Michael Haskins

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Truth is often stranger than our fiction/How the capture of Whitey Bulger changed my novel

I have been working for almost a year on my next book, Stairway to the Bottom, and a portion of the story is driven by the fact that Boston gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is still in hiding and has been for 16 years.

Well, that changed last week! I am 200 pages into the story and long past any section on Whitey, accept one segment of the book does deal with US Marshals and FBI agents after a man they think knows where Whitey is hiding.

Come on, Whitey is 81 years old, couldn’t he have kept moving to, say, South America or some Caribbean island? No, he hides in Santa Monica, California with a few million other retirees! I wouldn’t take this personal, but he’s Irish, from Boston and so and I and Mick Murphy!

What to do?

Most of the story is about the hunt for a man, a known associate of Whitey’s, and how Mick Murphy is swept into it even though he doesn’t want to be. The man they are looking for is running from the witness protection program and was a killer working for Bulger – not giving anything way with that info, since it comes out early in the book. The others group looking for him is an eclectic collection of retired spies that think the man on the run is an old Cold War spy who conned European governments out of millions in diamonds with the promise of supplying a list of what western government officials worked with the East Germans – this as the Berlin Wall came down.

I have gone back to the beginning and it hasn’t been too hard to change the search for Whitey’s location to the search for Whitey’s millions.

That’s not strange enough for you? How about this.

The book opens when Murphy finds out a drinking associate has jumped on a Jet Ski and headed south, saying to employees of his Jet Ski company that he’s gotta run because agents are out to get him.

Well, that really happened here in Key Weird a year ago or so and the man and Jet Ski have never been found. Now try making that up. Who’d believe it?


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