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An Interview with Carmen Amato, author of Narco Noir

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Ex-CIA intelligence officer Carmen Amato writes award-winning crime fiction loaded with danger and deception. Beginning with Cliff Diver, her Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series pits the first female police detective in Acapulco against Mexico’s cartels, corruption, and social inequality. Optioned for television, it’s a two-time winner of the Outstanding Series award from CrimeMasters of America. First in her new Prohibition-era thriller series, Murder at the Galliano Club won the 2023 Silver Falchion award for Best Historical. Carmen is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal. After globe-trotting careers, she and her husband reside in Tennessee. Find out more at carmenamato.net.



What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I spent 30 years as an intelligence officer with the CIA, much of that dealing with technical issues. For instance, before there was Google Translate, we were developing “machine translation!” One of my most fascinating jobs was managing an observation platform. Years later I used that experience with video surveillance in NARCO NOIR to capture the crime that sends Detective Emilia Cruz undercover as a taxi driver.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The plot of NARCO NOIR was inspired by a true crime I read about in the international edition of The Miami Herald several years ago. A taxi driver in Honduras was killed by a group extorting money, simply because he was the first driver in a line waiting for fares. The group threatened to kill the first driver in line unless they were paid more and made good on their threat. Moved to Acapulco, the real murder became the inciting incident of the book, forcing Detective Emilia Cruz into an undercover role to catch a killer. Does Emilia catch the killer, unlike in real life? No spoilers!

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

The artist Matt Chase designed all of the covers for the (so-far) 8-book Detective Emilia Cruz series and each one is better than the one before! NARCO NOIR’s cover, with its vibrant covers and the movie reel—which hints at the plot twist—really stands out in a sea of murky mystery genre covers.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

These are some of the songs playing in the background of the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco:

“Loco in Acapulco” by The Four Tops

“What a Cryin’ Shame” by The Mavericks

“Whenever, Wherever” by Shakira

“Tu es mi religion” by Mana

“Just Another Day” by Jon Secada

“Jump” by Van Halen

“Games People Play” by The Alan Parsons Project

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My readers are the best! They love reading mystery series and thrillers as much as I do, which is why I include a book review in every edition of my twice-monthly Mystery Ahead newsletter. I’ve also created a book journal for readers, with more than 30 recommended series from around the world and space for them to write their own book reviews. They love Detective Emilia Cruz and constantly email me, asking when the next book is coming out. They’ve really taken her to heart, having adventures in Acapulco with her and wondering if she is ever going to marry hotel manager Kurt Rucker!

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

My next project is VIVA ACAPULCO, the 9th book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series. This one draws on my intelligence career as well, even taking Emilia to the Washington, D.C., area for a few shocking chapters.


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