Michael Haskins

Saturday, April 28, 2012

MWA 2012 Edgar Award Winners

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce the winners of the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2011. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at our 66th Gala Banquet, April 26, 2012 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

Gone by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)


Bent Road by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)


The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Hachette Book Group – Orbit Books)


Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President
by Candice Millard (Random House - Doubleday)


On Conan Doyle: Or, the Whole Art of Storytelling by Michael Dirda (Princeton University Press)


 “The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Peter Turnbull (Dell Magazines)


Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press)


 The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall (Random House Children’s Books – Knopf BFYR)


The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig (Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH)


 “Pilot” – Homeland, Teleplay by Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff (Showtime)


"A Good Man of Business" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by David Ingram (Dell Magazines)


Martha Grimes


M is for Mystery Bookstore, San Mateo, CA
Molly Weston, Meritorious Mysteries

Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group


(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 25, 2012)

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown Publishing Group)

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The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Know your guns before you put them in your protagonist's hands

The recent news headlines out of South Florida got me to thinking about handguns. I am an endangered species in that I am a liberal Democrat that supports the right to own guns. But that’s for another time. This time I am thinking about the reality of guns and what they do and what they sound like and what they feel like when shot, when empty, when loaded and how the writer has a responsibility to portray that in his/her writing.
As a writer of mysteries, there’s a lot of guns used in my books and stories. I am fortunate to have a trained military intel person, as well as police  and deputy sheriffs to go to for help and they often points out my errors.
“But I saw it on TV,” or “That’s what the website said,” are usually two of my stock comebacks.
When I moved to Key West onto my sailboat, from smoggy Southern California, I sold or gave away my few guns since there was no local gun range and not much room on Mustard Seed.
About two years ago, The Big Coppitt Gun Club opened and I have taken advantage of it for shooting and the owner’s knowledge of guns, as a backup source. I now have a few handguns that often appear in my books and when my characters shoot them, I know what I’m writing about.
There are things I write about that are the result of research and corroboration. The firing of guns is more personal than racing a car at 100 mph on US1, even if it’s a replica of the car Steve McQueen used in Bullet. If you can race the car, do it. If you can’t, find someone that has. A Monroe County Deputy Sheriff would be a good place to start, since most of US1 is 45 mph and in a few places 55 mph. I have chapters of that event happening on the seven-mile bridge, in “Car Wash Blues,” due out in August from Five Star. Someone I know really did it and we talked. I won’t drive with him!
Anyway, my point is, if you use guns in your story and, especially, if your protagonist is not a law enforcement officer, you should know how he/she feels when pulling the trigger; and I don’t mean about shooting someone. A frail 80-year old man isn’t going to shoot a .45 cal automatic without some consequences. An inexperienced 18-year old isn’t going to shoot the .45 and not be surprised (as well as miss his target) at the kick.
Learn a little about the various caliber handguns and find the one that fits your protagonist. On the other hand, what about all the other people in your stories that use guns? Not everyone uses the .45. My preference is the 9mm Sig Sauer, but my array of good guys and bad guys use revolvers as well as semiautomatics in other calibers.
Glocks, Sigs, Colts, Rugers, there’s no end to the number of handguns on the market and you should know which one will work for you character and some of its traits. Knowing the reputation of a certain brand will keep you from using a cheaply made replica of a Glock in your writing and know what caliber your gun is. Many come in a variety of calibers. Glocks come in 9mm, 40 cal & 45 cal. The Sig has a model that can switch between 9mm and 40 cal with little effort.
Did you know that Glocks and Sigs don’t have safeties? Their trigger pressure is higher than a Ruger, which has a safety. With the safety off, the Ruger requires very little trigger pressure to shoot. Glocks and Sigs require more trigger pressure to shoot. Good to know this, if there’s an physical altercation while one or more people are holding a handgun. Being knowledgeable about guns will make your story more honest and gun buffs less likely to write and explain why what you did couldn’t be done!
Do you use a real city or town in your stories? If you do, you’d better know what weapons the police or sheriff’s department issue to its officers. If you get it wrong, someone will let you know and you may have lost that reader because of your inaccuracies.
The military has a 20mm cartridge that is used in fighter jets. It will penetrate certain items, such as a boat hull, and then explode like a grenade. A couple of countries make sniper rifles that shoot the cartridge. Capacity is three-round magazine and the rifle has to be on a tripod because its recoil is so strong. Lots to know. Now, I didn’t get to shoot a 20mm round, but my military intel guy got me specifics and there were videos on the internet! The bad guys use this 20mm sniper rifle in “Car Wash Blues.”
If you alreadyuse the web for research, it’s no surprise what is on there. Check out the DEA, CIA, JIATF, JSOCK and you’ll be surprised at what you find. I was! And you thought it was all secret stuff. If you find something on the weaponry your protagonist is using, keep checking, and double check your checking. The web is as good as any place to begin your research into handguns and rifles, but don’t stop there, go to the experts.
Okay, your protagonist carries a 9mm Sig. In what? Stuck in the back of his pants like all the good guys do on TV? Get a Sig, not mine, sorry, stick it between your belt and backbone and make a mad dash down the driveway and see what happens. Looks good on TV, but unless you’re using  the right holster the gun is gonna drop on the ground. How heavy is it to just fit between your belt and back and not be a bother? Try it and find out.
For ladies, a gun in the purse is useless. Well, it gives the perp a weapon once he/she has your purse, but that isn’t your purpose. Maybe in could be in your story.
Women I know like the ‘pocket’ guns. Usually a .32 or .380 semiautomatic. It’s small, light and, as it says, it fits into your pocket. If your female protagonist wears dresses or skirts all the time, I don’t know what to tell you. Find an ankle holster that will adjust to her thigh. Who knows, maybe they make holster for that.
To help make a short blog longer, let me tell you of my mistake in “Free Range Institution.” Thankfully, it was caught by my military intel guy.
I’d read and seen TV news reports on scooter assassins in Colombia and how Pablo Escobar used them to kill his enemies. I brought a drug gang to Key West in "Free Range Institution" and in an attempt to kill Mick Murphy they use two scooter assassins to chase him, Tita and two military men through old town.
I forget the weapons I chose for them, but when the chapters came back from my source, he’d written “would topple scooter.” I called him. He explained and I went with his suggestion of using an Uzi because all you need to do is point and shoot. The Uzi will spray 30-rounds instantly and that makes it a good scooter-assassin’s weapon. It also comes with magazine holding up to 50-rounds. Point and shoot!
We write mysteries and we kill people. Do it right! Get experience, talk to experts – I don’t suggest you murder your neighbor or significant other, but do suggest real research on the matter.
Most gun ranges rent weapons and have a knowledgeable staff. Tell them you’re a writer, and you need to find the right weapon for this or that, and you might be surprised how helpful they are. Everyone likes to feel like an expert and the go-to person for a writer. Believe me, it works.
Get a feel for the weapons in your books. Discover why gun ranges – indoor like mine or outdoor like my intel’s in NC – make you wear ear protection. Once you’ve become familiar with the feel and sounds, next time a TV or movie shows an indoor gun fight, even only a few shots, and then everyone is talking about something you’ll find yourself thinking, “man, they’d be deaf as a rock after that.” You don’t want your readers saying things like that about you.
This is between us, so keep it under your hat. My military intel guy is going to be the guest speaker at the May 19th Mystery Writers of America, Florida Chapter’s luncheon. That’s what he told me this past weekend when he was in town. We discussed his talk and believe me, it’s going to be interesting. He mentioned that when he got into the intel side of the military, fiction was way ahead with its ideas. Today, he says the intel agencies are waiting for fiction writers to catch up! He has some great stories, but I’m just glad he’s not writing fiction!
Bonus question: what’s a clip and what’s a magazine. Which goes where.
It’s a common error in books, TVs, and movies. Do you make it? I did, once!
My books are available on Amazon.com, the Kindle Store, or at my website: www.michaelhaskins.net.

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