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DF Interview: Alex Segura spins final Pete Fernandez yarn in novel ‘Miami Midnight’! PLUS: The writer talks new ‘Black Ghost’ trade
By Byron Brewer
A year has passed since Pete Fernandez's latest, closest brush with death. After months of recovery, the newly sober Pete has managed to rebuild his life, contentedly running a small Miami bookstore and steering clear of the dangers of private eye work. So when an aging Cuban mobster asks Pete to find out who killed his drug-addicted, jazz pianist son and to locate his missing daughter-in-law, Pete balks. Until another victim suggests that the murder of the gangster's son may be connected to the people that nearly ended Pete's life, while revealing an unexpected, dangerous truth about the death of the Miami PI's own mother.
Pulled back into the darkness and chaos he'd desperately tried to avoid, Pete finds his life derailed once more as he's forced to investigate a murder that should have never gone cold while dodging assassins' bullets and his own demons. Can Pete make peace with his complicated, haunted past to save himself and those he loves? Or will his luck finally run out?
Crime writer Alex Segura crafts an epic novel of mystery, humanity, and suspense in Miami Midnight while bringing to a stunning conclusion the acclaimed series that reinvented the private eye novel for a new generation. Thus, DF sat down with the scribe to do one interview – but to make this special, we did two! Read on.
Dynamic Forces: Alex, as we say here in Kentucky horse country, this is right out of the gate: Why is your latest novel, Miami Midnight, the FINAL Pete Fernandez mystery?
Alex Segura: First off, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Always a pleasure.
I knew by the time I was finishing the fourth Pete novel, Blackout, that Miami Midnight would be the end. I didn’t know what it’d be about, or how it would end, but I knew I had one more story left. The thing about Pete is that he evolves from book to book -- we see him change and suffer and learn, and that means that, by the end of the series, he’s a very different person from the one we meet in the first novel, Silent City. He’s not Sherlock Holmes or Philip Marlowe -- detectives that we meet at full power, who are established and consistent throughout their respective narratives. We’re watching him become a private investigator -- and that takes a toll. So by the end of Blackout, I knew I had one more round with him, otherwise it’d veer into the unbelievable and hard to swallow, and I didn’t want that. At least not until I change the dynamic enough, and by the end of Miami Midnight, you see that the setup ends and changes, so it opens the door to something else, if that’s what I want to do.
DF: For the uninitiated, tell readers a little bit about Fernandez. Who is he as a character, as a man, and where do we find him in his life as we crack open Miami Midnight?
Alex Segura: When we meet Pete Fernandez in Silent City, he’s an alcoholic journalist who’s been left by his fiancee and forced to return to Miami in the wake of his homicide detective dad’s sudden death. He’s hit bottom. He’s about to lose his job. His friends are distancing from him, and everything is crumbling. But he’s smart. An investigative sports reporter with a knack for chasing the story. When a colleague asks him to help look for his missing daughter, Pete finds a glimmer of hope -- but still needs to overcome his own demons to solve the case.
By this fifth book, Miami Midnight, we find a very different Pete. He’s retired from the PI game, he’s opened up a bookstore, and he’s staying off the grid. But some things remain -- he’s not keeping in touch with his friends, he’s haunted by the death and destruction he’s seen, and he’s … preparing for something. Taking self defense. Monitoring the news. He knows something is coming.
DF: Can you give us a little overview of the novel’s plot?
Alex Segura: Like I noted above, we find Pete kind of hunkered down and out of the PI game. But he’s approached by a fading Cuban gangster who wants to find the wife of his slain son, a jazz pianist who wanted nothing to do with the family business. When Pete refuses, the mobster hints that he knows something about Pete’s mother -- a woman Pete has no memory of, who, as far as he knows, died during childbirth. But as Pete digs deeper, he discovers there’s more to her death – and life! -- than he could ever have imagined. He and his friends are pulled back into a case involving the Miami jazz scene, criminal underworld, and a detour into the heart of Cuba.
DF: Without spoilers, what can you tell us about Pete’s old flame who is about to tie the knot? Is this a character Fernandez-ophiles will recognize?
Alex Segura: Yes, certainly. It’s a fun twist early on, so I won’t spoil it -- but it definitely throws people for a loop.
DF: Seems we may be delving into Pete’s past in serious fashion here. Will the murder of the Cuban mobster’s son touch on any threads you may have planted in previous novels? (I love connective tissue!)
Alex Segura: That’s a great question. And yes, this is very much a “series finale,” so you’ll see elements that either nod to or connect directly with the previous books. The challenge was really about making it also standalone, which I try to do with all my books – make it so if someone comes in late, they won’t feel lost, but also have Easter Eggs and concepts that longtime readers can get a kick out of. I think we made it work!
DF: To me, murder mystery equals pulp, noir atmosphere and beat-down people just coasting through life. You don’t get a lot of that anymore in reads of any variety. What is it about the genre you enjoy so much, and how did you get started writing crime dramas?
Alex Segura: I think crime fiction is the closest we get to seeing how the world really is – loaded with gray areas, shady characters, and tainted heroes. It’s an unvarnished look at life, if done well. Like comics, I was a fan of crime novels before I set out to write one, but I also felt – when I first got into the genre – that there weren’t any detectives like me, Cuban-American, younger, still figuring out their place in the world. So in the hubris of youth, I thought I’d write it myself. And I set it in Miami - so that’s where the Pete novels began.
DF: Tell readers where they can purchase Miami Midnight.
Alex Segura: The Pete Fernandez novels – published by Polis Books – are available wherever books are sold. I suggest ordering from your local indie bookstore via indiebound.org, or you can visit alexsegura.com for more options, like Amazon, etc.
DF: Alex, to take a kind of abrupt detour – a left turn at Albuquerque, in Bugs Bunny speak – I believe your Black Ghost trade has come out on comiXology? You and co-writer Monica Gallagher have done quite a bit of impressive work together, and in many formats, and now The Black Ghost. How did you two happen to come together to form such a creative collaboration?
Alex Segura: Monica and I first got connected on the Lethal Lit podcast, which was produced by iHeart Radio and Einhorn’s Epic Productions. I’d done some initial work with them and Monica came aboard to co-write/co-create the series. We found we were really simpatico. We got along great, had similar story sensibility and, honestly, added to the work we each did. So the final product was much stronger than what we would’ve done alone. Monica is great with character and dialogue, and she has a knack for getting to the humanity of the people we write about. Once Lethal Lit hit – to a great, amazing response – we started to brainstorm on what to do next. I had an idea for a female vigilante superhero, just the kernel – so we jammed on that, and that’s how we got to Lara and the Black Ghost.
DF: For those under a rock (and who could blame them today? LOL), tell us the genesis of the Black Ghost comic book. It certainly seems a great use of the crime noir I have read in your novels … like Miami Midnight!
Alex Segura: The big idea, for Monica and me, was to blend the character-based world building we did with Lethal Lit through the filter of the comic book vigilantes we loved as fans. We wanted to honor the tropes of the genre – the fictional city, the legacy hero, the sidekick – and also invert and play with them to create something new and fun for us.
DF: What is the overall story of the book?
Alex Segura: The story introduces the readers to Creighton, a fading Mid-Atlantic city that’s beset by crime and corruption; think Hub City or Gotham. We meet Lara Dominguez, a journalist who’s reeling from the death of her brother Tomas, and obsessed with the city’s debonair vigilante, the Black Ghost, a lone crime fighter who seems bent on fighting the evil elements that have infiltrated the city. But when Lara sees her hero gunned down, she has to make a fateful decision: does she become part of the story to save her town? Can she overcome the past and demons that haunt her to do that?
DF: Any common threads between Miami Midnight and the Black Ghost?
Alex Segura: There’s some commonality between Pete and Lara, sure – and Lara and Tig Torres, the lead character from Lethal Lit. They’re all driven, focused and extremely flawed people, but also very different! I love – and so does Monica – spotlighted messed-up people and telling their stories of redemption. It’s such fertile ground. Really happy when it works.
DF: What other projects are on the horizon for you, Alex? Novels, comics and any other fields?
Alex Segura: I’m writing a Star Wars novel – Poe Dameron: Free Fall – that hopefully hits in August. And I should have some more cool stuff to announce soon!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Alex Sugura for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Both his novel, Miami Midnight, and the Black Ghost trade edition, are out and available now!
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