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.