My Writing Journey
By J.M. “Mike” Hayes
I've evolved from an emerging cynic into an evangelical curmudgeon. Some say I write left of center, but it's not that simple. Studying anthropology at Wichita State and the University of Arizona left me a social liberal. Years as a business owner made me a fiscal conservative. My life, and time as a civil servant, helped the cynic emerge. Volunteering as a neighborhood association officer and for an election integrity committee, and decades living in Arizona–a testing ground for ineffective government and radical political philosophies–forged me into someone ready to man the literary barricades.
My first book, a tale of Indian resistance to the draft in 1940, resulted from my anthropology studies. Tony Hillerman said of The Grey Pilgrim, “Wow! Here's one you shouldn't miss.” The novel was a featured “Best of the Southwest” selection, and chosen by General Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for an Integrity reading list at North Carolina State's Leadership Forum. I finished another story about conflict between America and its native populations, just in time for my publisher to fire my editor. After years of revisions and resubmissions, I reinvented myself.
My father grew up in an idyllic Kansas village. It changed when the town suffered its first murder. People who never locked doors suddenly did, and began eying their neighbors suspiciously. My new series focused on how a small community reacts when the unthinkable happens. How a sheriff, with a limited budget and not much competent help, investigates a crime before his community comes apart. Worse, how he handles it when they come together to blame the town oddball–in this case, the sheriff's brother, a born-again Cheyenne and wannabe shaman.
The new series features cinema-like action, shifting viewpoints crowded into short time periods, humor, and what just might be magic. My “Cheyenne” character provides an outsider's view of modern American culture. As the series developed, I broadened its scope by moving some plot lines to Arizona.
The Mad Dog & Englishman series has been well received. "McMurtry on skates...hilarious....” – Mark Bernstein, The Drood Review of Mysteries. "Hayes' stories..., , are complicated, convoluted, high-speed and a lot of fun." – Michelle Shealy, MyShelf.com Reviews.“. Robert Altman meets John Woo with a scary chunk of Roman Polanski thrown in....” – John Orr, The San Jose Mercury. “...[T]he best madcap cozy to hit the genre since Joan Hess' Maggody series....” – Barbara Bibel, Booklist (Starred Review). “...[G]ives Janet Evanovich a run for the wackiest characters and most bizarre plots in crime fiction." – Jo Ann Vicarel, Library Journal (Starred Review).
In Server Down. Mad Dog, with Sheriff English's daughter, Heather, are in Tucson, caught up in a crime so huge it stretches from Kansas to Arizona. English Lessons (2011) again splits the action between Arizona and Kansas. Heather and Mad Dog find themselves in the middle of a border drug war involving a deadly militia, events with eerie parallels to what's happening to Sheriff English on a wild Christmas Day.
Publishers Weekly says of English Lessons, “The book's wry tone doesn't hide the author's contempt for irresponsible leaders and the yahoos who mindlessly follow them. Hayes cares about the English family with their enduring sanity and resilience, and so will readers.”
The Grey Pilgrim (1990, Walker and Company; author's revised edition, 2000, Poisoned Pen Press) is a stand alone. The Mad Dog & Englishman mysteries (Poisoned Pen Press) include Mad Dog & Englishman (2000), Prairie Gothic (2003), Plains Crazy (2004), Broken Heartland (2007), Server Down (2009), and English Lessons (2011).
The line for the posse forms here. Join us.