Michael Haskins

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My friend, mystery writer Mel Talyor

Deep Trouble
By Mel Taylor.
My friend Mel Taylor and I share more than just writing mysteries. We both have worked for ABC-TV and are members of Mystery Writers of America. And we're news  junkies!  Mel’s collection of three short stories is available on Kindle. His other books are available on Amazon. If you like a good mystery, from a writer who has covered South Florida for TV and knows what he writes about, these three are for you.

Double Trouble
A fishing trip takes a deadly turn. A murder on a deserted island. And a showdown in a courtroom that takes a twist. Those are the elements in three short stories set in South Florida in the collection from Fort Lauderdale author Mel Taylor. Mel is the author of two mystery novels from Avalon Publishing, Murder by Deadline and Encounter by Deadline

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There is no failure except in no longer trying

My last personal post included chapter one of “Stairway to the Bottom,” because I am on deadline to finish the book and couldn’t focus on writing a blog piece. The book cover is done and my editor has the first two hundred pages. Does it surprise anyone that I am still behind? When you’re not surviving off your earnings as a writer, then you must answer the phone, or email, when work comes calling.
Last week I received an email from Reuters News Service in Miami and they asked me to cover a story. Since then it has been followed up with other emails, phone calls and Google searches. Not much time left for writing fiction.
Diana Nyad, the long-distance swimmer, was back in Cuba last Friday to try her attempt to swim from Havana to the Florida Keys again. Last time she didn’t make it. This time she was pulled out of the water due to what is thought to be jellyfish stings. Ms. Nyad recently turned 62, so the fact that she made it close to half way a month or so ago, and went from 6 p.m. Friday to late Saturday before being pulled from the water for a doctor’s evaluation is impressive.
I have sailed from Key West to Havana’s Marina Hemingway a few times and only once was the Gulf Stream flat. Every other time, coming and going, the Gulf Stream had four-to-six foot waves and at night, when it would rain, we sometimes had waves as high as ten feet. It makes for a tough ride in a 36-foot sailboat, so I can only imagine what it’s like for a swimmer. And don’t forget the freighters, Coast Guard Cutters and the smugglers, all using the same waterway.
In fact, I can’t imagine it. If I were in the Gulf Stream late at night, it would be because my wife tripped me overboard! Honestly, between the jellyfish and sharks, as inviting as the water looks, I ain’t going in voluntary.
While I have to wonder what drives Ms. Nyad to do such things, it nice to know she is not bothered by her age and willing to be challenged. I once read there is no failure except in no longer trying. I believe this!
Every time I begin a short story or novel, I wonder about my ability to follow it through to the end. I have to make myself stop focusing on the number of things that could lead to failure and go one. Sometimes going on means less than 250 words a day,(a lot less sometimes) other times it’s not writing anything that moves the story and tossing a day or two’s worth of writing; writing so bad that not even rewriting will save it. Failures? No. Challenges. I don’t know about you, but I need to be challenged – even those times I don’t want to be! Challenged to write better, to look at where the story is going.
Like many things in life (to me, anyway) it is not always the finished product that drives my enthusiasm, but the road I have to travel to get to the end. As great as it is to type THE END on the final page, it saddens me because it is the end of a journey. A loss of friends. Maybe that’s why even my short stories continue my series’ characters. They have become friends that I worry about when I am away from the computer and, maybe, that desire to begin another journey with them is what drives me back to this book-filled room, with note cards and sayings and my country music CD selection.
What more could I ask for, a room full of books, music and my laptop, all to stimulate my imagination.
I leave you with this:
Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world – Albert Einstein.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Paul D. Brazill's : Drunk on the Moon

Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England- yes, the place where they hung the monkey.

He is currently on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He's lived in Warsaw, London and - for one scorchio summer - Madrid.

He started writing short stories at the end of 2008 and since then his stuff has appeared in loads of classy print and electronic magazines and anthologies like Noir Nation,A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Crime Factory, Pulp Ink,Dark Valentine, Needle, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers, Killers n Chillers & Radgepacket Volumes Four & Five.

He writes an irregular column for Pulp Metal Magazine and he has a story included in the 2011 Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. His short story collection '13 Shots Of Noir' will be out sometime this year, so it looks like he's getting away with something.
Check out his new book: Drunk on the Moon
The cover makes you want to open the book - in a very bright room!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A World Without Books - Guest Blogger Randy Rawls

A World without Books

When I visit a site such as Michael's and see all the excellent books reviewed and recommended, I wonder what life would be like without books. Of course, when I say books in this context, I mean fiction, written for the enjoyment of others.

I think back over the years and remember some of the great stories I've read. Just a couple:

To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee's only book has attracted millions of readers around the world. I re-read it every few years, and each time I get more out of it. Such a pleasure to explore with Scout, to worry about "Boo" Radley, to see the respect she has for her father, the love for her brother, and all the other wonderful emotions Ms. Lee captures. And, of course, to learn about the evil of racism through the eyes of a young girl. Who can say what impact her book had on the struggle for equality? I think, much. Without her book, there would have been no movie. And without that movie, Gregory Peck's career would not have been what it was. Maybe he would have won an Oscar for another role, but he DID win for playing Atticus Finch—that's a fact. Four others who participated in the movie won Oscars. Five more were nominated. All this because Harper Lee wrote one book—not even a big book. But it was a book that lives on today, fifty-one years after its first publication.

Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Unlike To Kill a Mockingbird, this book was one of many from its author. Although only a novella, the simple story has stuck around for forty-nine years, picking up a Pulitzer Prize in 1952. In 1958, Spencer Tracy starred in its movie adaptation. The movie won one Oscar and Tracy and the cinematographer were nominated for Oscars. It had a reincarnation as made-for-TV-movie in 1990 starring Anthony Quinn and racked up a stack of Emmy nominations. Without Hemingway's little story, none of the awards would have been possible.

So many great stories written over the generations. Far too many for me to continue to use Michael's blog to discuss. But stop a moment and consider how barren our world would be had there been no authors and, thus, no books. Too sad for me to imagine.

I don't claim to have written anything that will have the longevity of either of the above, but it's one I enjoyed writing. THORNS ON ROSES is a South Florida thriller. Tom Jeffries has good reasons not to trust the justice system. It failed him before, and he believes it will fail again. When the teenage daughter of his best friend is found dead, a victim of gangland rape, Tom vows to avenge her. I hope you'll stop in and take a look. It's available as a paper book and an eBook.

Randy Rawls

THORNS ON ROSES, a South Florida Thriller

SMOKEY AND BANDIT in Cats in a Dreamspell
Ace Edwards, Dallas PI Mysteries

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dismal River by Wayne D. Dundee

Dismal River

by Wayne D. Dundee

The Nebraska Sandhills of the 1880s are a vast, untamed expanse of treeless, rolling hills scoured by harsh wind and blistering sun. Into this rugged landscape former Indian scout Lone McGantry reluctantly agrees to lead an expedition of explorers and adventurers headed by an English lord. The hardships of the environment soon become secondary, however, when other threats—both from within and without—overtake the expedition. Deceit, betrayal, stampeding buffalo, a raging grass fire, and a band of ruthless marauders all must be dealt with. The very survival of the expedition is at stake. Lives will be lost and the banks of the Dismal River will be scorched and stained by blood before the ordeal is finished. --Amazon's Editorial Reviews.

Wayne Dundee lives in the once-notorious old cowtown of Ogallala, on the hinge of Nebraska's panhandle. He relocated there after spending the first fifty years of his life in the state line area of northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin.

A widower, retired from a managerial position in the magnetics industry, Dundee now devotes full time to his writing.

To date, Dundee has had seven novels, three novellas, and over two dozen short stories published. Most of his work, to date, has featured his PI protagonist, Joe Hannibal. He also writes in the fantasy, straight crime, and Western genres. His 2010 Western short story, "This Old Star", won a Peacemaker Award from the Western Fictioneers writers' organization and his first Western novel, Dismal River, came out in June 2011 from Oak Tree Press.

Titles in the Hannibal series have been translated into several languages and nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony, and six Shamus Awards. Dundee is also the founder and original editor of Hardboiled Magazine.

Website: http://wayneddundee.com/

Saturday, September 3, 2011

BULLET FOR ONE by Brian Drake

Mystery writer Brian Drake has just released Bullet for One on Kindle.

Here's a little about the story and, if you are so inclined, chapter one of the Kindle book to whet your appetite.


Five years ago John Coburn watched as his father was gunned down by a masked man. Tortured by the fact that the killer was never caught, Coburn fights the feelings of failure that haunt his every waking moment.

Now, history has repeated itself. When his best friend Felix is murdered after agreeing to protect a witness, John Coburn dives in to catch the killer before the police and FBI. Battling official law enforcement and his own demons, Coburn turns over every lead, rattles every cage, and stretches his own moral code to the breaking point. As he digs deeper into a mystery that involves a team of thieves, corrupt businessmen, and a mafia kingpin with a price on his head, Coburn realizes that revenge has a cost he cannot calculate.

If he fails, can he live with another ghost?

If he succeeds, can he live with the consequences?

Chapter 1

There wasn’t anybody but me in the hotel hallway and the low hum of the air conditioner the only other sound as I made my way to Suite 1911. The key card in my front shirt pocket fit into the slot above the doorknob and the lock clicked.

I pushed the door open and stepped inside and—

She stood behind the door raising a pistol. She wasn’t going to bash me with her automatic. She wanted to blow my head off and had the trigger back halfway. I grabbed her wrist. The gun fired and the shot smacked into the arm of the couch. I slammed my elbow into her chin. Her head snapped back. I twisted the gun from her hand and shoved her into the wall. She dropped to her knees.

I glanced at the gun. A Colt .45, like mine, with a familiar notch on the slide. Felix’s gun.

A closet door across the room swung open and a big man with a ponytail came out with a revolver. I brought up the .45 and fired twice. He landed on the floor.

What was happening here?

The woman screamed, jumping up, kicking and punching my knees, stomach and face and each hit landed dead on and I fell back on the corner of the coffee table. Felix’s gun flew from my hand; I tried to rise but the woman sent an enraged kick into my face.

The women gave Ponytail a quick glance before she raced out the door.

The room spun for awhile and then I blacked out.

“He’s awake, Captain.”

Two faces looked down at me. I tried to get up, but a flood of dizziness put me right back down again. Then I rolled onto my left side and vomited on the carpet.

“Take it easy, John,” Nick Shepherd said, kneeling beside me.

The other guy, a police doctor I recognized, flashed a penlight in my eyes.

“He’ll be all right,” the doctor said. He shut off the light.

“Thanks, Doctor,” Nick said over his shoulder as the doctor went away.

“What’s going on?” I said, stretching out on my back again.

Nick looked down at me, big as a house with a white crew cut. Captain of the Las Palmas PD Robbery/Homicide Squad. One of those cops who knew you couldn’t always do it by the book and that’s why we were friends. Other things made us friends, too. He’d been in the military same as me, but while I had served as an agent with the Criminal Investigations Division, Nick had spent his days jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.

“Don’t try to talk,” he said. “Bunch of my guys here, some Feds, too. They’re interested in the guy you shot. Have a lot of questions.”

I groaned.

“I have questions for you, too, but they can wait. Just lay there and take it easy. I’ll be right back.”

I stared at the tiled ceiling. My body started to tingle.

Where was Felix?

Nick returned with a tall black man I didn’t know. He wore a dark suit, white shirt, dark tie, a gold badge clipped to the pocket of his Tahoe. His hair had a streak of white in it. On the right side of his neck was a short jagged scar.

“John, this is Special Agent Winters, FBI.”

“Hello, Mr. Coburn.”


“What happened tonight? Where’s Felix Tower?”

“He wasn’t here when I arrived.”

“What did he share with you regarding his current assignment?”

“Forget it.”

“Are you going to answer my questions or not?”


“I can make this—”

“No you can’t.”

Nick said: “All right, that’s enough.” He turned to the Fed. “Tomorrow morning. My office. You can ask all the questions you want.” Down at me: “I’m sure John will talk to you then.”

“This is a federal case, Captain Shepherd.”

Nick said: “And your only witness won’t talk until he’s ready. My office tomorrow morning, ten o’clock.”

Winters flipped his notebook closed and gave me a look. I closed my eyes a moment, opened them; Nick stood alone.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Are you ever going to grow up?”

I started to push myself up. Nick gave me a hand. I ached all over.

It began the previous afternoon just after lunch. Coburn & Associates sat on the fifth floor of a downtown building. My only “associate”, with the exception of a few free-lancers I bring on now and then, was my secretary, Leanna Foster.

I’d opened up after my army discharge. Mostly I did background checks for a few corporations, divorce cases, routine stuff.

Leanna was a husky gal who kept her auburn hair tied back and stuck to matching blouses and skirts for work; she had one of those folding picture frames on her desk with her husband Steve on one side, the other left blank for their first child. She and Steve wanted children, but were having trouble. She’d told me once in no uncertain terms: “When I finally get pregnant, I’m out of here,” but I hoped Steve kept shooting blanks. I couldn’t run the shop without her.

I hung up my coat and said: “Did you get the check from Hamilton?”

“Deposited it during my lunch break.”

I went over to the lobby couch and examined the left cushion. The hole that had been there was now covered with a patch of matching fabric. “You have this done while I was gone?”

“Hole was getting too big.”

“How much?”

“You’ll see the bill.”

“It’s amazing I can afford you the way you spend money. You spend your husband’s money like this?”

“My husband doesn’t have any money.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

I crossed the outer room to my private office with the big desk in the center and photographs taken by yours truly on the wall behind. They made for great conversation pieces with nervous clients, and learning about my favorite hobby prior to explaining why they wanted a private investigator helped ease the tension.

I didn’t have any pictures or mementos of the army. Those years had been good to me, but they were part of a past I sometimes did not want to think about.

I settled into my padded leather chair. The springs squeaked.

I’d been working on the reports for the last few jobs when Leanna transferred a call to me.

Felix Tower’s voice boomed from the other end of the line. We’d known each other since we were kids, served in the same military police outfit. It was via the MPs that I made my way into CID; Felix had followed. We were like brothers. When we mustered out and returned home, I opened my agency and Felix started his own company.

Felix ran an executive protection company with offices all over the United States. I had wanted him as my partner in the P.I. office, but he wanted to go his own way. We helped each other from time to time, though.

“Just got back from FBI headquarters,” he said.

“Oh, no.”

“I need you.”


“I’m sitting on something really hot. Help me baby-sit. Easy money. Right here in the City. Triple your regular rate if you want.”

“What’s the story?”

“Not on the phone. Meet me at Kottinger Park in twenty minutes.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Don’t sound so excited.”

“Only because it’s you, Felix.”

“See you in twenty.”

Felix’s gray Caddy pulled up behind me. Felix smiled and held a rolled up magazine in his hand. A little shorter than me with a rolly-polly frame, I wouldn’t bet against him in a fight. Under the bulk was plenty of muscle and he knew fighting tricks I had not bothered to learn.

“We could have done this at my office,” I said.

“Let’s go sit down.”

“Can’t be so serious you brought the latest MAD magazine, is it?”

“Just in case you were late,” he said as I grabbed it from him, flipped through a few pages.

“Can’t believe you still read this crap.”

“Keeps me young. Don’t fold the back page! I haven’t looked at it yet.”

We sat at a picnic table under a thick tree. The full branches seemed to block out most of the sky. I tossed the magazine back to him. “So?”

“Witness protection. FBI asked my company to do it.”

“Why you? The Feds have guys who do this.”

“They’re afraid of leaks.”

“Something wrong with the plumbing?” I grinned.

Felix didn’t crack a smile. “You know what I mean,” he said.

“Who’s the witness?”

“Jimmy Wexler. We need to make sure nothing happens to him.”


“Until the Feds move against his gang,” Felix said. “Couple days. Hotel suite, expenses, everything covered.”

I shook my head.

“Come on, Johnny.”

A light wind rustled the leaves above us. A car turned the corner; Felix’s eyes darted toward it, his shoulders tensed, and we reached for guns at the same time. The car continued past, a mother and her little girl in the front. She kept driving up the street and disappeared from view.

I took my hand away from my gun and turned back to Felix. He still watched the street, his own .45 already drawn and resting on his lap.

“It’s like that?”

He nodded.

“Anybody following you?” I said.

Another nod.


“He’s sure of it,” Felix said, finally putting his gun away.

“Where is he right now?”

“At the hotel. I check in with him every hour. He says he’s getting a little stir crazy, but nothing’s happened so far. He’s just waiting for us.”

“All right. Five-hundred dollars a day.”

“I’ll swing it.”

“What now?”

“The Hilton on Maddox and Greenwood tonight.” He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a plastic hotel key card. “You get the night shift. Eight sharp.”

Nick watched me after I finished the story. He said: “What about Wexler?”

“Right now I’m more concerned with Felix.”

An hour later I finally made it home, the house quiet, the microwave clock showing 2:45 a.m.

Sitting on the edge of my bed, I took off my shoes, took a breath, tried to organize my thoughts. After three rings the other line picked up; a woman answered. Felix’s wife, Denise.

“Felix is missing.”

“Well—what—I mean—”

“I’m talking to some FBI guys in a few hours. I’ll know more then.”

“But, John—”

“Want me to come over?”

She said nothing for a moment. “No. I’m okay. Call me as soon as you’re done.”

“I will.”

She hung up.

I undressed and climbed into bed. Thought about Felix, the woman, the man I shot. Wexler’s buddies making a play before he could talk? Sure. But how had they known where to go? The leak must have been worse than the Feds had realized. Somebody close to the case knew everything.

Find the leak, find Felix.

If he was still alive.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hallinan's The Little Elvises

Here is another popular mystery/thriller writer who has published an eBook. Check it out.

2011 Edgar and Macavity nominee Timothy Hallinan brings back Junior Bender in The Little Elvises, the burglar-hero of CRASHED, in a hilarious Los Angeles thriller about old-time rock-and-roll, missing persons, the world's oldest gangster, and a terrifying if somewhat hapless hit man named Fronts. Fans of Robert B. Parker, Donald E. Westlake, and Lawrence Block will love Junior Bender, whom Brett Battles called “smart and funny, with a penchant for finding himself in situations he'd much rather avoid. Do not miss any of these books.”

In the 1990s he wrote six mysteries featuring the erudite private eye Simeon Grist, beginning with "The Four Last Things," which made several Ten Best lists, including that of The Drood Review. The other books in the series were widely and well reviewed, and several of them were optioned for motion pictures. The series is now regarded as a cult favorite.

In 2007, the first of his Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, "A Nail Through the Heart", was published to unanimously enthusiastic reviews. "Hallinan scores big-time," said Kirkus Reviews, which went on to call the book "dark, often funny, and ultimately enthralling." "Nail" was a Booksense Pick of the Month and was named one of the top mysteries of the year by The Japan Times and several major online review sites.

Rafferty's Bangkok adventures continued with "The Fourth Watcher" (2008) and "Breathing Water" (2009), both of which also appeared on "year's best" lists. New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart said about the 2010 book, "The Queen of Patpong," "You won't read a better thriller this year," and Ken Bruen said, "John Burdett writes about Bangkok. Tim Hallinan is Bangkok. I adore this book."

Hallinan has written full-time since 2006. Since 1982 he has divided his time between Los Angeles and Southeast Asia, the setting for his Poke Rafferty novels.

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