Secret Identity

A Novel

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 15, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

From Anthony Award-winning writer Alex Segura comes Secret Identity, a rollicking literary mystery set in the world of comic books.

It’s 1975 and the comic book industry is struggling, but Carmen Valdez doesn’t care. She’s an assistant at Triumph Comics, which doesn’t have the creative zeal of Marvel nor the buttoned-up efficiency of DC, but it doesn’t matter. Carmen is tantalizingly close to fulfilling her dream of writing a superhero book.

That dream is nearly a reality when one of the Triumph writers enlists her help to create a new character, which they call “The Lethal Lynx,” Triumph’s first female hero. But her colleague is acting strangely and asking to keep her involvement a secret. And then he’s found dead, with all of their scripts turned into the publisher without her name. Carmen is desperate to piece together what happened to him, to hang on to her piece of the Lynx, which turns out to be a runaway hit. But that’s complicated by a surprise visitor from her home in Miami, a tenacious cop who is piecing everything together too quickly for Carmen, and the tangled web of secrets and resentments among the passionate eccentrics who write comics for a living.

Alex Segura uses his expertise as a comics creator as well as his unabashed love of noir fiction to create a truly one-of-a-kind novel–hard-edged and bright-eyed, gritty and dangerous, and utterly absorbing.


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Secret Identity is a book I’ve had percolating in my mind for years. It was the novel I always wanted to write but also one I wasn’t sure I was ready to write. It blends so many things I love—comic books, noir, New York, Miami, flawed characters, and more—that I needed to be sure I was doing it justice. At the end of the day, that decision rests with you, the reader.

I was lucky to have a number of sensitivity and beta readers who share some aspect of Carmen’s background and were able to nudge and guide me during the writing journey. Their insights were (unsurprisingly) invaluable and meaningful, and I’m so humbled by their generosity. Thank you to Kelly J. Ford, Kristen Lepionka, Amanda de Bartolomeo, and Andrea Vigil. Additionally, Carmen Maria Machado’s genre-bending memoir In the Dream House and Alison Bechdel’s two graphic novel autobiographies proved particularly helpful—and were just flat-out amazing to read. Trina Robbins’s essential works, specifically A Century of Women Cartoonists, The Great Women Cartoonists, The Great Women Superheroes, and her memoir, Last Girl Standing, were a massive resource to me as well. Alexander Chee’s excellent essay, “How to Unlearn Everything” originally published in Vulture, and Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s essential Writing the Other: A Practical Approach helped me numerous times. I also spoke to a number of comic book industry friends—women who worked in comics and publishing during or around the time described in the novel. Their recollections, anecdotes, and memories of comics and New York at the time were huge helps in making the world Carmen, Harvey, and others inhabit feel real. Thank you to Linda Fite, Louise Simonson, Karen Berger, Isabel Stein, and Laurie Sutton, legendary, trailblazing women who blessed me with their time and stories.

The world of comic books and publishing was vastly different from the one I now inhabit today as a writer, editor, and executive of graphic novels. Before comic shops sprung up to create a specialty market and long before traditional bookstores and digital outlets made selling comics standard, the industry had one narrow funnel to reach an audience: newsstands. During the midseventies, the industry was spinning out, and few saw what it might become. Surely no one was thinking we’d be lining up to see a movie or streaming TV shows based on then B-list characters like Ant-Man, Peacemaker, or the Eternals. Well, maybe just Dan Stephenson. I relied on a number of well-researched comic book histories and fictional stories to give me a better sense of what things were like in 1975 in comics and in New York City, while understanding what came before and after. Each one is worth your time. They include Megan Margulies’s fantastic memoir about her memories of her grandfather Joe Simon, My Captain America: A Granddaughter’s Memoir of a Legendary Comic Book Artist; James Warren: Empire of Monsters, Bill Schelly’s fantastic biography of the Warren founder; Nathalia Holt’s history of unsung women animators during the early days of Disney, The Queens of Animation; Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s fictional Criminal graphic novel set in the comic book industry, Bad Weekend; Grant Morrison’s trippy, heartfelt, and personal love letter to superhero comics, Supergods; Jill Lepore’s incisive and meticulous look at the origins of Wonder Woman, The Secret History of Wonder Woman; Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton’s heart-wrenching look at the sad tale of Batman cocreator Bill Finger, Bill the Boy Wonder; David Hajdu’s tour de force look at the horror comics boom and bust of the 1950s, The Ten-Cent Plague; J. Michael Straczynski’s entertainment memoir, Becoming Superman; Glen Weldon’s fantastic history of Batman’s place in pop culture, The Caped Crusade; Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd’s look at the tragic life and enduring legacy of artist Jack Cole, Jack Cole and Plastic Man; Hillary Chute’s indispensable guide to comics, Why Comics?; Douglas Wolk’s thoughtful and welcoming analysis of the medium, Reading Comics; Austin Grossman’s enjoyable superhero deconstruction novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible; Alex Grand and Jim Thompson’s exhaustive and informative Comic Book Historians podcast; TwoMorrows’ insightful and entertaining Bronze Age publication, Back Issue magazine; Abraham Riesman’s powerhouse biography of Stan Lee, True Believer; and last, but certainly not least, Sean Howe’s compelling and comprehensive Marvel history, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. In terms of setting, I also found myself relying heavily on Will Hermes’s snapshot of New York in the 1970s, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire; Judith Rossner’s potboiler of a mystery, Looking for Mr. Goodbar; and Don DeLillo’s satiric masterpiece Great Jones Street.

While research is, of course, invaluable, I gained much from direct conversations and interviews with people who were there. I am beyond lucky to have many friends who’ve been in comics for a long time, and doubly lucky to have been able to lean on them for their time and remembrances of the era—or their knowledge of comics history as a whole. I’m eternally indebted to a who’s who of comic book legends, including Paul Levitz, Stuart Moore, Gerry Conway, Robert Greenberger, Brian Cronin, Paul Kupperberg, Kurt Busiek, Scott Edelman, Alex Simmons, Michael Gonzales, and the aforementioned Fite, Simonson, Berger, Sutton, Howe, and Riesman, who were exceedingly generous with insights and guidance. They all made this story stronger and better.

One of the best things to happen to me over the last year—a twelve-month span full of so much anxiety, stress, and chaos for all of us—was forming a writers’ group with three super-talented writers who also happen to be truly good people. Their support, feedback, humor, and friendship have been invaluable. I don’t think you’d have this book in your hands if not for Kellye Garrett, Amina Akhtar, and Elizabeth Little. I also suggest you pick up their novels—but if you’re a smart reader, you already have. They’re simply the best, and I’m a better writer by association.

In addition to my writers’ group and my sensitivity readers, I was also quite lucky to have some of the best beta readers and volunteer copy editors ever—people who were willing to sacrifice their own time to read my work and make suggestions that helped elevate and improve Secret Identity. Thank you, Elizabeth Keenan, Phoebe Flowers, Rob Hart, Emily Giglierano, Chantel Acevedo, Erica Wright, Isabel Stein, Michael A. Gonzales, Ellen Clair Lamb, and the inevitable person I thoughtlessly forgot—I blame my schedule, young children, and lack of sleep. I’d also like to thank the many author friends who, whether they know it or not, helped me bring this book to life—through a kind word, bit of advice, or just by being around. Special thanks need to go to organizations like Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and my beloved Crime Writers of Color. We need to lift each other up, speak out for what’s important, and celebrate our victories, and these groups help do that. I’d also like to thank my many friends in the world of comics—my colleagues at Oni Press, the many writers and artists I’ve had the pleasure to work with and call friends, and the many professional contacts and colleagues I’ve made over my two decades of work in the medium.

Secret Identity was particularly unique in that it featured comic book sequences woven into the prose narrative, and I certainly could not have created those pages alone. Artist Sandy Jarrell, a talented and (in my opinion) underrated draftsman, was my top choice to bring the Lynx to life. He did not disappoint, going above and beyond what I could have ever imagined. His art perfectly encapsulated the tone and style of the time, and his attention to detail and flexibility made him the ideal creative partner. I’ve known Sandy for a long time, probably longer than either of us would care to admit, and I’m so proud we’ve finally been able to collaborate directly. Taylor Esposito, one of the best letterers in the comic book business, was able to evoke the style of the era deftly and never flinched when last-minute changes were needed. I couldn’t have asked for better collaborators, and I do hope we find a way to tell more stories about the Lynx in the future.

Huge thanks to my superstar agent and friend Josh Getzler, who believed in this project from the moment I first mentioned it and didn’t bat a lash at the complexities that came with it. HG Literary has proven to be the perfect home for my work, and I couldn’t ask for a stronger advocate than Josh. Every author hopes for an agent that “gets” their work, and I’m blessed to have one.

I’ll let you in on a secret about Secret Identity: In my heart of hearts, I wanted Zack Wagman to edit it before I’d written it. Years before I even put pen to paper on it, when it was just something I was researching and when he was working elsewhere, I knew Zack had to edit it. I try not to set myself up for disappointment in life, so my singular focus was uncharacteristic. But I just felt he’d get it. Our shared passion for comics, noir, and diverse and varied stories made this the ideal creative marriage, and every page is stronger, clearer, and better because of Zack’s vision, thoughtful notes, and steady hand. He helped chip at and smooth over the story and bring out the characters in ways I couldn’t have done alone, and I’m so grateful for his support, friendship, and mentoring. I’d also like to thank his superb assistant, Maxine Charles, and the entire team at Flatiron Books for making this a truly special experience.

I’m forever thankful to the book community at large—the booksellers and librarians who toiled through a year-plus of massive change, virtual events, and tumult. The readers who find ways to support us—spreading the word, reading our work, and always being there. They are the bedrock of what we do, and without them these books are just ink on paper. Readers, librarians, booksellers, and bookstores give our words life, and I can’t thank them enough.

As noted, 2020 was a hard, brutal year. In many ways, the writing of this book helped keep me level and focused. It was a beacon of light during a time where there was very little anyone could control. I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many friends in life and in the comic book and mystery communities, and I’m forever humbled and grateful for my family, specifically my two beautiful children, Guillermo and Lucia, and my fearless, sharp, and lovely wife, Eva. They keep me hopeful, sane, and grateful, and I continue to relish living a life beyond my wildest dreams with them by my side.

On Sale
Mar 15, 2022
Page Count
368 pages