A crime fiction publisher looking for a new writer couldn’t do better than Alex Segura. At his day job, Segura is senior v-p of publicity and marketing at Archie Comics. When he’s not working for Archie, Segura writes crime novels. This month Polis Books is publishing Dangerous Ends, the third volume in his Pete Fernandez mystery series, which chronicles the life and cases of a Miami private eye.
A novelist who is also a publicity professional sounds like a publisher’s dream, but Segura’s credits don’t stop there. He is also the editor of Archie’s Dark Circle superhero line and finds the time to write a series of tongue-in-cheek one-off Archie comics special releases, such as Archie Meets the Ramones.
He’s got a lot in common with his publisher, Jason Pinter, who founded Polis Books in 2014. Besides being a crime author with six novels to his name, Pinter previously worked as an editor at St. Martin’s Press, Three Rivers Press, and Warner Books (now Hachette), and as a senior marketing manager at Grove Atlantic.
Segura is the child of Cuban exile parents, and he uses his background—he grew up and worked in journalism, in Miami—as the basis for Fernandez, his central character. Fernandez, Segura explained, is a onetime sports reporter and an alcoholic “who has hit bottom.” He added, “His fiancée has left him and things aren’t well.” In the first book, Fernandez uses his reportorial skills to help a coworker find a missing woman while he “works through his own personal issues,” Segura said.
Segura said that in the new book, Dangerous Ends, Fernandez has his drinking under control. He’s working as a private eye on the usual cases such as divorces and insurance fraud, but he’s bored. So he takes on the complex case of an ex-cop who claims he’s been falsely convicted of murder. The book, he said, shows off both “Miami and the Cuban influence” on the city.
After working for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald, Segura moved to New York in 2003 to work in publicity, with stints at Wizard World, DC Comics, and now Archie. “I was a comics fan as kid and I was able to combine my passion for comics with my day job,” he said.
Segura said he also loved reading crime novels as a kid and later “as a hobby, and a respite” from his duties in publicity, and he eventually tried his hand at writing them. His books, he said, are inspired by the works of such crime novelists as Lawrence Block, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, and George Pelecanos,—“writers who create imperfect characters in a strong setting.”
“I started trying to write about a private eye based in Miami, and I just pecked away at the story in my spare time,” Segura said. “I also started going to crime conventions, like BoucherCon,” the annual crime and mystery convention. He met Pinter during one of those BoucherCon visits. “I wrote one novel and then another, and it became its own thing,” he added.
Segura published Silent City, his first Pete Fernandez mystery, in 2013 with Codorus Press, a small press that had “minimal distribution, mostly Amazon,” he said. He eventually got the rights back to that novel and joined Polis Books, which reissued the book in 2016 before publishing the next Fernandez mystery, Down the Darkest Street, the same year.
“I wanted a bigger platform and better distribution,” Segura said, “and Jason wanted a new novelist with a backlist title.” He noted that Pinter is “versatile—he’s been a publicist, an editor and a novelist.” He added, “We both see things from multiple angles, so we connect, and that’s been helpful.”
“My PR/executive skills really help, and I think set the book apart,” Segura said. “Jason is really sharp. He’s created a house with the tools of an established publisher but the flexibility of a startup, which is rare.”
Polis Books started as a digital-first publisher, before expanding into a full print and digital publishing house. The press publishes about 25 frontlist titles a year in print and digital editions and about 20 digital reissues. Looking to fill his list, Pinter said he has been particularly interested in acquiring authors with a backlist, and Segura fit right in.
“I met him a few times at BoucherCon,” Pinter recalled. Pinter said that after reading Silent City, he “liked the book and the Miami scene.” He added: “I knew he was writing a new book and I could reissue the first. Putting together a backlist is crucial for new publishers.”
Pinter said Segura has had “really good sales” for Silent City and Down the Darkest Street. “We’re happy with the books. He’s getting good reviews. There are more books coming in the Fernandez series, and we’re reaching new audiences.”