Michael Haskins

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Book Release and other things . . .

Three weeks ago, NOBODY WINS was released and is now available as a trade paperback on Amazon and my website and as an eBook at the Kindle Store.

I ran into a lot of delays in writing this one. The trip to Ireland for research, helping put together the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest and my job writing for the Key West Weekly.

Now I am working on an idea for my next Mick Murphy Key West Mystery and it’s going to involve a week-long road trip to the Florida Panhandle or Panama City (still deciding) and New Orleans.

I can begin writing the book soon, because the opening chapters happen in Key West and with a gruesome event that, I hope, will make all readers really hate the bad guy. Doing that from the beginning will be a new twist for me. I hope it works and doesn’t come back and bite me in the ass.

I don’t usually have another book in mind when I finish one. I get to work on a short story and it’s kind of a vacation of the mind. But this story came to me while riding and listening to ole Waylon Jennings on a CD. I can’t remember the name of the song, but it had something to do with getting out of Tulsa before sunset. Find the song, listen to it and you might have an idea of where the story plot is going. Timely and  gruesome, trust me. Anyway, like I often do, I take the idea in the song and wonder “What would Murphy do?” By the time I’d returned home I had the story kind of worked out in my head and have kept adjusting it, even while still writing NOBODY WINS.

I had another surprise too. Maybe I just have too much time on my hands. I have the book following the next one kind of thought out too. I guess any short stories I had hoped to work on will have to wait. All I can tell you on the 2nd book is this time Mick has to come to the aid of his black-bag friend Norm. It’s usually Norm coming to save Mick’s butt.

Other than that, I am busying working on the 2nd annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest for June of 2015. Wanna help?  What Florida writer would you like to see as our Saturday guest author and luncheon speaker and why. Would he/she be reason enough for you to come to Key
West for the event?

I am looking forward to hearing from the dedicated three readers following my posts on this one!

Oh yeah, if you buy NOBODY WINS, please write a review on its Amazon page, it really helps.

Thanks and remember, a book a day keeps the mind busy and you out of trouble . . . live vicariously through mysteries!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Blog Hop

I have been tagged by author Stephen Campbell in a blog hop. Stephen is a friend, and he’ll also be at the Mystery Writers Key West Fest this coming weekend. I am responding to some questions he sent and will tag three other writers to blog also.
Hunter's GambleI am currently finishing up the latest Mick Murphy Key West Mystery, “Nobody Wins.” It should be available in late July. The book takes Murphy and his friend, the ex-smuggler, to New Jersey and Dublin, Ireland, in search of Murphy’s cousin Cecil.
Lots of good action and visits to Irish pubs and a graveyard in Skerries, Ireland. The book begins and ends in Key West.
I think my writing differs from others who use Key West as the background of their stories because I use real places and names, mixing them with factious characters.
Steve Shades - Full PictureI write about this island because it’s an interesting and unique place. Key West is often called the American Caribbean Island. That’s the good part. The hard part is keeping the books mysteries, because crime, like the ones I write about, doesn’t happen here. I have to find a crime somewhere else and figure a way for it to come to Key West and involve Murphy.
I usually writer in the mornings, after my cafĂ© con leches and continue until I’ve exhausted my story line and need to refresh.   I have an general beginning, middle and end. I do not outline, as such. I think of something I want to use in the story and keep index cards with brief examples.

My characters usually take over the story line before I’m too long into writing and that would make outlining useless. I don’t know how writers follow their outlines. Some do. I can’t.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dissecting "To Beat the Devil" - Part 4 Mexican Drug Cartels

People have asked me about the Mexican part of To Beat the Devil. I spent most summers in the ‘70s, ‘80s & early ‘90s in Tijuana, Mexico, with road trips to La Paz, at the end of the Baja peninsula. I witnessed the gradual change as the drug cartels began in-fighting and Tijuana, and Baja, became the battleground between these drug gangs.

I chose Tampico, Mexico as the location because of its location to the Gulf of Mexico and it is a major port, close to Texas and has a Mexican Navy base. The corruption throughout Mexican military and politicians is well known and documented. In most cases, the Mexican Navy Special Forces have captured or killed reputed cartel bosses. It appears to be working more closely with American intelligence and DEA in the battle to stop the cartels. The head of the Mexican task force fight the cartel, working out of the Mexican president’s office, was arrested for leaking information to the cartels.

While my fictitious battle by the lake outside the city limits was totally made up, attacks as I describe have happened many times in Mexico. The things Pauly reveals about his days with the cartel are documented as fact in news stories.

The Mexican drug cartels behead more victims than Muslim terrorists. Also, more journalists are killed in Mexico than in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a dangerous place. So dangerous that in 2009 when I was signing Chasin’ the Wind, my friends in Tijuana told me not to come. Even today, after the once powerful local cartel leaders in Baja have been jailed or killed, they have told me not to come. I spent almost 28 summers in Tijuana and La Paz with my twin daughters. The people are wonderful, the food is great and the countryside is beautiful.

The Los Angeles Times has been running a series for years on the Mexican drug war and after moving to Key West, I kept up with it. Google Mexico Under Siege or find the stories on the Times’ website, to see for yourself.

While I made up the battle, drug czars, and Mick Murphy’s escape, the background is taken from daily facts. It is happening, worse in some cases, today. So yes, it’s fiction, based on fact. It is a major concern of Homeland Security that the cartel may use, if it isn’t already, its drug smuggling routes into the USA to sneak in terrorists.

It is also well established in the intelligence community that Iran uses Muslin terrorists for its own purposes. Think of the bombing that was supposed to kill the Saudi Ambassador in D.C. The plotters were paid by the Iranians. It’s all in the daily news and I just collected the facts and put them all together to make an interesting story.

* * *
If you  haven't checked out the Mystery Writers Key West Fest, scheduled for June 13 & 14, you should. www.mysterywriterskeywestfest.com 

See you in Key West!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dissecting "To Beat the Devil" - Part Three

Last week we dealt with the Russian mob. 
The chase has gone from South Florida to Mexico as Mick Murphy and his friends are trying to find the location of Alexei, the Russian gang boss. The search takes them to Tampico, Mexico. Tampico is where Mick’s friend, and ex-drug smuggler Pauly, sometimes worked out of and where he decided to leave the business. Read the book and you’ll find out what caused Pauly to make a run for it!
It is also at Tampico, where they discover Alexei’s journal that will take them back to Key West. So, how factual is it that Iranians would use a Mexican cartel to sneak Palestinians into the US? You’ll learn about the plan in my book. Let me explain what my intel contact told me. Iranians are not Arabs, they are Persian. You don’t hear about Iranian suicide bombers. But the Iranians pay Hezbollah to do the dirty work and Hezbollah recruits Palestinians.
Has it happened before, Iranians using Mexican cartels for smuggling people into the US? No one can say for sure, but Iranian militants, as well as other Muslin terrorist groups have a foothold in South and Central America. That’s a known fact, so American intelligence probably keeps an eye on them. Might make another good book.
So, my premise is possible.
The Russian gangster’s journal is a throwback to his days in the KGB. Again, it is known the KGB kept good records. That was proven when East Germany’s government went the way of all Eastern Communists bloc. It is still not know what facts were found at the Stasi HQ, but it made a lot of West German politicians nervous. Yes, Alexei’s journal would be a prize.
But, ain’t there always a but? The journal is in Russian (come on, Alexei is Russian so of course he’d write in Russian) and no one among Mick cohorts speaks the language. Mick and Pauly know that their friend in Key West, Burt, has a relationship with a Russian woman. Escaping a Mexican Navy attack on the cartel’s smuggling base, and facing off threats from another cartel, the crew get airborne. While in flight, Murphy flips the journal’s pages and comes across the longitude/latitude numbers and realizes they designate Key West Harbor (remember, he’s a sailor and would know his home ports coordinates).
This discovery brings them back to Key West, to warn the authorities, but not until they get Burt’s friend to translate the journal. What they discover shocks them. What happens when they bring the time sensitive material to the authorities shocks them even worse.
Just a quick side note here, if you’ve been watching the news about the Malaysian Airline that has gone missing (as I write this), you may have heard that an Iranian bought the two men using stolen passports their tickets. That news has the world’s intelligence agencies paying close attention now. As in “To Beat the Devil,” Iranian agents are behind many terrorist actions, even if it’s a terrorist act performed by an Arab, or other non-Iranian.
Truth can be as strange as fiction. We’ll talk about what the Iranians wanted the Palestinians trained for and why it was scheduled for Key West, next time.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dissecting "To Beat the Devil" - part two

All right, the overall premise of the book was done in my last blog. Now it’s time to deal with the opening of the book.

“To Beat the Devil” opens differently than my other books, because it’s told in Norm’s voice. I began in Murphy’s voice, but realized what happened in the end of “Stairway to the Bottom” would have left Murphy in bad shape, both physically and mentally.  So, Norm, Murphy’s black-bag friend begins the story and it’s not in Key West. About 100 pages into the book, they arrive back in Key West, and I have Murphy telling the story.

So, the book opens with Norm explaining why Murphy is beating a Russian gangster with a rubber hose. There are some later torture scenes that I made up, but the practice is not fiction.

A lot of the story in the beginning deals with tracking Alexei, the person responsible for the violent ending of “Stairway to the Bottom.”

Without giving too much away, there’s a few chapters set in South Beach outside and inside a Russian “private club.” It’s true, the Russian Mafia brings over bar girls from the old Soviet Bloc and use them to entice wealthy men visiting Miami to come to the clubs, where they guys are usually fleeced with prices of up to a grand for drinks. Stories have appeared in the Miami Herald about these clubs and sometimes the owners are taken to court. But it takes a while.

There’s a few altercations with the Russians that leads Murphy to Mexico and drug gangs fighting each other. Remember, Murphy’s friend Pauly is an ex-drug smuggler and knows his way around Tampico, Mexico. Thanks to Pauly’s connections, during a Mexican Navy attack to the drug compound from a drug dealer who wants to escape the attack, Murphy finds out about a possible terrorist attack about to happen in Key West.

These chapters are built around Iranians, Russians and Mexican drug cartels. Is it real? Can it happen? When I brought the chapters to my intelligence expert, he said I was right on, especially about the Iranians. To find out what I was right on about, you’ll need to read the book. But, I can assure you, the chapters concerning the Russians and their cohorts are plausible and what I have them involved in may scare you as much as it did me. Sometimes in writing fiction, the truth behind the story may be more titillating.

Next blog, why the refusal by authorities to believe an attack is coming.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Truth has to come out in fiction

I’ve had a few discussions with people, some friends and others that showed up at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon on Friday for happy hour because they read my books and know I’ll be there. The discussions are about To Beat the Devil, my latest book.

The discussions and questions didn’t happen in order of how the book unfolds, but someone I met last week thought I should talk about the questions that have been asked and follow the book. For the next few blogs here, I will do just that. If you’ve read the book and have a question about how I came up with something or if it’s possible or true, write and I’ll try to answer you.

The most often observation is that throughout the book there are two sets of bad guys.  The terrorists and all their cohorts, and people in government that should know better but it would seem that they want the terrorist act to happen.

I wrote the book and made a few government officials bad guys. Men and women that shouldn’t be. Hard to believe, people have told me. If you haven’t heard about the Whitey Bulger case in Boston and the corrupt FBI agents that allowed Whitey to get away with murder because his other activities helped advance their careers, go to Google. A badge, a gun and an acronym for an employer doesn’t guarantee someone is a good guy.

How many American agents have gone to jail for spying for the enemy? How many cops have gone to jail for stealing or even for dealing? Is Snowdon a hero for exposing NSA snooping on unsuspecting American citizen and world leaders, or is he a trader? It may be a personal decision, but it’s fodder for mystery writers.

So, in To Beat the Devil, my protagonists, Mick Murphy, and his ragtag group of miscreant friends, have to seek justice because those in positions to do it won’t. In all my books, it’s about people seeking justice when the system is broke or for other reasons, the system doesn’t work.

I make up the situations in my books, but the background is there for anyone to see. All you need to do is look for it. With the fall of Communism, writers like me needed to find another enemy and we didn’t have to look far! Corruption is in all our backyards. Read the papers, that’s where I get ideas, or watch the local and network news.

To Beat the Devil is based on a scary premise of what if . . . what if the terrorists were trained in Mexico, crossed the border to attack us, using drug smugglers and what if officials in our intelligence agencies new this but turned a blind eye.

I learned things in my research that concerned me. Are we as safe as the government says? Are government agencies acting as if they are at war with each other when it comes to garnishing federal budget dollars? Would intelligence agency officials lie all the way to the White House to protect themselves? Would they let innocent people die to advance their careers or their agency?

We’ll see, in the coming weeks, what I learned and it might scare you too.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Right Age/ Fictional Characters

Michael Haskins was kind enough to ask me to put together an article for his blog, suggesting as a subject how my series character Noah Milano was allowed to grow and all problems that come with it.

It is a common problem for series characters to be outdated with the passing of time. Spenser should be an old fart by now, having fought in Korea. His creator (Robert B Parker) chose to more or less ignore this fact. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch seems to age in real time, which had his creator retire his hero for a book or two until he got lucky and the retirement age for cops was extended. The Punisher (from Marvel Comics) used to be a Vietnam veteran that lost his family to the mob. In his first movie they made him a cop because he’d just had to be too old. Similarly, in the movie version of the A-team they updated the characters into soldiers of the war in Iraq instead of Vietnam.

With all of that in mind I made sure my main character, Noah Milano, was pretty young in his first story (http://www.thrillingdetective.com/fiction/00_06_2.html) and novel (http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Syndrome-Milano-Mystery-ebook/dp/B006N0MBI0/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331714278&sr=1-2) so he could go years without becoming too old to kick some serious ass or bed all the hot girls. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I made him in his twenties in his first story. When I wrote that one I was the same age, and although I loved guys like Matt Scudder, Spenser and Amos Walker I also couldn’t quite relate to their divorces, or love for jazz. So, Noah liked metal, hadn’t had any meaningful relationships. Instead, he was a young guy who just left home and was trying to find himself through a new job. That I could relate to.

Now, more than 13 years later Noah has become a bit older as well, like I have. When he tells his friend (Minnie) in the novella I’m working on now that he isn’t much of an investigator (he specializes in security and body guarding) she tells him he solved way too many murders for that one still to fly. With those words I acknowledge the fact he’s slowly been changing and aging. Generally I don’t change the character too much though. He’s still single, he’s still trying to find redemption for the life he used to live as a fixer for his father (an LA mobster). That’s because every story can be the first one a reader gets in his hands and I don’t want to feel they’ve been left out. Lee Child really does a good job of that too, but of course Jack Reacher’s military past (and acknowledgment of his exact age) might harm his longevity.

In twenty years Noah will be about sixty years old. Will I have him age along with me until that time comes? I’m not sure. Hey, I’m not sure people will be reading about him to justify him being around that long. What I do know is that I’m happy I studied the masters enough to know the pitfalls of a series character and did my best to avoid them.

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