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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/07/18 Permalink
    Tags: , alex segura, , crime authors, curtain, , , , , , , new yorked, potter's field, rob hart, , sleeping murder, their time had come,   

    6 Crime Writers Who Ended a Series Voluntarily 


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    Having a hit series of books and a popular character that readers respond to is usually the dream of an author of an genre, but especially the authors of detective novels. But it can also become a burden, trapping the writer in a universe and a type of story that remains in literary amber. Still, most writers happily plug away at a series as long as readers keep showing up, and usually the only reason a popular detective stops accepting new cases is because the author retires…from this mortal coil. But not always; sometimes a writer decides to retire a character voluntarily for their own private reasons—like the six authors on this list.

    Sherlock Holmes, authored by Arthur Conan Doyle
    Doyle famously tried to walk away from Holmes in 1893’s The Final Problem, sending him over the Reichenbach Falls as he struggled with archenemy Professor Moriarity. Doyle regarded his Holmes stories as literary trifles and wanted to focus on more serious writing; he managed to resist the constant pleas for more Holmes stories for eight years before giving in and writing The Hound of the Baskervilles, published in 1901 and kicking off a second wave of Holmes stories that continued until Doyle passed away.

    Pete Fernandez, authored by Alex Segura
    Segura’s Pete Fernandez has been one of the most interesting noir detective characters in recent years, going from a shambling wreck of a life and career to something resembling stability over the course of four tightly plotted, Miami-infused novels. Segura has decided that Miami Midnight, the fifth book in the series, will be the last Fernandez mystery. Which is a shame, because Midnight digs deep into Pete as a character as he’s pulled from unofficial retirement from his unofficial career as a detective, asked by a local gang kingpin to look into the death of his son, a musician. One of the great things Segura has done with Fernandez is make his personal struggles as compelling as the cases he investigates without resorting to overblown mythology. Pete’s interesting because of the sort of personal mysteries we all carry around with us, and he’ll be missed.

    Ash McKenna, authored by Rob Hart
    McKenna’s an interesting character, a self-described “blunt instrument” who begins a journey to being a real, complete person in Hart’s New Yorked, and then continues that journey through three more books that take him all over the world. Hart’s decision to make Potter’s Field the last McKenna novel had everything to do with ending that story of personal development, of finishing the character’s tale purposefully. While he hasn’t ruled out another McKenna story at some point, it’s refreshing to see an author so in control of their character they end their series when the time feels right to them.

    Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, authored by Agatha Christie
    Christie is an unusual case, because she did, in fact, write about her two most popular characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, until she died. But she also voluntarily ended both series—three decades earlier. During World War II Christie worried she might not survive, and worried that meant her greatest literary creations would be orphaned without a proper send off. Her solution was to write a final case for both Poirot and Marple, then lock them away with a stipulation that they not be published until she passed away. As a result, Poirot’s final novel, Curtain published in 1975 and Marple’s, Sleeping Murder, published in 1976 just after Christie’s death. While locking novels away for thirty years on the assumption that people will still care in the future is pretty presumptuous, it certainly paid off for Christie and her fans.

    Peter Wimsey, authored by Dorthy Sayers
    Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey isn’t as famous as his contemporaries like Poirot, but he was one of the stars of early-20th century detective fiction—and the ultimate “gentleman detective” character. Wimsey was quite popular, but Sayers’ last Wimsey novel was 1937’s Busman’s Honeymoon, and aside from a short story and some references she never returned to the character. There’s speculation that Sayers, horrified at the violence and terror of World War II, decided she could no longer write about murders and the like. Which is a shame, because Wimsey, who began as a somewhat comical figure, developed into a marvelous and subtle character, and the world could have done with two or three more Wimsey novels.

    Kurt Wallander, authored by Henning Mankell
    Mankell seemed to be planning the end of Kurt Wallander, the depressed, junk food-addicted Swedish detective, more or less since his debut in 1991’s Faceless Killers. Wallander aged with the march of time, and Mankell at one point tried to pivot into a spinoff series with a new character before returning to Wallander. 2009’s The Troubled Man was the definitive final adventure for Wallander, and the character was depicted as dealing with the first symptoms of oncoming dementia, perhaps the worst thing that could afflict a man who relies on his mind and his memory. Mankell continued to write until his death in 2015, but he never returned to Wallander.

    There’s a power in deciding when and where to end your creation. What’s your favorite character’s ending?

    The post 6 Crime Writers Who Ended a Series Voluntarily appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: achy obejas, alex segura, cristina garcía, cuba 15, dreaming in cuban, , lived experience, nancy osa, oscar hijuelos, ruins, silent city, the mambo kings play songs of love   

    5 Cuban American Novelists You Should be Reading 


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    One of the most magical aspects of literature and art in general is that combination of attitudes and backgrounds that occurs in your head when you read something written by a member of another culture—which is even more powerful when the writer is combining different experiences themselves. The Cuban-American diaspora in America has influenced every aspect of our culture, from food, to music, to literature, birthing stories flavored with Cuban-specific experience that make their tales unique. The work of these five Cuban-American writers represents some of the best work coming out of that community today.

    Oscar Hijuelos
    Start with: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
    Born in New York City to Cuban parents, Hijuelos is perhaps the most famous Cuban-American writer. His 1990 novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into an award-winning film; and it stands as an ideal example of the writer’s style. He explores his status as a child of Cuban immigrants, eschewing the political to focus on the inner lives of his characters—their personal passions and tragedies. While his characters and settings are clearly informed by his own family’s experiences, his work is universal in theme and identity. His writing is profound and rhythmic without being pretentious or fussy. He wrote several other novels, all worth reading, before dying of a heart attack in 2013 at age 62.

    Alex Segura
    Start with: Silent City
    Segura, a Miami native, knows intimately the contradictions and challenges of being Cuban-American. His series of mystery-thrillers starring recovering alcoholic Pete Fernandez don’t necessarily deal directly with ex-pat themes , but the Cuban-American experience is soaked into their every lived-in word. Segura is so good at spinning a story it’s easy to forget that he’s also showing you aspects of Miami that outsiders might never be exposed to, capturing a Cuban subculture that has flourished at a remove from the country that gave birth to it all those decades ago. All of this vivid detail is skillfully folded into mysteries that also pay homage to the classic whodunnits of the past.

    Cristina García
    Start with: Dreaming in Cuban
    Formerly the Miami bureau chief for Time Magazine, García published her first novel in 1992. Her work possesses a singular point of view; while there are clear Cuban references and imagery, she has been clear about her desire to avoid being defined by her heritage. While her first three novels were more explicitly linked to the Cuban-American experience, in her later work she’s moved to a more general approach, rejecting the idea that everything she does must be informed by her ancestry and her connection to the Cuban diaspora,. Still, her work is infused with Cuban influences: her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, is a complex tapestry about a Cuban family, tracing generations from before the revolution to their new life in America. Moving back and forth through time, the story concentrates on the experiences of three women from different generations of the family. Tellingly, one of the major themes is how politics, and the passions stirred by them, can create division, even between people who care very deeply about each other.

    Nancy Osa
    Start with: Cuba 15
    Nancy Osa’s love for the video game Minecraft (she’s even written several unofficial tie-in novels) just goes to show that people can be several things at once. Her debut YA novel, Cuban 15, tells the story of Violet Paz, a young girl disconnected from her Cuban heritage. Her father won’t discuss their homeland, and her life in America is typical of a young girl in high school—worrying over activities, friends, and her first boyfriend. Her grandmother decides to organize a quinceañera party for her, which leads to Violet learning about her heritage. Osa’s point-of-view is important, as a younger generation of Cuban-Americans balances their dual identity with a distance from the politics and violence that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations still remember clearly.

    Achy Obejas
    Start with: Ruins
    Obejas writes explicitly about Cuba, sexuality, and feminist issues with tight, clear prose, offering a unique perspective that combines several categories of exiles. Her novel Ruins is a perfect distillation of her themes; set in Cuba in 1994, it explores the world of Usnavy, who struggles to keep his family alive amidst the crushing poverty and ruin of a once-vibrant country. Usnavy would like to build an illegal sleeping area in their tiny room, but the ceiling is filled with the family’s one treasure: a massive, ornate chandelier that’s possibly a genuine Tiffany. While people around him literally build rafts to escape the country, Usnavy tries to protect his family and hold onto his political faith in Castro in this beautiful, affecting novel.

    The post 5 Cuban American Novelists You Should be Reading appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2017/01/25 Permalink
    Tags: alex segura, archie, archie comics, , , , darker timelines,   

    Talking with Archie Comics Writer Alex Segura About the CW’s Riverdale and Archie’s Continuing Reinvention 


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    Though the gang from the Archie comic books has embarked on countless storylines that go deeper than shared ice-cream sodas and a broken-down jalopy, the universe of Archie Andrews, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead has long been best known in its original, squeaky clean form.

    Then came the Archie Revolution. This creative shift began in 2010, with the publication of the surprisingly thoughtful and well-received Life with Archie, which explored two timelines: one in which Archie married Betty, the other in which he married Veronica. Since then the company has almost completely revised their classic character, without sacrificing the fundamentals of the universe. They’ve taken chances with their storytelling, explored other genres, and modernized the characters.

    They’ve also worked with some of the best writers in the world to craft complex, interesting stories for Archie—including Alex Segura, Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing and Editor at Dark Circle Comics and author of several Archie comics. As the new Archie strategy culminates in the debut of the CW’s Riverdale, a gritty new Archie TV series that has a Twin Peaks vibe going on, we took a few minutes to discuss the State of Archie with Segura, how he mixes his work for Archie Comics with his series of novels featuring the detective Pete Fernandez, and how Riverdale is shaping up to be the crowning achievement of 75 years of Archie Andrews adventures.

    Your writing for Archie involves some fascinating mashups, like Occupy Riverdale and Archie Meets Ramones to name two examples of the fun, interesting modern direction of these storied characters. What’s your inspiration for an Archie story?
    I think, first and foremost, I try to be true to the characters. I grew up reading Archie and I get a kick out of hitting the notes that made me laugh as a kid. And while the Archie comics were very sitcomlike in terms of not being serialized, there were some constants. The kids were sometimes at odds but rarely mean. It all comes from a place of friendship, familiarity, and fun, so I try to keep that front and center even when they’re dealing with unexpected things, like Gene Simmons, Joey Ramone, or something as potentially controversial as Occupy.

    Did you know Archie was about to become one of the most innovative and interesting reboots in comic history when you took this job?
    I can’t say I predicted that, but I did know Archie was an icon. He was immediately recognizable and the kind of property or brand that people knew, whether they were fans of the comics or not, like Batman or Spider-Man. So, from a publicity perspective, that’s a dream. It means you don’t have to over-explain what you’re pitching. So, once the content caught up with the awareness, thanks to the leadership of Archie’s Publisher/CEO Jon Goldwater, it provided us with a ton of interesting stories to pitch to the mainstream press. That created the wave of interest that’s culminating now with Riverdale on TV.

    Aside from your comics work and day job, you’re the author of three mystery novels featuring your character Pete Fernandez (Silent City, Down the Darkest Street, and the forthcoming Dangerous Ends). Tell us a little about Pete. Any chance you’ll be writing an Archie/Pete Fernandez crossover someday?
    I don’t think Pete is going to drive up to Riverdale anytime soon, but hey, never say never!

    I’m originally from Miami, and when I first moved to New York about a decade ago, I became obsessed with a lot of modern crime writers—authors like George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Reed Coleman and Lawrence Block. Each of these writers not only had strong protagonists that were flawed, human, and (often) funny, but the sense of place was amazing. You couldn’t tell a Nick Stefanos story without D.C., or Tess Monaghan without Baltimore. It got me to thinking about writing my own crime novel, set in my hometown.

    Then Pete walked in. He’s in pretty bad shape when you meet him in Silent City—his father just died, his fiancée has left him, and he’s not-so-slowly drinking himself to death. So, not your ideal hero. But that’s part of the fun, no? As the series progresses, we watch Pete stumble and pick himself up again, learning as he goes. Pete’s story runs on two tracks—there’s the overarching mystery of each book, which is essential to these kind of books, but there’s also his own personal struggles to be more than just a waste of space. He wants to reclaim the potential he knows he lost and he wants to be the kind of person his father thought he could be. He’s not always successful, but that’s what makes the stories compelling, I think. It’d be too easy to just have him settle into a routine, evergreen situation where each book is about the case in front of him. But I’d be bored and I think readers would, too. That’s why I try to make each book stand out and push him forward. The latest book, Dangerous Ends, takes a much wider view of not only Pete, but Miami as well, flashing back to the early days of Castro’s Cuba and showing how the past continues to affect the present, and put Pete’s own life at risk. It’s definitely my most complex book to date and I’m really excited for people to dive into it.

    Let’s talk Riverdale. The new TV show is right in line with the reinvigorated, edgy sensibility of the new comics (zombies, anyone?). I’ve heard it described a bit like Archie meets Twin Peaks. Did you have any input on its development?
    I did not! Though, I love what I’ve seen and the team of Greg Berlanti, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Jon Goldwater, and Sarah Schechter that WB and The CW (plus cast and crew) have put together. It feels noir, moody, compelling, and risky without distancing itself from the core Archie mythos. In the same way you can believe Archie and his friends are battling a zombie apocalypse in the Afterlife with the Archie series (written by Aguirre-Sacasa), you’ll buy the murder-mystery-meets-small-town idea in Riverdale immediately. It’s an impressive and addictive piece of work, and really a testament to what the company’s been moving toward over the last eight years under Jon’s watchful eye.

    Would you say working as a journalist in Miami and writing gritty noir novels actually prepared you to work at Archie Comics, of all places? Will some of that noir quality show up in Riverdale?
    I think different kinds of writing help you become more versatile and improve what you do across the board, in the way being a great poet might assist you in writing a short story because it teaches you how to be compact with language. Writing comics has taught me to be more visual in my prose, because in comics you’re writing a screenplay for the artist to direct and it’s all about camera angles and what to focus on, so that taught me to be more image-centric when working on the novels. Writing prose has also helped me look at a comic as a bigger whole and plot according to that, as opposed to just stringing gags together. You want it to feel cohesive and valuable, even if it’s a humor comic. Journalism, for me, played a big part in all that. It taught me to be direct, clear, and fast. Use the words you know, put the important info at the top and don’t waste time. I think that’s reflected in most of my work. Tell the story, make it engaging, fin.

    What else do we need to know about Pete Fernandez, the future of Archie, and Riverdale?
    Well, the third Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery, Dangerous Ends, arrives on April 11 from Polis Books, available wherever books are sold. You can also grab the first two, Silent City and Down the Darkest Street, now, in case you want to prep on Pete’s adventures. I’m also cowriting a The Archies one-shot with my pal Matthew Rosenberg and artist Joe Eisma, which reveals the origins of the band in the current Archie world. That was a lot of fun. In terms of Riverdale—I suggest people check it out! It’s a really gripping take on some of the biggest, most iconic pop culture characters ever. Don’t miss it.

    The new series Riverdale kicks off on January 26 at 9 p.m. EST on The CW. And while you’re at it, Alex Segura’s Pete Fernandez novels are excellent noir thrillers that go places Archie Andrews can’t—at least not yet. But the way things are going, give Archie a few more years and he might get there.

    The post Talking with Archie Comics Writer Alex Segura About the CW’s Riverdale and Archie’s Continuing Reinvention appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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