Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chasin' the Wind (Mad Mick Murphy) by Michael Haskins

Mad Mick Murphy is our guide to the darker side of Key West as this reporter's friend is murdered and he sets out to track down the killers. Mick is aided by his girlfriend, some Key West locals and his old friend, government spook Norm. The murder turns out to be tied to a government conspiracy, drug cartels and Cuban exiles. Good thing Mick's got a loaded Glock and a guy like Norm at his side!
This is a pretty fast and satisfying read, combining action, mystery, drama and some social commentary. All parts serve the story and it nowhere the plot speeds up too fast or goes to slow. Through it all Mick stays a believable protagonist, who's tough but human. Most of the locals didn't really come alive for me however and were just names on paper. Mick, Norm and Key West will however stay with me and will have me looking forward to the second novel in this series. A pretty solid debut.

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 – – 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 cafĂ© 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.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Back Alley Magazine # 3 on-line!

Issue three of Back Alley Magazine is on-line as of now! It features the best in new and old hardboiled writing. Even an Noah Milano short story by me! Go check it out at

Bone Machine (Joe Donovan) by Martyn Waites

Joe Donovan is a Newcastle-based information broker whose son went missing. With his band of misfits Peta, Jamal and Amar who all struggle with addictions he formed the company Albion. In this novel they are hired to prove the truth of Michael Nell's alibi, an S&M lover who is suspected of being a serial killer.
Through another case they become involved with a prostitute from Eastern Europe, Katya and the horror of the war she fled.
Joe and his misfits as well as the horrible truths the writing exposes made me think of Andre Vachss' Burke. No surprise then that Martyn is a fan of his work.
This is a very dark, well-structured and thrilling novel. I was sorry I didn't see more of Joe in the novel himself because I really felt he's a character that can carry a book, not yet in need of relying on the supporting cast.

Background Check: A Welcome Grave (LIncoln Perry) by Michael Koryta

We interview Michael Koryta about his novel A Welcome Grave...

1) How long did it take you to write the novel?
I was at this one for about 15 months, I believe. First draft tookprobably half of that, but I rewrite extensively, often removing majorcharacters or adding them, changing plot substantially, things likethat. It ran a few months beyond what I'd hoped, but that's often beenthe case once I get to rewriting.

2) Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
I worked a case a few years ago tracking down missing heirs to anestate, and there was one person on my list who reacted with what I found to be a strange attitude when I finally made contact. Very defensive, very wary, didn't seem to believe the reason for my call. There was the sense, at least to me, that some of this came from a placeI didn't understand at all. He believed a private investigator waslooking for him, but he didn't believe the reason. All of this was mostlikely an ordinary reaction from a cautious individual, but it crawled into my writer's brain and began to make noise. That blended with a notion I'd had after writing Sorrow's Anthem, an idea that perhaps you could show more of your character's nature by taking him through the loss of an enemy than the loss of a loved one. When those two thoughts collided, the early portion of the plot came to life.

3) Joe Pritchard is getting older, thinking about settling down. Will hestill be back as Perry's partner?
He hasn't told me yet. Lincoln and I are immensely curious. I just finished a new Lincoln and still can't answer that question.

4) Did you do much research for the novel?
Some, but I tend to research later in the process. I like to get firstdraft down first, then go back and research.

5) I was surprised that Lincoln hooked up with Amy in this novel soquickly. Why did you decide that to happen?
You and I were both surprised. I think Lincoln was delighted. I had nogrand plan for their relationship, other than that at some point itwould advance beyond friendship, which was of course quite obvious tothe reader. When and how it would happen, I hadn't really considered. I try to write as organically as possible and that book and that time feltright.

6) This novel seemed a bit more violent or action-driven than the first two novels. Was that a conscious decision?
I think that's an accurate observation, but it wasn't a conscious decision so much as a function of the story. I wanted Lincoln to havehis back to the wall as much and as early as possible in this one, throwsome challenges at him, then toss more on top of the heap before he hada chance to breathe. That dictated a more violent, action-driven story,I believe. The new Lincoln, which is just complete in first draft, is astep away from that. Again, not a pre-book plan, but a function of the story.

7) Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
My favorite scene in A Welcome Grave, by far, is Lincoln's second visit to the apple orchard, when he meets Matt Jefferson for the first time. I wanted that one to just brood with tension and confusion and menace, andit was great fun to write. I spent a lot of weeks -- months, really --looking forward to Andy Doran's final ride with Lincoln, as well. Traditionally, some of my favorite writing comes toward the final chapter. Not because the story is done, but because I enjoy the tone of an ending very much. There's always some sadness and some hope in my favorite sort of ending, and it is a pleasure to try to blend those elements.

8) Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Andy Doran. I felt true sorrow at writing his character down the stretch. I think that suggests good things.

9) What are the best things people have said about the novel and which the worst?
Ha, well, some like it and some hate it. What more can I say than that? I'm grateful to those who like it, sorry to those who do not. I try not to let reviews and responses creep into my head too much, regardless of praise or condemnation. My focus is always on moving forward, on the next book. I have a lot of stories I'd like to tell.

10) Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel? Just that I'm so appreciative of everyone who has read it, and I hope itdidn't disappoint.