Michael Haskins

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Today, Feb. 16, is the release date of my 2nd book, Free Range Institution, in my Mick Murphy Key West Mystery series. I thought I would share some words from those that got to review the book prior to today. If the reviews pique you interest, please buy the book at an independent bookstore or go to my website - www.michaelhaskins.net - and I list a few of my favorite bookstores and they take internet orders. All bookstores need our support.


“Free Range Institution.”

Booklist Review (January 1, 2011)

This title will publish in February 2011


Free Range Institution. Haskins, Michael (Author)

Feb 2011. 382 p. Five Star, hardcover, $25.95. (9781594149290).

Mick Murphy, the news hawk hero of Haskins’ latest Key West mystery, makes a classic reporter goof. He pretends to be a little closer to the action than he really is. Both good and bad guys take him at his word, and the chase is on. At the heart of it all is a plot to bring a particularly cheap and addictive drug called paco into the U.S. As the good guys assemble behind Mick and check their guns, echoes of Miami Vice reverberate, with both its pastel glitz and its underlying despair. The cartels have more money and guns; the best the rest of us can do is hold together. Things get lively as the confrontation approaches, but this really isn’t a high-concept action novel or even a stripped-down thriller. It’s about adult relationships, and its generous use of the Key West setting will appeal to readers who like local color. Since it’s the Keys, a lot of beer and rum goes down, and there’s much eating of cheeseburgers, dolphin sandwiches, and breakfast eggs with hot sauce.

Don Crinklaw

Mark Howell


Solares Hill

It’s a very different book from Haskins’ first Murphy novel. Not simply in length but in range of characterization. I truly like all of these people – Jim, Norm, Tita (when do I get to meet her?) and, naturally, the Padre and Murphy himself. Also the plentiful bad guys and the two top cops . . . they come across as all too real. There’s an almost Felliniesque display of characters here and I think that’s what will keep readers engaged through quite a heavy plot – not just the plotting but the bad guys’ plot in itself.

There’s also a most vivid description going on. Despite the legally required name changes, which I actually enjoy, the scene setting is evocative throughout. It’s one of Haskins trademarks - although not overdone, strangely it’s extremely simple, no overwriting.

Let me tell you this: Like in many compelling novels, the opening scene is perhaps the most compelling in the whole book, driven by a dream-like experience of that falling body, plus the falling hat, and the subsequent reactions and police activity. I was there - and still am.

And if I was a reader who’d never, ever been to Key West, the scenes that follow, especially the one on the hotel roof with its view over the harbor and all the scurrying below, those scenes would have brought me to town on the very next ticket. Totally compelling.

Finnegan’s, the Hog’s Breath, the Schooner Wharf, the rant about the Churchills . . . There’s so much in “Free Range Institution” that it kept me up all night reading.

International Thriller Writers

February Review

Leighton Gage

Free Range Institution

Mick Murphy’s Return – and Michael Haskins’ Secret

Good news! Mick Murphy is back.

I was introduced to Mick back in 2008, (that was in Chasin’ the Wind) and I’ve been chasin’ a sequel ever since.

Now, finally, in February of 2011, author Michael Haskins, is giving us one.

It’s called Free Range Institution.

Mick, for those of you who haven’t met either one of them, bears a striking physical resemblance to his creator.

They both smoke cigars. They both drink Jameson Irish Whiskey. They both have beards – Haskins’ is salt-and-pepper, Murphy’s is red. They both wear Boston Red Sox caps.

Michael is a colorful and interesting character to write about, but he lives in Key West most of the time. And, unlike Mick, he never disappears for three years in succession. So, even though Key West may be off the beaten track for many, it’s still a heck of a lot easier to catch up with Michael than it is to catch up with Mick.

Let me then hold forth, in the first instance, about Mick. Who, I hope, isn’t going to keep us waiting quite so long before he relates his next adventure.

Yeah, that’s right. Mick tells his own stories.

The books are written from the point-of-view of Liam (nicknamed “Mad Mick,” or simply “Mick”) Murphy, a journalist and a sailor.

Hey! Michael Haskins is also a journalist and a sailor. But I’m talking about Mick. Or am I? Sometimes I get confused.

You would, too, if you had the experience I had a few months ago.

It was like this: I was in the ‘States for a short visit. A friend of mine and I decided to drop down to Key West for a day and, while there, visited Michael. He’d just received some ARCs of Free Range Institution – and was kind enough to gift me with one. (Actually, he didn’t have much of a choice. Remember I mentioned Michael is a sailor? Right. Well, as such, he has considerable upper-body strength. But there were two of us, and my friend held him down while I twisted his arm.)

But I digress.

I didn’t get a chance to crack open Free Range Institution while I was in Key West, because even more important things, like drinking, got in the way. But, as we made the rounds of the bars, Michael kept introducing me to his friends, of which he has many. I confess that I remember some of the faces better than others. The ones I met earlier in the evening being the ones less-blurred, but I can still recall most of the names.

And guess what? They’re all right there, in Free Range Institution. Bill, Karen, the lot. They are all right there.

I always wondered how Michael Haskins was able to write with such verisimilitude about Key West and the people who live there. But that was back when I thought he was inventing all of those characters.

Now I know different.

Michael Haskins’ secret is that almost all of those people really exist. They’re friends of his, neighbors of his, people he knows, people he likes, even people he doesn’t like. All he does is string the words together to describe them. (Note to people who aren’t authors: Stringing words together is something you might not find as easy as I make it sound.)

Oh, yeah, every now and then Michael takes some artistic license with his character development (like with a certain priest in Free Range Institution whose persona will haunt you – and I use the word haunt quite judiciously). But he reserves his major firepower for his plots.

And the word firepower is also used judiciously.

Free Range Institution is chockablock with action on the land and on the sea. Colombian drug lords, crooked DEA agents, evil politicians, undercover cops, they’re all there - and all shooting it out with each other.

I doubt there has been more blood spilled in that little town since the days of Commodore David Porter, who back in the early 1820s, ran his anti-pirate squadron out of Key West. (Footnote: Porter, like Michael and Mick, was born in Massachusetts. Isn’t that bizarre?)

Ever heard of the dangerous and highly-addictive drug paco? I hadn’t. You will, if (did I say if? I meant when) you read Free Range Institution. It’s the illicit importation of that paco upon which Michael hangs his engaging plot.

The title? Oh, yeah, that’s from a song written by Scott Kirby. Michael reproduces these lyrics at the beginning of the book:

I’m living in a free-range institution

It’s a three-ring circus with twelve-step programs to choose


An open-air asylum at its best

Your shrink says you need a little sun and rest

Baby, check yourself right in to Key West

Rest? Fat chance! You’re going to get precious little of that in Michael Haskins Key West. Free Range Institution is non-stop action – and guaranteed to keep you up all night.

Leighton Gage is the author of the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation series set in Brazil. His fourth in the series, Every Bitter Thing, came out late last year. Gage has his home in Santana do Parnaiba, Brazil, and also travels frequently to the Netherlands and Florid.



Free Range Institution-Michael Haskins

Free Range Institution
Michael Haskins
Five Star,
Mar 9 2011, $25.95
ISBN 9781594149290

Reporter Liam “Mad Mick” Murphy and attorney Tita Toledo go to lunch on what each hopes will prove a romantic interlude. Instead they watch Murphy's waterfront pal
Jay Bruehl dive off the roof of the six-story Hotel Key West. A notorious snitch, the late Bruehl recently informed Murphy about a big drug deal. The Hotel Key West happens to host Colombian traffickers discussing importing deadly low-grade cocaine though the Keys.

After gaining entrance to the drug meeting, undercover cop
Rebecca Connelly vanishes. Padre Thomas Collins claims angels informed him where Connelly is being held. They find her battered corpse at the locale the priest said she could be found. The federal, state and local law enforcement officials and the drug cartel target Collins and Murphy. Soon Key West becomes a graveyard as violence turns the Caribbean into a red sea.

The second Mad Mick Key West thriller (see Chasin' the Wind) is a wild over the top of Solares Hill (make that the proposed Miapolis) as once again readers will wonder what is the difference between the good and bad guys as neither seems concerned with collateral damage. The story line is fast-paced with more bullets flying in the
Conch Republic than Al Capone ever authorized in Chicago as mad Mick lies to authorities to get the story and obtains reinforcements from a horde of souls even crazier than he is. Fans who ignore plausibility and appreciate that death has become a local growth industry will enjoy the Free Range Institution gunfight at Key West.

Blurbs from the book jacket

“A masterful tropical mystery. Every city has an ugly underbelly populated with bad guys—even touristy Key West. In Michael Haskins’ deft storytelling, this tip-of-Florida isle—literally at the end of the road—is equal parts paradise and murderous mayhem, one made all the more exciting by his hero, Boston Irishman Mad Mick Murphy.”
W.E.B. Griffin &
William E. Butterworth IV, Wall Street Journal and New York Times #1 bestselling authors

“I've seen some crazy things in Key West, but Michael Haskins' Free Range Institution beats it all. People leaping from buildings, and hanging from trees...angels who tell the future and enough drugs and corruption to destroy the entire Key. Try to keep up, because things happen at breakneck speed!”

Don Bruns

Award winning author of

Stuff To Spy For, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, Barbados Heat, Jamaica Heat

“I’ve had the privilege of spending a month during each of three years on Key West. Michael Haskins has lived on the Rock for more than a decade and like most non-natives who become reporters for local newspapers, he’s absorbed more island life and lore than most. FREE RANGE INSTITUTION is a wonderful new entry in his Mick Murphy mystery series. Happily for those who love Key West, FREE RANGE INSTITUTION is both a terrific ride through, and a terrific read about, the people and places personifying America’s beachhead in the ‘North Caribbean.’”

Jeremiah Healy,

author of RESCUE and SPIRAL

“Imagine . . . cocaine cowboys, side street shootouts, big city crimes in small town surroundings, fallen angels, a chain-smoking priest . . . corruption . . . greed . . . murder . . . covert operations . . . with journalist Mad Mick Murphy reporting. Michael Haskins’ narrative makes us comfortable in Key West . . . before he roars through the island like a Tropical Hurricane. It’s a perfect storm.”

Steven M. Forman, author of

Boca Knights and Boca Mournings

“I'm hooked! Mad Mick Murphy is a quixotic character in an exotic setting. Key West offers him crimes to solve, eccentric people to confound his journalistic ambitions, and life-threatening adventures to entertain readers.”
Shirrel Rhoades
Editorial Director
The Saturday Evening Post

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