Haskins Debuts with Key West Thriller
By Bill Cameron on February 29, 2008 6:00 PM
When you think of Key West, what first comes to mind are likely beautiful sunsets, clear blue water, and cold beer enjoyed to a soundtrack of island music, not a man beaten half to death outside the clubhouse of a sailing club. But that's the way Michael Haskins introduces us to Key West in Chasin' the Wind. Local journalist "Mad Mick" Murphy finds the victim, a friend and one of a cast of idiosyncratic locals who populate Haskins' debut political thriller. As the plot unfolds, Mick and associates uncover a tawdry scheme involving local officials and the Cuban government, and the deeper they dig, the more treachery they unearth.
Haskins comes upon his understanding of the dark potential of the human heart through a life as wide-ranging and varied as his protagonist's. His long career in journalism took him from his birthplace in the Boston area to Puerto Rico and Los Angeles and finally to Key West, his home for the last ten years. His first job, at sixteen, was as the overnight office boy at the Record-American, Sunday Advertiser. "I was fortunate to enter the world of journalism in its gritty days," he says, "when reporters came up the ranks from office boy, to cub, to reporter. My early years were like a black-and-white noir movie." There's a novel in all that history, he says. Based on the uncompromising power of Chasin' the Wind, we can only hope it's not too long coming.
"Education, I discovered long ago," Haskins explains, "comes with living life, not necessarily from the hallowed halls of universities." In addition to his work as a reporter and editor, he's worked in television and as a freelance photojournalist. Once he landed in Key West, his work at the daily Key West Citizen opened a window into the inner workings of business in Key West. After more than five years at the Citizen, he went to work as public information officer for the City of Key West. In that role he gained further insight into the life and business of his adopted home, insight which illuminates the action of Chasin' the Wind.
Describing the Key West of Chasin' the Wind, Shamus Award-winner Jeremiah Healy says, "Haskins captures its exotic nature in wonderfully spare prose and dialog." Edgar nominee Megan Abbott adds, "Chasin' the Wind [reveals] a dark menace rippling beneath the placid city of shaggy bars, flowing rum and the sound of rain on tin roofs." While Haskins admits that the world he describes on the page may be darker and more tawdry than the Key West he knows and loves, he strived to capture the quality of life in Key West. "[Chasin' the Wind] is fiction, but the city that looms in the background, the bars and restaurants and many of the characters that run through its pages are taken from real life." He adds, "Crime as I write it does not happen in Key West. We are a long way from the mayhem and gangs of Miami." Even so, Haskins has me convinced. Chasin' the Wind is not only rich with Key West flavor, but is a crisp, gripping read.
Readers hoping for an introduction to Mad Mick need look no further than his web site, www.michaelhaskins.com. Mad Mick first appears in Murder in Key West, published in the March/April 2007 issue Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and now available online.
Contributing editor Bill Cameron is an Oregon writer of mystery and suspense. His debut novel, LOST DOG , came out in 2007.
Buy Chasin' the Wind at your local independent bookstore.