Behind the Scenes of Dan Wesolowski’s Final Sprint
by Felicia M. Tomasko
“It’s easy to find a lot of characters in I.V,” said Dan Wesolowski. The Santa Barbara author’s series of detective novels draw on these Isla Vistan personalities to liven up tales centered around Drake Simo, a man in Isla Vista who has a knack for solving mysteries and uncovering secrets kept in the backrooms of keggers and classes.
Final Sprint — the fifth, and by no means final, entry in the series — is Wesolowski’s most recent novel. Between dashes on his 18-speed racing bike, odd jobs, and romantic adventures, our hero Simo is hired to uncover the meaning behind what initially appears to be a senseless death at a keg party, where a young man goes over a beachside balcony. As we wander the eclectic streets of I.V. by day and night with Simo, the truths and half-truths are revealed to be much more sinister than they first appear.
This subtext is hinted at in the book’s prologue, where we see the action through the eyes, ears, and other senses of university student and Iraqi war veteran Mietek Majowski. In these initial pages, we are unsure of Mietek’s location, whether he is fighting in the Middle East, smelling the salt-tinged surf, or navigating the medical system. Mietek later falls to his death, but his status as a veteran plays a crucial role in the story.
Wesolowski’s portrayal of the sometimes nightmarish recollections that haunt a veteran’s mind is intentional. As he was writing Final Sprint, the author said he was affected by current events filling headlines and news stories: “As the world changes, it affects how I write. I am heavily influenced by current events.” Downtown peace demonstrations and turmoil were in the air in ’04, when he took pen to paper to begin his mysterious sprint. Speaking specifically of veterans, Wesolowski explained, “We’ll be dealing with the issue of returning vets for a long time and what’s been done to them. I think they’ve been used for political purposes.” While he’s currently at work on more books in his Drake Simo mystery series, Wesolowski mentioned these next works will each contain characters who are veterans, reflecting the impact returning veterans currently have on society.
In each individual character, Wesolowski often builds composites, a synthesis of people he’s known throughout the years and decades, rather than creating a portrayal of an individual person. When asked if his friends see themselves in the pages of his mysteries, Wesolowski replies, somewhat enigmatically, that people will always see what they want to see.
For readers who want to walk through Isla Vista’s back alleyways, Wesolowski provides a unique glimpse into the small community’s hidden secrets, although fictionalized of course. His descriptions are thorough and include the pot smoking, discussion of commentaries on Hamlet, tainted drugs, and bedroom-hopping that take place behind, in the book anyway, often wide-open doors. Sometimes delving into the stereotypical, Wesolowski nonetheless features characters who engage in pursuits other than plastic cups full of beer, as evidenced by Simo, whose wry sense of humor keeps us turning the pages.
4•1•1 Dan Wesolowski will sign copies of Final Sprint on Saturday, December 16 at Mojo Coffee (7176 Hollister Avenue #B, Goleta). Call 571-7070.