Number three was the worst because of all these supernatural elements are thrown in, but the plot was still decent and, as I’ve said, the main pull of the books is Dexter.

In Dexter, Jeff Lindsay has found one of the exceptional characters in literary history, right up there with Patrick Bateman in American Psycho – also, incidentally, a serial killer.

For Dexter alone, I will be returning to this series once this challenge is done, and reading the remaining books in them.

most importantly, I’m excited to do so.

Next Time

Sticking with the world of TV, next up we are jumping from novel to script book, and looking at one of the – if not the – greatest comedy of all time. 

That’s right, it’s The Inbetweeners. 

See you for that. 

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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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