When I set out to write my first mystery novel, Silent City, I knew what I wanted — but wasn’t sure how to get there.
When I moved to NY from Miami a decade ago, I’d gotten hooked on modern crime fiction — stories that featured flawed, conflicted characters that oozed setting, like the Washington, D.C. Nick Stefanos books by George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane’s Pat and Angie Boston series, and Laura Lippman’s Baltimore novels starring ex-reporter Tess Monaghan, to name a few.
The books felt genuine and rough, like crime fiction should feel. Honest and painful, showcasing not only the struggles of the characters, but the heartbeat of each book’s home city. That new obsession, coupled with my own homesickness, got me started on Silent City.
I knew I wanted the books to star a flawed and inexperienced detective, someone that was just starting out and unsure of what to do. I also knew that I wanted the books to be set in Miami. But not the Miami you see on TV or in the movies — I wanted them set in my Miami: The city I remembered and still consider home.
While there are a number of great Miami crime novels — Vicki Hendricks’s Miami Purity and Charles Willeford’s Hoke Mosely books come to mind immediately — I felt like I had a unique story to tell, and a version of Miami to share that not many people outside the 305 would know.
That’s how reporter-turned-PI Pete Fernandez was born. When you meet Pete, he’s a washed-up sports writer barely clinging to a job on the copy desk of the local paper, The Miami Times. He’s slowly drinking himself to death as his career circles the drain. When a newspaper colleague asks for help locating his missing daughter, Pete finds himself re-energized, but also in way over his head.
As the mystery series progresses in the pages of Silent City and its sequel, Down the Darkest Street, we see Pete evolve — though, not always fast enough — from hard-drinking loner into a man fitfully trying to rebuild his life while exploring the more dangerous corners of Miami. Pete’s saga continues next April, in the pages of the third book in the series, “Dangerous Ends.”
Miami plays a major part in the novels, taking readers from South Beach dive bars to West Kendall strip malls to Homestead suburbia as Pete and his sometimes-partner track mob guns-for-hire, serial killers and corrupt politicians. Miami is as important to the book as the protagonist, giving each book its own, unique flavor that also serves as a love letter to my birthplace and hometown.
THAT’S NOT ALL
Pete’s adventures zig-zag all over Miami, Broward and beyond. So, while you’ve seen the highlights, there are plenty more places you might catch while reading the first two books, not limited to long-gone South Beach Cuban place David’s Cafe, bars like John Martin’s, The Bar and Fox’s Lounge or more recognizable locales like FIU’s south campus, Sunset Place, Dadeland Mall and Miracle Mile. The Pete books are, first and foremost, about telling a fun, compelling mystery. But they’re also about showcasing the Miami I remember and still see. A vibrant, diverse and complex city that is as lively as any noir character.
If you haven’t had the chance to pick up the Pete Fernandez mystery novels, let this serve as an interactive primer for the books bestselling author Megan Abbott called “a series not to be missed.”
If you’re familiar with Pete’s exploits, consider this as close to a driving tour of Pete Fernandez’s Miami as you’ll probably get, with some bonus teasers for next year’s Dangerous Ends. Either way, see you at Miami Book Fair!
Intrigued? Meet the author yourself at our event at The Porch with the Miami Book Fair! Alex Segura will be emceeing Noir At The Bar this Thursday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m., featuring some of the best mystery and crime writers in Miami: Joe Clifford, Mike Creeden, M.J. Fievre, Fabienne Josaphat, Les Standiford, John Dufresne, Vicki Hendricks, Lynne Barrett, and Neliza Drew.