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Miami has no shortage of the bizarre, seedy, and dark – which is why Miami-born writer Alex Segura thought it would be the perfect setting for his noir crime fiction series about Pete Fernandez, a struggling journalist who wanders back to his hometown of Miami and into a career as a private investigator.
Alex, the author, grew up in the 305 and previously worked for the Miami Herald before moving up to New York City a few years ago, where he dived into the Pete Fernandez series, which has been a hit.
It’s been optioned for a TV series and the third book, “Dangerous Ends,” was just nominated for an Anthony Award, a reader’s choice award given out at Boucher Con (basically the biggest fan and reader event in the mystery book industry). Alex just released his fourth book, “Blackout,” and his book tour is stopping off in Miami this week (details on that toward the end), so we chatted him up on the role Miami plays in the series.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Who is Pete Fernandez?
We meet Pete Fernandez in the first book as a struggling journalist who just moved back to Miami from New Jersey, where he was an up and coming sports journalist.
His fiancé has left him, his dad has died, he’s a copy editor at a Miami daily newspaper. He’s basically hit bottom, he’s drinking heavily. He gets involved in an investigation searching for a missing woman, the daughter of a colleague of his at the paper… The killer is the killer of killers, a Miami urban legend, the guy the gangs hire to kill other gangsters.
[Getting involved in that case] sends him on a path of self discovery. Each book is a different case that ties into Miami history and his father’s history [his father was a Miami homicide detective].
Why did you choose Miami as the setting?
I feel like the New York crime novel has been done so well and by so many people. At that point I also didn’t feel like I was ready to write a New York crime novel. More primally, I was homesick… I really wanted to reconnect with Miami.
Miami is a great setting for noir – it’s a tropical paradise with a beautiful landscape, and then you have this undercurrent of crime and element of danger. The best part of noir is having that contrast.
Who and what will Miamians recognize in the book?
In the new book there’s a really key scene at Vizcaya. It’s probably a turning point for the book. Plus, there’s a lot of little hat tips. Pete walks through Coral Gables, he spends time in Broward, he goes to the Keys. In the early books he lives Downtown. The Miami Times [the fictional newspaper Pete worked for] is basically where the old Herald building was downtown. He’s really all over the place. He goes to a lot of restaurants and landmarks readers will recognize.
It’s very much a Miami series, but it’s not just the tourist spots. Residents will say, “I know that place.” For example, Gables Pub is a place my friends in college would go to a lot that no longer exists [that Pete visits].
What will surprise us?
It’s very different from what you see in the movies and on TV. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on SoBe… I think that’s part of the charm. He’s a resident, he embraces the day to day of Miami.
What’s next for Pete?
There’s at least one more book – I’m actively working on the fifth. I always joke that whatever one I’m working on is the last one. At a certain point in the writing, I joke that I’m going to kill Pete and be done with it. Then, toward the end, I always decide to keep him around.
The series is really a love letter to Miami in many ways. The Miami that you read about it in the first book and the Miami you see in the current book is different because so much has changed, the landscape has changed, the community has changed.
Want to learn more about Alex and Pete? Alex will be speaking about the Blackout, the latest book in the Pete Fernandez series, at Books and Books this Wednesday. Deets here.
WHAT'S NEW IN THE 305
Now you know. We may be best known for things like ham-stuffed croquetas and vaca frita, but behind all that greasy goodness is a great city for vegans, apparently. PETA just released its annual list of top cities for vegans, and we’re No. 9. After working on this list of top local vegan and vegetarian restaurants, we believe it. (Miami.com)
Hurry up and wait. The 2016 election showed us just how vulnerable our voting systems are, and Florida election supervisors are pretty worried as we head into the 2018 midterm elections. Luckily, Florida got $19 million in federal election money to help beef up the security of our voting systems. Unluckily, all that money is caught in web of paperwork and bureaucracy, and election officials say they’re running out of time to implement much-needed improvements before the next major vote. (Miami Herald)
I’m not drooling, you’re drooling. Carolina Quijano has opened South Florida’s newest artisanal chocolate factory right in the heart of Little Havana, and she’s on a mission to change the way Miamians think about chocolate. Her bean-to-bar company, Exquisito Fine Chocolates, opened on Saturday, and this story of how it all came to be has us pretty excited to taste the results. (Miami Herald)
P.I. Marlins Man. Remember when Laurence Leavy, aka the “Marlins Man,” became a private investigator and flew to the British Virgin Islands to check out the Marlins’ alleged foreign headquarters there? That daring little jaunt turned out to be quite useful for Miami-Dade County, which is suing both the past and present team owners for a share of the profits from the team sale. The county’s lawyers are using photos from Leavy’s trip as evidence that the Marlins aren’t based outside the U.S., and therefore the case should be heard right here in the 305 – where a jury isn’t likely to be super sympathetic to either former owner Jeff Loria or the new ownership group. (Miami Herald)
#FloridaMan. Here is what police know about Jonathan Oddi, who unfurled an American flag inside the Trump National Doral Miami hotel on Friday, then got into a gunfight with police: he’s a South African man who recently became a U.S. citizen; he ranted about President Trump, Barack Obama, and P. Diddy before he was caught; and his bizarre social media history has police very confused. (Miami Herald)
Not exactly the American dream. Miami’s known as a city built by immigrants who were given the opportunity to rise to their full potential. But it turns out that Miami-Dade County Public Schools has been steering newly arrived immigrant teens into adult education programs instead of the mainstream public school system, sidelining them from high school diplomas, a college education, and strong English as a Second Language programs. Instead those teens graduate with few English skills, only a GED, and few of the opportunities they came to the U.S. for in the first place. (Miami Herald)
Strange bedfellows. Last week we shared the news that Florida is suing some of the country’s largest opioid manufacturers and distributors. Over the weekend, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times shared an interesting little tidbit about that: The nine companies and subsidiaries Attorney General Pam Bondi is suing have given more than $1 million to state lawmakers during the opioid crisis. Almost all of that is going to Republican candidates and committees, including Bondi herself.
Got an opportunity, workshop, scholarship, grant, etc. you want other curious locals to know about? Hit us up at [email protected] to have it listed here.
🍜 5/30: Set your taste buds on fire with Phuc Yea’s Cesar Zapata (Wynwood)
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Going to one of these events? Tag us on Instagram with @thenewtropic. Want your event here? You can always suggest it by sending the info over to [email protected]
MONDAY, MAY 21
🏃 Speed into the week with a free track workout (South Beach)
✏Try your hand at figure drawing (South Beach)
TUESDAY, MAY 22
💏 Stop swiping and start laughing at a storytelling party about dating – through Wednesday (Coral Gables)
🍨 Take a midday break for an ice cream social (Allapattah)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 23
💃 Tango on Lincoln Road (South Beach)
THURSDAY, MAY 24
🇭🇹 Catch a screening of “1804: The Hidden History of Haiti” (North Miami)
🇨🇺Meet two teachers who ran across Cuba and made a documentary about it (Little Havana)
📵 Put your phone down and enjoy the music at the Listening Den (Little River)
FRIDAY, MAY 25
🎷 Enjoy some jazz by “La Vie” on the MOCA plaza (North Miami)
🌵 Check out the succulent and cactus festival, a millennial renter’s dream – through Sunday (Pinecrest)
🎷 Enjoy some jazz where the legends once played (Brownsville)
THAT’S ALL FOR TODAY.
If you’re in the Design District this week, go take a gander at the new parking garage. We might sound ridiculous treating a parking garage like a tourist attraction, but in true Miami style, it is a legit piece of art (or a “hallucinatory visual carnival,” according to the Herald). Your Toyota Corolla never had it so good.