For anyone who has visited Key West, or any Caribbean island, the first thing they notice is a phenomenon known as ‘island time’. Things travel at their own pace. If a beer takes 10 minutes to get to you, so be it. If you have to wait in line 15 minutes while the clerk and a shopper chat, life goes on. What visitors don’t realize is that ‘island time’ is just one outward sign of an entire lifestyle which is totally foreign to most Americans and Europeans. While non-islanders see it as rudeness and slothfulness, locals wonder what all the rush and demands are.
Michael Haskins gives us a glimpse of ‘island time’ and island life in his debut novel, CHASIN’ THE WIND, which is set in and around Key West’s ‘Old Town’. With ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy, a freelance journalist, as our tour guide, we are exposed to the sultry lazy days and the laid-back bar hopping island nights that most of us secretly envy. One would almost expect Hemingway to walk through the door and start an argument at the bar.
Mick, who has a supposedly violent past, has spent most of his career writing about Central and South American foreign affairs. He has made Key West his hermitage from the ghosts of his former life in California when he is suddenly confronted with violence and the need for revenge upon discovering the murder of one of his sailing buddies. Haskins takes us on a wild-wind journey of inept local police, mysterious agents from competing ‘agencies’, Cuban espionage and soulless murderers. The story rushes you along the surface so fast you think you are sailing on the Gulf Stream.
The downside to this is that, because CHASIN’ THE WIND is a thriller, Haskins gives the novel the feeling of a New York minute. Mick Murphy is someone you want to get to know, someone you want to relate with; however, we are never really given the chance.
The end of CHASIN’ THE WIND has sequel stamped all over it, and I really hope that that is true. Michael Haskins has the wonderful ability to evoke the sights and smells of the island out of thin air, and it doesn’t hurt that he has Mick drinking Jamesons like most of us drink water. Haskins just needs to give us the same feeling for his characters, and to let the ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy series find some island time, so we can get to know the characters, their interconnections, and the plots better. – Josh Schrank
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.