Michael Haskins

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

6 Things about me and books . . .

Joan Reeves, from Slingwords.blogspot.com, tagged me to write “6 things about me and books.” She also tagged: Sweet But Sassy Adina, Bill Crider, Cait London, and L. C. Hayden.

Books, as I look over my computer desk I have four room-length bookshelves above me, filled past capacity with books I’ve read and, laying on their sides, books on my ‘to read’ list. So 6 things . . . here goes . . .

1) In high school, I was anything but a motivated student. I think it was the ninth or tenth grade, while in study class, in the English teacher’s classroom, I pulled a book from a rack called “Men Without Women” by Hemingway. Mr. Carlin, the teacher, came up to me and said something like, to paraphrase, “put the book back you aren’t bright enough to understand it.” He may have been kinder, but I was insulted (you can’t hurt a teenager) and went home to borrow against my allowance and bought the book the next day. I soon devoured all of Hemingway’s books I could find at school (not many) and the library. So, I guess, I turned an insult into a bad habit, reading and buying books!

2) When I was young, before God decided to call dirt, dirt, magazines of all sorts had at least one short story in it. I got in the habit of going through all my mother’s magazines, looking for short stories; that soon had me going through the short story anthologies in the library.

3) Somewhere, out of place, I discovered the Beats! The movement was almost over, but I couldn’t relate to hippies and dropping out. I loved to read about the Beats and their writings and adventures. Of course, that led to Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I think I’ve read all of Kerouac’s works and many of the other Beats, including the poetry. It was about this time I decided I wanted to be a writer and, in many cases, unfortunately, it had to do with the way Hemingway and Kerouac lived!

4) During high school, I got a weekend job on the Boston Record-American/Sunday Advertiser as the midnight-8 a.m. office boy. Yeah, I know, it’s political incorrect today, but back then, that’s what I was. Following in Hemingway’s footsteps, right? I learned more about journalism those years than I ever did from higher education! I read all I could of books by journalists like Jimmy Breslin, and, of course, Damon Runyon. I wanted their style and today I will still watch “Guys & Dolls” when it’s on an old movie channel!

5) I will always be a short story fan, but by the time I moved to Los Angeles, I was reading mysteries and discovered LA had a hatful of mystery writers, long after Raymond Chandler had died. I also discovered Mystery Writers of America, SoCal Chapter and joined. Hell, the list of writers I met at the socials and dinners is too long to print here and I would probably miss more than one writer that was good to me and listened to my questions and gave answers. It was a great time in my life and got me to start writing my own novels. Of course, I had a draw full of short stories no one would publish, too.

6) Fast forward to my leaving LA and moving to Key West, end of the road – or the beginning, depending on your vision. I had come full circle; I was the business editor/writer for the daily rag, the Key West Citizen. I found time to write, while I lived on a floating home in a local marina – think of a two-story, one-bedroom house on a barge and that was my home. Come 1998 and Hurricane Georges blew the floating home out to sea and it was never found! Everything I had, including a great collection of first editions – many signed – were lost. I began to rebuild my library, but it was hard because I was living on a sailboat. But I had joined MWA Fla. Chapter and got to meet many talented mystery writers and began attending their events – 150 miles north of Key West. And I kept writing. A couple of years ago, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine bought and published my short story, “Murder in Key West,” and a few weeks later I received a contract from Five Star for my book, “Chasin’ the Wind.”

It took a lot of books and time to get from high school to Key West and published. Books are as much of a passion as is writing, in fact, I believe, as does Steve King, if you don’t’ read voraciously, you can not write.

Now, there are 6 things about me and books you could probably have lived a good long life without knowing, but I was asked to participate, so I did. What 6 things about you and books don’t we all know? Why not tell us?

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