Some thoughts on Serial and true crime

 

Most of this originally appeared on my Facebook page, but it felt like it merited being a blog post, so here it is! If you’ve been following me on Twitter at all, you know I’ve been hooked on Serial, the podcast produced by This American Life. The podcast is unique in that it doesn’t present standalone story episodes, but instead provides a serialized (get it?) look at one story – the case of Adnan Syed, who was found guilty of the murder of his ex-girlfriend almost 16 years ago, when he was 17. Host Sarah Koenig brings listeners in on the investigation. The storytelling is decompressed and not linear – which is sometimes compelling and other times a little frustrating. But in short, we’re basically tagging along while Koenig and her team researches and reports on the case – so, with that in mind, there are some expected lulls and dead ends. I should note that while one of Serial’s claims to fame is its format, there’s at least one other podcast that does the narrative-season thing: Startup, but Alex Blumberg, which chronicles his journey creating a startup company. It’s not similar beyond that, but also worth a listen – though it does suffer from some of the same types of peaks and valleys.

Anyway, here’s my post – which was spurred by listening to the amazing Laura Lippman talk about Serial on BBC 1 Radio yesterday. I’ve trimmed the written-for-Twitter intro sentences and probably caught a few typos.

One of my favorite novelists, Laura Lippman, talked to BBC Radio 1 about the series – and her qualms with its approach to true crime writing (her segment starts around the 5m mark). Lippman, a Baltimore native and former crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun, gives some great insight into the case and zooms out a bit to give some wonderful perspective. It’s very much worth a listen – I wish they hadn’t been so pressed for time because it seemed like there was a lot more to discuss.

I should preface this whole thing by saying I enjoyed Serial and have listened loyally every Thursday. I found the format compelling and enjoyed how listening to the story brought me closer to the narrative than reading words on paper.

But, having listened to the finale (no spoilers!), I have to agree with Laura – while the journey of Serial has been interesting and at times engaging, I can’t say I’d pick that over a more concise and clear analysis of what that journey discovered. I also think “enjoying the ride” puts me (and others more familiar with the true crime genre) in the minority, as I got the sense most listeners were expecting some kind of “season finale” TV show-style conclusion. I could be wrong.

I also don’t think the podcast itself is remarkably unique in the world of true crime, especially if – like Laura, myself and many others – you’ve read a lot of true crime books. I also couldn’t help getting a little defensive at the occasional article along the lines of “It’s OK to like true crime now that Serial’s here” as if reading the genre before was somehow graceless – or gauche, as Laura puts it. This wasn’t helped by Koenig’s passive dismissal of true crime every time she pointed out that being a crime show wasn’t the intent of Serial at first. Sarah, it’s OK to write about crime! That’s what you’re doing.

Laura also mentions The Staircase as a stronger example of serialized true crime reportage – which I think is true, though it also has some faults. It manages to deliver in a way that I don’t think Serial ever could, not for lack of trying, while dealing with similar circumstances.

Overall, like I said, I enjoyed the journey of Serial – I felt like we got to ride along with a talented, flawed and honest reporter as she explored a story that, from what I could tell, she thought was going to be easier than it was. I don’t, however, think that this style of covering or narrative execution is new to crime reporting or true crime writing – but that’s OK. We all like a good true crime story, right?

Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee and Where to Find Alex at Bouchercon 2014 Murder at the Beach

There was a lot of pointing at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee earlier this month. Here I am with Daniel B. O’Shea and Susanna Calkins, two great authors and friends.

November’s speeding by – faster than usual. It’s hard to believe that Bouchercon, the biggest mystery/thriller event of the year, is almost upon us. Kicking off later this week in Long Beach, CA, BCon promises some great panels, author events, conversations, laughs and much more.

I’ll be there the entire time – moderating a panel, doing a reading and participating in a few other things. Most importantly, I’ll be hanging out with some dear friends and enjoying the mystery community – which, as I’ve said, is extremely welcoming. This is a special show for me,having been to a few Boucerhcons already. This year marks my first as a published crime writer. If you’re attending the show, you’ll be able to pick up copies of SILENT CITY in the Book Room, which blows my mind. Very cool.

Before I dive into my Bouchercon schedule, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention where I was earlier this month: the wonderful and wild land known as Milwaukee for Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee.

Last year, I had the honor of being invited to a great, energizing and thoughtful event – Murder & Mayhem in Muskego. Hosted at the local library, it brought together some of the best and nicest crime writers around for a day’s worth of panels, signings and chatting. The funding for this year’s event didn’t materialize, so a lot of us were bummed about not having another M&MM to attend in 2014.

But the magicians known as Jon and Ruth Jordan, Penny Halle and Erica Ruth Neubauer had other plans. With their diligent planning, care and effort – and the help of a killer crew of volunteers – Murder & Mayhem was back, this time at a snazzy casino and featuring the same feel-good vibe and A-list talent. The festivities took up most of the day on Nov. 1 and the partying went into the wee hours. I was on a really interesting panel discussing location in fiction featuring some of my favorite authors, like Dana Cameron, Daniel B. O’Shea and Kristi Belcamino, moderated by the great Kate Malmon. It was a blast and a treat to hang out with so many friends, fellow authors, readers and more. Here’s hoping next year is even bigger and better. Thanks again to the Jordans, Penny, Erica and the volunteers for a kick-ass job.

And right, Bouchercon! If you’re at the show, I should be fairly easy to find – I envision spending a lot of time in the Book Room or other communal areas if not at a panel or event. But here are the stuff that’s locked in.

Thursday

8:30 – 10:30am, Promenade 104-A-B-C

Author Speed Dating! Want to  hear my quick pitch on Silent City? Want to have a nice continental breakfast surrounded by some of the best writers in the business? Swing by and enjoy.

11:30am – 12:30pm, Regency B

Crime Goes Visual. I’ll be moderating an all-star panel discussing the worlds of comics, graphic novels and writing crime fiction. Join me, Duane Swierczynski, Dale Berry, Gary Phillips and Gregg Hurwitz for a fun discussion about two of my favorite things: crime novels and comics. We’ll be signing copies of our books after the panel, too, so come prepared!

5:30 – 6:30pm,

Regency C

Noir at the Bar! I join an amazing list of authors to read some quick, visceral crime fiction. There’ll be a great book giveaway and some amazing stories. This is one to definitely mark on your calendars.

Saturday

10 – 11am, Promenade 104 B-C

Bloody Murder: Recommendations from the Margins. Absolutely honored to be one of the 50 authors joining moderators Charlaine Harris and Sara Paretsky to celebrate diversity in the mystery community and talk a bit about authors we feel might deserve an extra plug. This is a can’t-miss event that I’m blown away to be a part of. Do not miss it!

One last bit: if this is your first Bouchercon, let me humbly suggest you read my convention guide. I also think you should check out Erin Mitchell’s and Kristopher’s. Good advice from smart people (except me – pffft!).

That’s the big stuff. If you happen to see me wandering the halls, please do say hello! I’m happy to chat and sign a copy of SILENT CITY if you have it!

This and That:

Happy birthday, SILENT CITY!

SILENT CITY, my first novel starring washed up Miami journalist Pete Fernandez, hit a year ago today from Codorus Press.

How crazy is that? It’s been an amazing, emotional and joyous ride – book events, signings, interviews, reviews, trips, panels, hugs, laughs and more. I’m overflowing with gratitude and excited to talk more about what’s next for Pete.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this book possible – including my loving and patient wife, family, the great team at Codorus, my agent, reviewers, friends, fans and the hugely supportive community of crime authors that so kindly welcomed me as one of their own – you’re all super-kind and awesome, and I’m lucky to have you in my lives.

SILENT CITY is still on sale from most major online retailers and bookstores – so, if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, please do! Plug, I know.

Pete’s adventures will continue in DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. More on that in the coming months.

Thanks again!

ARCHIE #660 is out today – and I can sign your copy at New York Comic Con

Out today, my second Archie issue in a row – ARCHIE #660!

Unlike some of my previous Archie work – like ARCHIE MEETS KISS, “Occupy Riverdale” and last month’s zoo adventure (#659) – ARCHIE #660 is a fairly “classic” Archie tale. Our redheaded everyman makes the mistake of scheduling FOUR dates for the same night and enlists his pal Jughead to help him navigate the scheduling nightmare. Does he succeed? Does Reggie spoil the fun? You’ll have to pick up the issue – which is in shops today! The story is drawn by artist Jeff Shultz, who does a bang-up job with it.

Additionally, the issue sports a fancy “CONVENTION EXCLUSIVE” variant cover you can only get at this week’s New York Comic Con – drawn by the master himself (and the artist on ARCHIE MEETS KISS), Dan Parent.

Check out a preview of the issue at Comic Book Resources, and be sure to pick up the issue at your local comic shop (use the Comic Shop Locator Service) or digitally by visiting the Archie Digital Comics Store!

And, speaking of New York Comic Con, I’ll be stationed at the Archie Comics booth most of the time and moderating all of our panels – including Archie Action, Archie Forever and Dark Circle.

I’ll also be signing at the Archie booth on Saturday, from 4-5pm, with Dan Parent. Swing by – I can sign any of my Archie work and anything else of mine you want to bring! Complete panel and signing details here.

 

Alex at Long Beach Comic Con

There IS so much drama in the LBC! Mainly because Long Beach Comic Con is happening. I’m an official “guest” of the show, which is a great honor and a new experience for me – so if you see me wandering around and lost, please point me in the right direction.

More importantly, if you’re coming to the show, you’ll be able to find me at the Archie Comics booth (#303) or on many panels and signings! My full schedule is below. Do swing by and say hello!

SATURDAY

4pm -103A/B

Every Jughead Has His Day: The Legacy of Archie Comics

Archie, Betty, Veronica… Jughead; some of the most well known names in pop culture. Join CBR’s Albert Ching as he gets in-depth with Jesse Goldwater and Alex Segura to talk about the more than 70-year history of Archie Comics and share details of their latest hit series.

SUNDAY

11am – HERO Complex Theater 104A

Race in Comics

Come join this discussion about diversity in comics and the newly announced Dwayne McDuffie Award, featuring Marc Bernardin, Kyle Baker and Alex Segura.

12pm WACOM Classroom – 101B

 #Make Comics: A Journey of 10,000 Words: The Art of Writing a Novel

Finishing a novel can be a daunting proposition. Come ask these acclaimed novelists about their creative proccess. On the panel Castellucci, JT Krul, Sattin, and Alex Segura

12:30pm -102B/C

How To Get Away With It: The Art of Writing Crime

Join Kyle Higgins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Jamie S. Rich, Alec Siegel, and Alex Segura as they talk about the most addictive genre of writing. Learn just how far a writer has to go when coming up with the perfect crime.

2pm – HERO Complex Theater 104A

The Sound Of Comics: How Music and Comics Go Together

Get an insight on how music influences comics today and how creators look at the world of music. On the panel Mike Allred, Baker, Joshua Dysart, Alex Segura and Andrew Robinson.

3pm – SIGNING

Mysterious Galaxy booth #104

Alex will be signing copies of SILENT CITY along with fellow authors Samuel Sattin and Nick Cole.

4pm WACOM Classroom – 101B

#MakeComics: How to publicize 

Congrats: your comic book is being published! Now what? How should you promote your work? Do reviews matter? What cons should a creator attend to promote your work? How should you use social media to get the word out? Publicity and social media experts discuss what strategies to embrace–and what tactics you should avoid on the last #makecomics panel of the weekend.

ARCHIE #659 is out today!

SOMETHING I WROTE EXISTS IN THE WORLD TODAY!

ARCHIE #659, written by me with art by Pat and Tim Kennedy (“Death of Archie”) and a killer variant cover by Mike Norton (REVIVAL).

What happens when Sabrina’s frisky cat Salem turns the Archies into zoo animals? Insanity, for sure. But what if these transformations also start to spread all over town? What happens when all of Riverdale goes bananas? Find out in “Walk on the Wild Side”!

Check out some pages at Comicosity and be sure to pick up the issue at your local comic shop (use the Comic Shop Locator Service) or digitally by visiting the Archie Digital Comics Store!

Where is Alex: Brooklyn Book Festival, LBCC, Murder & Mayhem and BoucherCon – plus ARCHIE #659

Please allow me a meta-moment to apologize for keeping things somewhat light here. Hopefully, you’ve been keeping up with my crime fiction blogging at Do Some Damage and my daily blathering on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.

Last we spoke, I was talking up an event at La Casa Azul Bookstore. Needless to say, it went great. Aurora and her team were supremely welcoming and I hope I have the chance to visit again. Everyone should check the store out and support indie bookstores around the ‘hood.

Speaking of, I was sad to hear about the eventual closing of Astoria’s Enigma Bookstore. As some of you know, I’ve done a few events there and I’ve found the owners to be really smart, caring and dedicated people who love the books they’re selling and promoting. Enigma will continue in some form as an events organizer. Click here for more details. I wish them the best of luck.

The end of the year is looking to be busy and energizing, with a book festival and some major cons looming.

  • I’ll be signing and selling copies of my debut mystery novel, SILENT CITY, at The Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, 9/21 from 2:30-3:30pm at the Mystery Writers of America table. I’ll be joined by fellow author Liz Zelvin. Should be fun. Booth #624.
  • Next up is Long Beach Comic Con (9/27-9/28). I’ll be a guest of the show and also there in an official capacity as per my day job. I’ll be on a bunch of panels and running around, so please try to find me. Once the convention has posted their full event schedule, I’ll share it here.
  • The ever-present New York Comic Con hits 10/9-10/12, and I’ll be stationed at the Archie Comics booth signing a few times over the weekend and moderating a handful of panels. More info when I have it.
  • I’m very happy to confirm that I’ll be a guest at Murder & Mayhem in Milwaukee on 11/1. The one-day crime event features a kick-ass list of authors and is hosted by some of my favorite people in the world (the Crimespree family). I’ll be on a few panels and also signing books and wandering around. Hope you can make it.
  • Last and definitely not least, I’ll be at Bouchercon 2014 – Murder at the Beach in Long Beach, CA (11/13-11/16). Yup – I’ll be hopping to the LBC twice this year. Snoop Dogg would be proud. Bouchercon will be announcing panel details soon, I’m sure, and I’m excited to be involved in this, the biggest crime and mystery event of the year. Find me if you’re there!

On the writing front, the first of two ARCHIE issues I wrote hits next week – ARCHIE #659 is a fun romp drawn by Pat and Tim Kennedy with a killer variant cover by Mike Norton. I’ve loved the Kennedys’ work for some time, especially their recent stuff on LIFE WITH ARCHIE, so it was great to collaborate with them on this. Add to that a cover by Norton, who I also love – especially his hit webcomic BATTLEPUG and the amazing and unsung REVIVAL at Image – and you’ve got an issue that’ll hopefully prove to be a lot of fun. Did I mention the Archies turn into animals? Yeah, that happens.

I’m plugging away at Pete Book 3 and cooking up a few short stories to keep things warm while I sit on my hands waiting for news on the second Pete book, Down the Darkest Street. As soon as I can say anything, you’ll know.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you soon!

Get your noir on…in Queens, NY!

If you’ve been reading this here blog, or are a fan of crime fiction, you’re probably familiar with Noir at the Bar. It’s simple enough – a bunch of crime writers get together to read from a recent or upcoming work and people listen. They also drink and chat.

I’ve had the honor of reading at a few Noir at the Bar: NYCs and it got me to thinking about hosting one in my own ‘hood, Kew Gardens, Queens – which is no stranger to crime.

I’m totally blown away and amazed by the lineup of authors who’ve agreed to appear this coming Thursday, 8/7 at ODradek’s Coffee House and Wine Bar: gritty mastermind Reed Farrel Coleman, the wonderful and talented Hilary Davidson, fellow Latino crime writers and no-frills Richie Narvaez and Angel Colon, the unflappable Thomas Pluck, always charming S.A. Solomon and all MC’d by yours truly. We will be raffling books away between readings and the authors will be hanging around to chat with fans.

The poster was thrown together by me, but is mostly cool because it’s art from Robert McGinnis.

A little history on Noir at the Bar, as pointed out by Richie in his own N@TB:Q post -

The first Noir at the Bar was organized by Peter Rozovsky and took place in Philadelphia. It has since traveled around the country and the world.

It should be a fun time and hopefully the first of many such events at ODradek’s – my local coffee spot.

Swing by if you can!

Comic-Con International: San Diego, Noir at the Bar: Queens, Casa Azul, Dark Circle and much more

It’s been a busy few weeks – to say the least! Here’s a rundown of what’s been going on and what’s coming up.

In addition to trying to finish up revisions on the second Pete book, Down the Darkest Street, things have been pretty nonstop at the day job, in case you missed it: Archie died and we announced some of the superhero comics I’ll be editing, via Archie’s superhero imprint, Dark Circle Comics.

I had the honor of reading a chapter from Silent City at Noir at the Bar: New York on 7/13 – thanks to Thomas Pluck for the invite. Always a pleasure to participate in those! Nice to see Todd Robinson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Angel Colon, Vncent Zandri, Barry Lancet, Jen Conley, Sarah Weinman, Ben Lieberman and Suzanne Solomon!

Upcoming: Happy to announce that there will be a Noir at the Bar: Queens on 8/7 at ODradek’s Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, 6-9pm. More details to come. Mark your calendars, though!

I’ll be reading from Silent City at the great Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, from 6-8pm on 8/14. Hope to see you there!

This week, I’ll be at the mother of all pop culture events, Comic-Con International: San Diego. If you’re at the show, feel free to swing by the Archie Comics booth – I’d be happy to sign any books (ARCHIE MEETS KISS, Silent City, Occupy Riverdale and more!) or chat for a bit.

Where can you find me, officially?

• I’ll be signing copies of ARCHIE MEETS KISS with artist Dan Parent on Friday from 12-1pm at the Archie Comics booth (#2842)

• I’ll be moderating the Archie Comics panel on Friday from 1-2pm in Room 4 – expect some fun reveals and $100 worth in free comics for all attendees! Expect a lot of Death of Archie, AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE and Dark Circle chatter!

• Last, but certainly not least, I’ll be participating in an amazing comics and music panel presented by Depth of Field Magazine on Saturday at 7pm. Formal PR below. DID I MENTION I WILL BE ON A PANEL WITH A RAMONE? Right. Panel description…:

Depth Of Field proudly presents “Comics And Pop Music!” at San Diego Comic-Con, July 26th at 7pm
this hour-long program brings together comic creators and musical innovators to discuss their work combining the worlds of music and comic books

On Saturday, July 26th, from 7:00-8:00pm, Depth Of Field Magazine is proud to present Comics And Pop Music!, a panel discussion at San Diego Comic-Con.  This program features an all-star selection of creators, publishers, and musicians discussing the historical ties between popular music and comics, the two forms’ shared passions and common inspirations, and how these two media continue to inform and impact each other in the 21st century.

Patrick Reed (editor of Depth Of Field Magazine) will moderate, and panelists include musical legend Marky Ramone (drummer of The Ramones, Grammy Award winner, Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee, Star of IDW‘s ‘Killogy’ series), Vivek J. Tiwary (creator of the NY Times-bestselling, Eisner Award-nominated ‘The Fifth Beatle‘), Chynna Clugston-Flores (creator of ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Scooter Girl’), Jennifer de Guzman (writer, director of trade book sales at Image Comics), Matthew Rosenberg (writer of Ghostface Killah’s ’12 Reasons To Die’), Alex Segura (VP of publicity for Archie Comics, author of ‘Archie Meets Kiss’), John Schork(director of publicity for Oni Press), and other special guests.

The panel runs one hour, and will be held in Room 28DE of the San Diego Convention Center.  

Talking SILENT CITY, “What I’m Reading,” upcoming events

A few quick things!

My latest Do Some Damage blog post is up, and it deals with the peaks and valleys of social media. Check it out.

Fans want access. Your friends want access. Read the Greenwald book and you’ll see the government wants access (to everything). It’s up to you to decide who gets what, if anything – and what you want in return.

Also, keep in mind: your information is yours. You don’t have to share everything or put yourself out there in detail. You don’t have to tweet about what you had for breakfast. I do sometimes, but that’s me. You don’t have to tell your fans what movie you just saw. But you can. In an age where everyone wants to know every thought we have, it’s OK to keep some things in reserve because you want to.

Also, you should read Hilary Davidson’s excellent essay on the same topic over at The National Post, too., titled “Sorry, but social media will not sell your book.”

I talked to the wonderful Oline Cogdill over at the Mystery Scene Magazine blog about Silent City, my comic book work and what’s in store for Pete.

Today at comic news site 13th Dimension, I run down what I’ve been reading lately, including LAZARUS by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, FATALE by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, LOVE & ROCKETS, AMERICAN VAMPIRE and novels by Reed Farrel Coleman, Kelly Braffet and more.

Last, but not least, I’ll be moderating a panel this Saturday at Enigma Bookstore in Astoria focusing on Latino Writers who write crime fiction. I’ll be joined by Lyn Di lorio, Richie Narvaez and Steven Torres. Starts at 7pm – swing by!