Miami is as much a character as any of the others in Silent City. How did you develop this idea?
It really just came down to it being my first novel and wanting the setting to be as genuine as possible. When I first started writing Silent City, I’d been in New York for only a few years, so I didn’t feel like I had a good handle on the city. So, the only other option was to write about Miami — where I was born and raised. I also felt like I wanted to write a story about my Miami, the city the tourists don’t see, beyond the beaches and TV versions. And while there are some great Miami crime novels, like Vicki Hendricks’ Miami Purity, for example — I felt like I had more to add to that region than by writing another PI novel set in New York. That’s been done before by a lot more people, and I wanted to maybe swim in a smaller, more familiar pond to start.
Dan: I’ve said before how SILENT CITY just teems with mood and atmosphere. Who do you count as your literary influences?
Alex: I lean toward crime fiction that is more about character, setting and mood. I’m a fan of a strong plot and a big reveal – I think a good surprise is rare and special. But I want to read about characters that seem real and aren’t invincible that live in places that are evolving and have their own quirks. So, it’s no surprise I love The Wire, and the many great crime writers that helped that show – mainly Pelecanos, Lehane and Price. I love characters that jump off the page, who have quirks that make you feel like you’re sitting across from them at a restaurant, so I gravitate to anything Megan Abbott or Sara Gran write. I think Gran’s Claire DeWitt books are amazing, and strike such a wonderful mood and create a world you just want to live in. James Ellroy was one of the first modern crime writers I read and I love everything he’s done – the way he portrays his city, his frightening characters and just the way he puts words together. His use of omission and the way he makes you pay attention are so subtle – and I know a lot of people find his more recent work difficult, but I think that’s good. But I think it’s fine to have to work for something – to read closely or go back and double-check a passage. It shows you’re engaged. And he’s the master of that. Lastly, I think if anyone wants to take a master’s course in PI fiction, they should buy a stack of Lawrence Block’s Scudder and Reed Farrel Coleman’s Prager books – because that’s all you need to know. Classics, both of them.