Michael Haskins

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book

(When Patti Abbott asked me to write a blog about a book I thought had been forgotten, it didn’t take me but a nanosecond to know what book it would be about. When I pulled it off the bookshelf, I realized I couldn’t explain it without going into explanation of the author, because the book affected my teenage years and the author a good part of the rest of my life.)

Writer Dennis Lynds had many claims to fame in his lifetime; being one of the most prolific writers in America has to be the one that will remain on the record books for years to come.

If you are new to the mystery genre, the name may not be recognizable. But Dennis wrote under many names, the most popular being Michael Collins, the creator of the Dan Fortune series, but there were others: William Arden, John Crowe, Mark Sadler, to name only a few.

I discovered Dennis Lynds while I was a senior in high school and his book, UPTOWN DOWNTOWN, Signet Paperback 1963, had just come out and it affected the direction my life would take. It was the early ‘60s, the beginning of the end of the Beat Generation and the first inkling of the hippie movement and time of teenage angst.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN is a story about Dave Garber, an up-and-coming executive in NYC, but at night another Dave Garber emerges, one who strums a guitar in Village bars, frequents free-and-easy parties in dim, beatnik attics.

The book fully portrays that time when writers and artists, experiments in drugs and sex and jazz, were all mixed together and you had an enthusiasm for life and living that was dying a slow death. It mirrored my weekend trips to coffeehouses on Beacon Hill in Boston.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN influenced my decisions at the time, because I wanted to be a writer and part of a living movement, even if it was fading from the mainstream. The dropout attitude of the hippies held no appeal, where the live-life-to-the-fullest mantra of Dave Garber and the Beats did. The weekend coffeehouse-poetry readings I attended were right out of UPTOWN DOWNTOWN and I latched onto the tail end of beatnik movement, and dropped into life instead of dropping out.

Almost 20-years later I met Michael Collins at the mid-March writers social hosted by The Mysterious Bookstore in Beverly Hills – since then, it has moved to Westwood and no longer holds the social because it conflicts with other literary events in LA. I was a fan and asked to have my Dan Fortune books signed. We got to talking and I discovered Michael Collins was really Dennis Lynds; I did not connect the man and UPTOWN DOWNTOWN at the time. I did guess that he took the name Michael Collins because of the Irish rebel and leader in the rebellion against the English in 1916 and he laughed and said, “Yes, that’s why I took the name.”

We became friends and Dennis was always supportive of my writing. We attended Mystery Writer of America, SoCal, meetings and socials at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in the San Fernando Valley, often sitting in the bar afterward. When I discovered why the name Dennis Lynds sounded familiar, I told him and got a thank you and a smile.

Dennis was more than a friend, he was someone I looked up to. As Michael Collins, he was able to turn Dan Fortune, a one-armed private detective, into a successful and popular character and series, when the rest of us were writing about superheroes without limitations!

He did it with well-written, well-plotted stories that often asked hot-topic questions and just as often gave the answers; and he did it with some of the best writing in the genre.

I moved to Key West in 1996, but kept in touch with Dennis and his wife Gayle, and we often emailed back and forth about my sailing trips to Cuba and how he hoped to someday visit Havana and maybe meet me there.

In 1998 Hurricane Georges attacked the Lower Keys and blew my two-story floating home out to sea, with my more than 1,000-book library and worldly possession on it, never to be found. Think of it as a one-bedroom house on a barge.

I mentioned it to Dennis in an email and told him how I was starting over and had bought a sailboat to live on. A few weeks later, I received a plastic covered copy of UPTOWN DOWNTOWN in the mail. He had remembered after all these years!

My library is almost rebuilt, now that I am back in a house on solid ground, and books written by Dennis Lynds, no matter what name he used, sit on the shelf above my computer screen, so that I often think of him when I am writing. In between the hardback copies of books, bearing the name Collins, Sadler, Crowe and Arden is the small, plastic covered paperback, UPTOWN DOWNTWON, and it stares down overpowering all the others because it reminds of my youth and how it, and its author, helped direct me to where I am today.

Dennis wrote most everyday for eight hours, or more. How I envy him for that. He was driven and loved writing. And that paid off, because so many of us love reading him.

For more information on Dennis, his life and his writing, go to http://www.dennislynds.com/.

Michael Haskins

Sunday, August 10, 2008


“Chasin' The Wind”
by Michael Haskins Hardback: 238 pagesPublisher: Five Star, Gale Cengage LearningISBN-13 978-1-59414-638- Copyright 2008

The cover of Chasin' The Wind has palm trees gilded by a setting sun and a boat, silhouetted on a patch of gleaming water. All else in the peaceful scene is darkness. The cover artist perfectly captured the essence of this book, the first Mad Mick Murphy Mystery, by Michael Haskins.

Set in Key West, the darkness beneath the bright surface of this tourist mecca is revealed in the opening sequence when Murphy, former globe-trotting investigative journalist, stumbles upon the near-dead body of his friend and fellow sail enthusiast.

Haskins has a lean, spare style that gives you the facts and paints a picture of the Key West known to its denizens but rarely seen by the tourists. Forget the glitz and glamor of the other odes to Floridian excess as seen in book, television, and film. "Chasin' The Wind" is the real deal. It's the bite of lime in a mojito, the festering, relentless antipathy still nurtured for Fidel, and the spray of salt in your face when you're on the water.

Mick Murphy is not some unrealistic super hero sleuth. He might be the guy you pass on the street. He's known tragedy, and he's haunted by the past. He probably isn't extraordinary in his beliefs: that loyalty and friendship are everything and that justice should be sought.Haskins has created an intelligent sleuth, and you'll get a kick out of following Mad Mick Murphy from Key West to Cuba in "Chasin' The Wind."

You'll wish you could hang with Murphy in a seedy bar and share a beer while you wait for the next book in this promising new series.

Takeaway Truth:
Small publishers are nurturing some big talent. If you're a reader, start buying some of these heretofore-unknown authors on a regular basis.

SLING WORDS aka Joan Reeves.
Just call me Paige Turner. Oh. Real name is displayed? Well, darn. I was hoping the Paige Turner moniker might make me a hot commodity. Guess that means I'll have to write great fiction instead. (But that's sooo hard! *whine, whine*) You want to know more about me? Hmmm.... At this moment in time, I guess I'm a multi-published author of fiction and a hard-working freelance writer published all over the web (under my own name, pseudonyms, and as a ghost)...yada yada yada. Need to know more? Just go to http://www.joanreeves.com,/ for details. Joan donates the copies of books she reviews to various libraries.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Signing - Part II, Florida & New York

I’ve written a little about my early book signings in Key West and South Florida and you can see photos from all my signings on my website, http://www.michaelhaskins.net/, if you are interested. If you came to any of the signings, you may find your photo there.

Marshall Smith, owner of Key West Island Books, hosted my first signing days after the release date of “Chasin’ the Wind.” I sold 80 books and he told me the only person to sell more at a book signing was Carl Hiaasen. It was a wonderful event and great for my nervous ego that thought only a few friends would show up.

(Photo: Georgia & John Parks with Michael at KW Island Books)

Charlie Bauer, general manager of the Hog’s Breath Saloon held a signing in the upstairs writers’ room at the saloon and I sold 50 books. Again, my local support surprised me! Local writer and friend Tom Corcoran showed up and that was a pleasant surprised. Tom was a lot of help with my book and his support helped me push ahead to finish. I thank Tom (http://www.tomcorcoran.net/) and Boston writer Jerry Healy (http://www.jeremiahhealy.com/) in the intro to my book for their help and support.
(Photo: Michael and author Tom Corcoran, Hog's Breath Saloon)

Joanne Sinchuk, from Murder on the Beach, Delray Beach, Florida, was a gracious host and her newsletter review helped sell about 10 copies of my book to people who couldn’t attend the signing. Joanne hosts the bookstore at the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America’s SleuthFest – a writing conference – each year and her store is a must stop at for writers signing in South Florida.

The store is surrounded by some very good restaurants and I had dinner with journalist Emily Roach and Internet guru Ernie Deck, who I worked with in Key West before Emily kept getting better job offers and left. Ernie, of course, can work the Internet business from anywhere. It was nice to see them.

The Coconut Grove Bookstore is new and I was one of the first authors to sign there. Its newsletter mailing, obviously, is small but it advertised the signing, the turnout was low, but interesting because I was able to talk in depth about writing and my book to the few people who attended, something you cannot do at a more crowded signing.

Joe LiVolsi a friend of my son-in-law Paul Carpino (and now my friend as well) helped arrange a signing at the Broward County Library. Being that I get lost as soon as I hit the turnpike in Florida City, I am not sure where the signing was, but it was at a senior center in the Ft. Lauderdale area and well attended. I sold more than 10 books and had an interesting Q&A with the audience.

(Photo: Michael and Joe LiVolsi at Anthony's Runway Restaurant)

I mention the number of books sold, because I have been told that 10 books is the average number sold at signings. Yeah, I know, you don’t meet expenses with just 10 sales. Again, I’ve been told that people will go home and think about you and your book and maybe, if impressed, they come back and buy one. Others will remember you and come back when you are signing your second book.

So, I guess, you could say touring is more about creating name recognition than it is about sales; that maybe why small publishers do not help authors with touring. All of my signings have been at my own expense.

I have one last signing in Florida on Sept. 12-13, at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine. I will be talking about journalism as well as mystery writing. If you are in the area, come in and say hi.

I wanted to have a book-signing event at The Mysterious Bookstore in NYC, but the store manager, Ian, explained that they only host book release events and, since I wouldn’t be in the area until June, it wouldn’t be a release event - my book came out in March. However, he did offer to order copies of my books and invited me to come in and sign them. If you don’t know, this store is the ‘Godfather’ of mystery bookstores and I knew that in July many of the ITW authors in town for Thriller Fest would be stopping there to sign.

Otto Penzler, the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 13, 2008, was the publisher of The Armchair Detective, the Edgar winning quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, for seventeen years. Penzler was the founder of The Mysterious Press, which he sold to Warner Books and is now an imprint at Grand Central Publishing. He currently has imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the United States and Quercus in the U.K.

Having signed copies of my book in Penzler’s store was an achievement to be proud of – thank you Ian, Sally, & Dan! – and I am, and if you are in the NYC area, please stop in and buy a copy! It’s a great place to browse and find great new and classic mysteries.

My son-in-law Paul Carpino drove me into Manhattan. The bookstore is located in Tribeca and, not being a visitor to NYC, I am not sure what that means, except that it has something to do with actor Robert DeNiro and his film festival. I know the construction in the area made the air dirty, the streets dirty and it was 100° outside.

After meeting Sally and Dan (see photo in previous blog) Paul and I found an Irish pub one block over and had a late lunch and a few cool beers. Paul assured me that traffic along the river was light, but for someone from Key West, it was too slow and congested. However, since Paul was doing an average of 80 mph on the Jersey turnpike, the 20 mph along the Hudson allowed me to regain my composure.

Last year, I was in Los Angeles to set up my ’08 book signing and was not aware that the ITW’s Thriller Fest would be that same week. Also, I missed Hemingway Days in Key West and the Key West Haskins-Herce Family reunion! But I got to LA, signed in some great stores, and made my 10+ sales of books. And I got to meet and sign with author Michelle Gagnon. Michelle’s new book, Bone Yard, is terrific, go out and by it, if you like to be scared! http://www.michellegagnon.com/.

You can Google the bookstores I’ve mentioned to find out more about them and receive their newsletter, where you’ll find signed first editions of books, old and new. If you are not familiar with these stores, check them out.
(Photo: above, Joe Bolter, Michael and Author Michelle Gagnon at the Mystery Bookstore, Los Angeles; bottom, RaiEtte and Julio Avael with Michael at KW Island Books signing; center, Michael signing books at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in the LA area. Notice the sign, it refers to 'author - adventurer Michael Haskins.' Who thought that up?)

Next blog, LA Book Signings. Please come back.

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