DOWN THE DARKEST STREET with Alex Segura

The past couple of months have brought a double dose of multi-talented author Alex Segura in the form of Polis Books re-issuing SILENT CITY, his first novel featuring Pete Fernandez, along with a new book - the follow-up - DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. I really enjoy Alex's take on the PI, and it's a pleasure to have him stop by and answer a few questions regarding his latest releases. Here we go! DTDS-e1458140880212

Chris: The PI story is classic - one that countless authors take on each year. With SILENT CITY and now DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, you've received high praise from the likes of Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Brad Meltzer, Reed Farrel Coleman, and more. Who's this Pete Fernandez? What's drawing readers to his story?

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Alex: When we meet Pete in SILENT CITY, he's hit bottom. He's lost his father, his fiance has left him, he's moved back to his hometown of Miami in shame, he's working a dead-end job and he's basically fallen from grace, career-wise. He's gone from being an on-the-rise sports reporter to being a mediocre copy editor. He's also drinking himself to death. He's got only a few friends left and is floundering. But then he gets pulled into a missing persons case and finds that spark again - and as he pulls and tugs at the thread, he finds it leads to a bigger, more dangerous mystery. Unfortunately, being inspired or motivated doesn't solve our problems, so he's still kind of a fuck up. His story isn't just about solving the crime - it's about fixing himself, and that's something I think anyone can relate to.

We see him fail and stumble, but we also see him use his smarts and experience to help others. He's a flawed person and a conflicted hero, and I think  that's part of the appeal. He's not your polished PI with a stack of cases and the office. Hell, you should see where he ends up by the middle of DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. These are the formative moments for Pete - we're not meeting him in the middle, we're starting at ground zero with him.

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Chris: You mention the setting of Miami and Pete's job as a reporter - two of my favorite aspects of the first book as both are foreign to me and I found your take to be very engrossing. How did these pieces find their way into the story? Have you set stories in Miami, or featured reporters as characters before? If so, how has the place/person evolved in your writing?

Alex: First off, I'm glad you liked the setting and Pete's job. I really wanted to showcase the Miami I remember and know, as opposed to some commercialized version. Whenever I see Miami portrayed on TV or in movies, I tense up - because I've had so many experiences where the Miami I see on the screen just doesn't ring true. I wanted to show Miami as a sprawling, complex, dangerous and off-the-rails place. Not a tropical getaway, even though it can be that to some people. I wanted to show the Miami residents see, as opposed to the one tourists see. I worked in newspapers for a big part of my early professional life, so I knew that world, and I love newsrooms - the sense of urgency, the workmanlike vibe, the flow of information. It struck me as the perfect place for someone who would eventually evolve into being a private eye of sorts. I toyed with having Pete be a reporter at first, but realized that someone like him - basically destroying himself slowly - wouldn't be able to hack it. That's why I set him up as a kind of fallen star: a former reporter relegated to desk duty and hating every second of it. This opened the door to him tapping into his inquisitive skills to do other stuff, like investigating a murder mystery, for starters. Most of my crime fiction is set in Miami, including a few short stories - the bulk of it comes via the Pete books, though. But my interpretation of the city evolves because Miami itself is always changing. I live in New York now, and while I come home to Miami 2-3 times a year, I'm always amazed at how much it's changed. I try to be as true as I can when researching stuff, and usually take time out of trips back home for fun to do some legwork for the next book - but I also want to preserve Miami as I remember it, too, so the Miami of the Pete books may not be identical to Miami as it is now, but it's my riff on it. (I hope that makes sense!)

Chris: Totally. Do you think it has gotten harder or easier to write about Miami since you left? Does your ability to see the city as an 'outsider' give you more insight or flexibility than if you were still in the weeds?

Alex: Different. I mean, I started SILENT CITY after I'd left, but Miami was fresh in my mind. Now I've lived in NY for over a decade. But I go back to Miami pretty regularly. But it means more research - more keeping up with the news and trying to keep up with how the city's changed or evolved. That said, I write fiction, so there's some wiggle room. I can keep a bar or restaurant open longer in Pete's Miami, even if it's closed in real life. I can tweak things as long as I'm in the ballpark. But it is a bit trickier to write about Miami now, so it's something I'm very mindful of and work hard to stay true to

Chris: Let's talk crime fiction for a moment. With your day job at Archie Comics you are exposed to slice-of-life, horror, super heroes, high school intrigue - you name it. What draws you back to crime, again and again? Feeling the itch to tackle another genre?

Alex: I have a few comic book ideas I want to explore, but they're in the very early stages. I've always had a soft spot for sci-fi, and I've written a few things in that genre. I would love to do a Star Trek novel or comic, if that ever comes to pass. I'm a sucker for that universe. But crime fiction is my main wheelhouse. I don't see it as a limiting genre - there's so much ground you can cover, you know? Hardboiled to cozy, noir to humor. It really allows you to explore the human condition and showcase the stuff people are dealing with through the prism of a crime. At its best, crime fiction rises above just a caper or a whodunnit - it gives you a sense of the struggles people are experiencing, of place and how everything fits together. I'm hesitant to even minimize it by trying to keep it in one big crime fiction box, but yeah, it's the most liberating kind of story to write.

Chris: Speaking of outside the genre - any writers/creators outside the genre who influence or inspire your work?

Alex: Great question. I love Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Cristina Garcia, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Kelly Braffet, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Marisha Pessl, Chuck Wendig...those are just a few off the top of my head!

Chris: If Pete Fernandez had to leave Miami today and go elsewhere for your next book, where would he go?

Alex: He ends up going somewhere in Book 3, but it's still a Miami book. I've toyed with New York or Vegas for certain stories, but I think Miami has to always be an element. It's too big a part of him.

Chris: Any readings/convention appearances scheduled for 2016?

Alex: Yup! I'll be kicking the Down the Darkest Street tour at The Mysterious Bookshop on 4/12, which is also release day. After that I'll be doing appearances around New York, like Word Brooklyn and The Astoria Bookshop. I'm doing a few events in Florida, one at Books & Books and another at Murder on the Beach in Delray, in early May and I'll be at Bouchercon and Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee, to name a few. The full list is at my site, alexsegura.com.

Chris: What's next for Alex Segura?

Alex: Finishing up revisions on the third Pete book, Dangerous Ends, and powering through the first draft of the fourth, untitled Pete book. And ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES! That's hitting later this year, with art by Gisele and co-written by Matthew Rosenberg.

Kwik Krimes

Kwik Krimes KWIK KRIMES edited by Otto Penzler drops this week, containing 81 short crime stories by some of the best writers in the field - both new and established. Featuring five stories originally published in Shotgun Honey (Erik Arneson, R. Thomas Brown, Matthew C. Funk, Jim Spry, Jim Wilsky) and other fantastic works from Shotgun Honey alum such as Patti Abbott, K.A. Laity, Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Eric Beetner, Dana C. Kabel and more.

Add in the likes of Christa Faust, Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jim Fusilli, Chuck Hogan, Joe R. Lansdale, Lyndsay Faye, Andrew Klavan, Tasha Alexander and David Corbett, and you've got a must read collection.

Let's keep this series rollin'!

REVIEW: Ghost Money by Andrew Nette

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to write more reviews. Four or five stars on Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble/etc. is great, but it means so much more to an author when a reader takes the time to spit out a sentence to a few paragraphs on what they thought of the book. With that said, on to the first review! My first read of 2013 is GHOST MONEY by Andrew Nette:

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Max Quinlan is an Australian ex-cop turned PI whose latest case is to find missing businessman Charles Avery. The trail leads to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Along the way Max will team up with an Australian journalist and his Cambodian translator to track Avery through the underbelly of the city and beyond.

I really enjoyed the mystery and Quinlan's investigative work throughout the novel. Once the action took a couple turns, the pacing drew me in and kept me curious as to how everything would unravel. The son of a Vietnamese woman and Australian man, Quinlan seems uncomfortable in his own skin. Unable to find his place in Australia or Thailand, he turns to PI work to fill the void. Quinlan is a complexcharacter and Nette strings the reader along, sprinkling his quirks and flaws along the way so there is always something new and interesting. The novel's secondary characters are believable and their actions colored by the setting and history of conflict in and around Cambodia. Several of such characters play very minor roles but stood out to me due to the attention Nette gave them. There are several reviews that comment more specifically on the events in the book, but I prefer not to spoil so search them out on Goodreads if you'd like to know more. But, I will say that the end left me satisfied and was well worth the trip.

My favorite aspect of GHOST MONEY is the setting. In addition to conducting exhaustive research, Nette, a native Australian,  spent six years living in Southeast Asia and it shows from the minute background details of a store front, to the history of the Khmer Rouge. The novel is JAM PACKED with historical information, but it never feels like a dump of facts. I spent some time in Southeast Asia in 2005, and while the conditions are much improved (especially in Cambodia) since the early 1990's when GHOST MONEY is set, the sights and sounds in the novel took me right back. From an American perspective, I think the history of conflict between Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand (and in most cases, China) is often overlooked, forgotten or unknown. I hope GHOST MONEY inspires readers to delve further into the fascinating and frightening history between these countries.

4/5

GHOST MONEY links:     Goodreads     Amazon     Snubnose Press     Andrew Nette's Blog