Alex Segura on the Truths of Noir Literature
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
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On why he set the novel in an era when comics were fading away:
I think I chose to set the book in the 1970’s and New York because it’s such a stark contrast from the comic book industry we see today and the New York we know today. The New York of the 1970s was a much more dangerous and menacing place, but there was also the sense that we’re going to power through this, this financial ruin. It’s in the wake of Watergate, and not that no one ever doubted our government before, but that’s when we had a great disillusionment.
And in terms of comics it was a different time because comics weren’t everywhere. Now we have an Ant Man movie, and a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Peacemaker. And if you’re a comics fan you see those characters and it’s like wow, I never would have imagined seeing them in that level of media. In 1975 comics were fading away. It was before there were comic shops and before there was a secondary market… In 1975 if you missed a comic on the newsstand, you missed it. So the stories were kind of crafted to be done in one. There was no continuity, no epic, ongoing stories… It was seen as disposable. Like, these are things you put in your pocket and read and then toss in the trash.
On the truths of noir:
Carmen showed up. She’s similar to a lot of friends and people I know, and we obviously share a background. Then I had to figure out how I could weave her into this narrative and the story kind of blended in around her. She’s organized, she’s driven, she has some baggage in her past but she’s not defined by it. She tells it like it is, in what I don’t think is a cliched way. She’s also vulnerable and conflicted.
When you have a dream that carries you through your childhood and your adult life, and you’re presented with an opportunity, who would not take it? And that to me is the truth of noir: you’re pinned in a corner and you have to make that emotional decision and then deal with the repercussions. That to me defined Carmen, that she made the choice and she decided to see it through no matter what.
On the challenge of telling a definitive narrative:
I had to be thoughtful and mindful of who the character of Carmen was, the experiences we share and the ones we don’t share. I’m a straight man and she’s a queer woman. I guess this is the most journalistic book I’ve ever written in terms of talking to people that lived that experience. I spoke to women who worked in comics at the time. I had readers who are queer women who gave me a lot of good insight in things that aren’t my life. It’s not my place to tell the definitive narrative there. Carmen is a character in a mystery novel and I want to be inclusive and thoughtful about it, but I can’t claim to be definitive… The challenge is to do it well. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it; it just means you really have to do the work.
Alex Segura is the SVP of Sales and Marketing at Oni Press and the author of Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall and the acclaimed Pete Fernandez Mystery series. He has also written a number of comic books. A Miami native, he lives in New York City with his wife and children. His latest novel is called Secret Identity.