South Florida novelist and comic book writer Alex Segura has long been a fan of crime fiction novels. Growing up, he looked up to authors like Charles Willeford and Edna Buchanan — some of the region's best. And as far as famous and beloved fictional private investigators go, he enjoyed reading about Hoke Mosley, Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone.
But for Segura, there was something missing from the crime fiction and mystery genre: None of the detectives in those books were Cuban American. "I wanted to write about someone like me, someone that ... had the same kind of upbringing and life that I had in Miami," he said on Sundial.
Thus, the creation of Cuban-American private investigator Pete Fernandez. In the September book club title "Miami Midnight" by Segura, protagonist Pete Fernandez is forced to solve the one crime he never expected: his mother's murder. This is book five of the Pete Fernandez mystery series — and possibly the last, Segura told Sundial. He joined the show and spoke with host Luis Hernandez about writing this iconic character, his love for crime fiction and his side hustle writing for Archie Comics.
This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity.
WLRN: Who is Pete Fernandez?
SEGURA: I wanted to write about someone like me, someone that maybe I knew in college or in high school and had the same kind of upbringing and life that I had in Miami. I know a lot of people like Pete. I'm still friends with a lot of people like Pete, though they don't tend to get shot at as much as Pete does — which is good for me because Pete's friends tend to end up dead, which would have been problematic.
Pete has flaws. He deals with alcoholism. How do you tackle those kinds of issues in the book?
The best way to tackle anything in writing is to be as truthful as possible without trying to be salacious. Addiction is such a serious disease. I try not to romanticize it or use it as a prop. A lot of that is portraying the struggle that extends beyond the sobriety.
I read a lot of fiction, and it frustrates me when the detective or the hero walks into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and then he's just been cured and that's it. Or the other extreme, where it's like a hard-drinking hero and they'll knock back a 12-pack and then still be able to formulate thoughts and save the day. Both scenarios are unrealistic to me.
To me, it's about speaking the truth about addiction as this real issue and it's something that Pete struggles with. He gets sober pretty early in the series (not to spoil anything) but there's obviously relapse and then there's the struggle. And from books three to five he's teetering close to relapse, which is something that I think a lot of addicts and people in recovery deal with.
Pete Fernandez, a fictional private investigator detective, is now listed with some of history's most famous fictional P.I.s. How does that make you feel?
It's crazy. It feels surreal. The last time we talked to you, we talked about Miami Blues, and that was such a formative book for me. Stuff like Hoke Mosley (character in Miami Blues) books and Vicki Hendrix's work and Edna Buchanan — all these great Miami writers. Then to hear Pete is in the same breath as those, and/or to hear him in the same breath, it's pretty mind-blowing. I've accomplished the goal, which initially was to add my voice to this chorus.