Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Q & A with Michael Haskins
We interview Michael Haskins, author of Chasin' the Wind...
Q: What makes Mick Murphy different from other (unofficial) PI's?
I wanted Murphy to be a mixture of many of the characters I’ve met in Key West. Like so many people here, he came to get away (running from his past, as hinted at in the novel) but he needed to be on the water. He’s not a hero and doesn’t want to be one, but he has his beliefs and will defend them. Unlike many of today’s PI characters, Murphy won’t be superhuman in his actions. Bruce Wills will not play him in the movie, because the action is more around him than involves him. If you beat him, he’ll bleed and, if you shoot him in the head, he’ll die! Too many superheroes already, I wanted a character that represented the majority of people – a character who is trying to get on with his life, but doesn’t want to be pushed around.
Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
I don’t think Murphy’s ‘friend’ Norm is a psycho sidekick and I didn’t want him to be. He is a person experienced with black-bag work for the government, which gives him a different outlook on things than Murphy has, but within reality, (I hope). I think the psycho sidekick works for some, especially when used as comic relief. I am not good a comedy.
Q: Do you do a lot of research?
Yes. As a reader, it bothers me when I find mistakes in story lines or facts. I do my best to research subjects, facts, locales. In my sequel, I deal more closely with drug cartels and picked the brain of a friend in military intelligence, whose job it is to chase the cartels outside the country. I spent hours listening to his stories, taking notes and he has read the manuscript, as I wrote it, chapter by chapter, and gave me corrections and suggestions and explained why something I thought was a good action was not.
Q: What do you see as your greatest strengths as a writer?
I don’t know, it isn’t as if I have much choice when it comes to writing. I think it might be that I love what I am doing and want the reader to love what they are reading. I believe in my characters, the good guys and the bad guys.
Q: How do you promote your books?
I have my website – www.michaelhaskins.net – and I’ve personally visited many bookstores in Florida, S. California, and NY. In most cases, I set up possible signings in all those locations and followed up with sending copies of the ARCs and later with copies of reviews. In Key West, I have had good radio coverage, but can’t afford to buy time in the other locations, so I am counting a lot on the store’s email list and visitors to my website.
Q: What's next for you and Mick?
I am about three chapters from finishing the sequel – Free Range Institution. It deals, as I said above, with drug cartels, corrupt politics in Key West.
Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
John Cuddy, Jerry Healy’s PI character. He is another down-to-earth guy, Cuddy, I mean! Just kidding, Healy’s a pretty good guy, too. I also discovered Irish writer Declan Burke’s writing and expect him to be a big hit in America when his book comes out later this year. He brings some old time grit to the genre.
Q: In the last century, we've seen new waves of PI-writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?
Wow! Now that’s a loaded question! There ain’t just one! Lehane is definitely one from today, but so is James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, Healy (again), Bob Morris, Tom Corcoran, Jim Hall, Randy White, Declan Burke, Ken Bruen – all their characters are private eyes, even if it’s not what they call themselves. As the world becomes more complicated and smaller, I think readers can relate to the characters of these authors. They can escape through them, but also, I think, readers can personally relate to, if not the character than the situation the character finds himself in and his actions. Pulp heroes were bigger than life; todays are a little more realistic (in some cases). I think today’s readers are more aware because of the 24-hour news stations, better educated than people were 50-60 years ago and looking for more realistic fiction, as strange as that may sound.
Q: John Rickards came up with the following question: What do you bring to the genre that few others have?
It’s a little early in the morning to be hit with all this! Thank God, I am on my second café con leche. Hell (can I say hell?), I think each writer brings his/her unique view of life and death and justice and all that’s right/wrong with the world, government, people to their works. If not, all the stories would be alike. When I was in my early teens, I wanted to write, live in the tropics and sail. I am now out of my teens (a few times over) and I write, live in the tropics and sail. An ex-wife pointed out to Celine that I was the only person she knows who continued working toward a dream throughout his life that didn’t make many changes. I still believe in things as I did years ago; now, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been adjustments in what I believe. But the big picture has remained the same. So, what does all this have to do with your question? I believe I bring strong beliefs to what I write. I am not a formula writer, who sits down and follows a flow chart. I spend a lot of time thinking about the story line, knowing it will take on a life of its own once I begin to pump my blood into it. I want to entertain, as well as bring opinions to my writing and they don’t have to be opinions that I believe in. Think of how much Archie Bunker did to show the world the ridiculousness of bigotry! A really well written bad guy can say a lot about his/her beliefs. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but I got a lot off my chest!
Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
I always wanted to ask James Lee Burke where he came up with his ideas. I know it’s a very popular question from the rank and file, but I wonder how honestly it is answered by writers.
My answer: For Chasin’ the Wind, the idea came when my cousin, Kevin Hart, from Boston, sent me the book, The Black Mass. It was a true account about Whitey Bulger, and Irish hood, and how he corrupted FBI Agents while ratting out the Mafia. Of course, Whitey ratted out the Italians and then took over their rackets when the feds busted them. And, the good point being, the feds new what Whitey was doing, but busting the Mafia was more important.
I got to wondering how to apply this unbelievable idea to Key West. I changed Irish bad guys with Cuban exiles and was off and running. So, I guess my ideas come from reading. I read newspapers, news magazines, watch the news and often find myself say, “what if.”