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Closing the Story on My Own Terms

9 November 2019

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

IN THE COURSE of five novels, Alex Segura has given us one of the most fascinating PIs in detective fiction: the messy, troubled, intelligent, and remarkably human Pete Fernandez. With unflinching prose, Segura has chronicled Fernandez’s personal turmoil, his romantic foibles, and, more importantly, his struggles with addition [PG Note: Sic Autocorrect can be so useless at times and, if nobody proofreads . . .] and recovery. Segura has both celebrated and transcended many of the tropes of the genre, all the while conjuring a three-dimensional panorama of the shadows and secrets of Miami with its colorful culture and musical vibrancy. The fifth installment, Miami Midnight, is Segura’s last.

. . . .

IVY POCHODA: I’m going to open with something I’m dying to know. I can’t even think ahead in whatever book I’m currently writing. But you knew before you dove into Miami Midnight that this was your final Pete Fernandez book. At what point did you decide that this was the end?

ALEX SEGURA: I knew we’d end at five before I started writing the fourth in the series — Blackout — so I started planting the seeds for what I knew would be, if not the end, then a meaningful break of sorts. I knew by the end of the third novel, Dangerous Ends, that I didn’t have much more to go. I could only put Pete through these paces realistically for so long. He gets really, for lack of a better term, f***** up with each book. Shot. Almost killed. Forced to deal with heavy loss. So by the time I got to Blackout, I knew we had to start speeding down the hill toward the big finish, even if it wasn’t in that book. That’s why you have the mafia subplot in Blackout that pops out at the end to take Pete out, and it’s why we have the push and pull between him and Kathy, romantically, because I knew that was something that I wanted to come to a head in the final book. I didn’t know how I’d end things, though, but I knew some of the elements I wanted to play with — jazz, the mob (Italian, Cuban, and beyond), and Pete’s struggle with his identity. He got sober, had been a mostly dry drunk for a few books, but now I wanted him to face the bigger question — if you’ve recovered, what’s next? What do you do with yourself? And what’s the plan for you? Throughout the series, he pushes back on the idea of being a private eye — he flirts with it, but mostly he can’t come to terms with the fact that he’s good at this, and when he does embrace it, he’s flying in blind. By the time we get to Miami Midnight, we can see that subconsciously, he’s trying to get the pieces in place to finally become what we’ve been waiting for. The idea to have him solve his own mother’s murder came up later, while I was writing the book, and it was something I’d considered a while back — but didn’t feel like it was the right time. But now, closing out the series, it felt like the perfect moment for him to dig back into his own past and discover the truth about what happened to her, but to also get to know her — this mysterious woman he never really met — and to realize that she struggled with a lot of the same things he did, but she didn’t make it.

. . . .

You’ve lived with Pete so long, like a roommate or something even more personal, I imagine. What’s it like saying goodbye?

I was excited about it at first, but as I got closer to the end — it started to sink in more. Like, “This is the last time I’ll get to write Pete with X character,” or, “Is this the last time we’ll visit this place or see this person?” The finality of it hit me as I was writing the last few chapters, and those are intense sequences, too. Lots of characters die, and the status quo is pretty seriously upended. So, it was intense and while, logically, I was excited to eventually write something else — something different — part of me was sad that this would be it for these characters.

. . . .

I started out just wanting to see if I could write a novel, period, then trying to see if I could write a novel like the ones I was reading and loving. A PI story that felt really steeped in setting, like the stuff Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, or George Pelecanos would write, with really screwed-up heroes who aren’t the steel-jawed, tainted knights, à la Marlowe or Archer. Messed-up people trying to do good, I guess.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

Books in General

6 Comments to “Closing the Story on My Own Terms”

  1. “I started out just wanting to see if I could write a novel, period, then trying to see if I could write a novel like the ones I was reading and loving.”

    Nice to know I’m not the only fool that started on the path of writing that way. (Not that I’m anywhere near as good at it! 😛 )

    .

    Let us live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry — Mark Twain

  2. He gets really, for lack of a better term, f***** up with each book. Shot. Almost killed. Forced to deal with heavy loss.

    I’m not a big fan of authors who torture their characters.

    • It’s the other side of the Mary Sues/Martins. Yes, he won, but at a cost – rather than the ones who sail through danger without a scratch.

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      The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch someone else doing it wrong, without commenting. — T.H. White

      • It’s the other side of the Mary Sues/Martins. Yes, he won, but at a cost – rather than the ones who sail through danger without a scratch.

        It depends on how it’s done. “Won at a cost” can be an antidote to the author favorite sailing through danger without a scratch–or it can just be another version of the Mary Sue, where the author piles misery after misery on top of a character in order to get the audience to pity her and think, “Oh, she’s so wonderful for being able to function after I’ve killed her parents and given her dog cancer and broken both her legs and had a bird poop in her hair…”

        Note that I haven’t read any of Mr. Segura’s works, so I cannot say which category his character torture falls into.

  3. I can’t stand characters that wallow in self pity, or are just f***** up with no spine or fortitude to get themselves out of whatever situation they are in.

    Which is why I started writing my own stories about characters that make decisions, follow through, and eventually win through to a better situation.

  4. I like having the guy openly deal with his addition.

    After all, he is an Agent for the Multiplication Division, following The Subtraction Protocols.

    Coming to a theatre near you…

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