A while ago Beth asked me if I’d like to take part in a blog book tour and I said what the hell, sign me up. I’ve been reading Beth’s site for a while and I was pretty certain she wouldn’t foist something on me like 503 Ways for Mommies to Be Better Mommies Through the Careful Daily Application of One-Size-Fits-All Intense Mommying Solutions, which seems to be the sort of book I normally get pitched.

She mentioned that the book was by an author named Marshall Karp, someone she does some work for and who’s also become a family friend. Marshall was kind enough to email me and I could tell right away that he seemed like a good egg. He wrote, in part:

“When I started putting together this Blog Tour (a subject I know nothing about) I was looking for bloggers who wrote about mystery and hopefully had read the first one or two books in the Lomax and Biggs franchise.  And then Beth mentioned you.  I went to your site, and rethought my specs.

I love how you think, how you write, and how you put the thoughts into words and treat the whole deal with a sense of irreverence, as if you’re just ladling up so much blog fodder, which makes me realize that it’s so much more than that.”

Obviously the man is a genius with impeccable taste, right? Also, now I kind of had a crush on him. Bring it on, book tour!

Then the book arrived and I was like, uh oh. It’s a mystery. I mean, I technically knew it was going to be a mystery but uhhhh, it’s a MYSTERY. Dag.

I am not a big mystery fan, although I couldn’t really tell you why. After all, I enjoy novels that contain dead bodies—as many as possible, please!—I like grim situations, and I like to get engrossed with the story and wonder where in hell it’s going. It seems like I’d be the perfect fan, and yet it’s been a genre I tend to avoid.

Maybe there’s a part of my mouthbreathing lizard-brain that thinks I’m too stupid for mysteries, or at least pointlessly annoyed by the idea that while I’m reading along, clueless as to whodunit, there is this invisible army of jerkheads who would have totally figured it out by now. You know how some people are all, oh, I identified the killer by chapter two and la la la I’m a fucking MENSA god? Well, suck it, Sherlock. No one’s giving you a gold star.

Uh. I probably just have issues. Anyway, so I was a little worried about whether I was going to enjoy the book and if I’d finish it in time to take part in the tour (my reading habits have thoroughly changed in the last few years, in that I used to read all the time and now I mostly get a few pages in while I’m lying in bed at the end of the day fighting off the impending coma long enough to finish this one chapter JESUS DAMN IS THAT THE BABY CRYING?), but: surprise! Flipping Out is 100% enjoyable.

Or, well, I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise, since Beth told me about it and promised it would be a good read, but then again I remember how Beth once said she crawled in her kid’s crib to help him get to sleep so clearly she is both incredibly flexible and at least partially deranged.

Anyway. I really, really liked Flipping Out: the characters are great, the police procedure storyline is fascinating, and it’s funny.There’s enough gritty stuff to please anyone looking for suspense in a crime novel, but with lots of hilarious banter and colorful, unforgettable characters. It’s a fun read, and if you’re looking for, say, a beach book, this feels a lot more satisfying than anything with a pair of heels on the cover.

(Unless the heels are dripping in blood. Then, let’s talk.)

I asked Marshall if he wouldn’t mind indulging in a little author Q&A, then belatedly realized I have no idea what kinds of questions to ask a successful author. Luckily, he put up with me and actually took the time to write some fantastic answers:

I don’t normally read mysteries, but I thoroughly enjoyed Flipping Out. So OBVIOUSLY I need to get on the stick and read your other books, and I’m thinking there may be, like, a whole genre out there I’ve been stupidly avoiding. What mystery books would you recommend as All-Time Must Reads, even for supposed non-mystery-fans? 

Being a girl, you might want to start with Nancy Drew. 

Okay, it’s always smart to get the first lame joke out of the way to lower your readers’ expectations.   

That’s not an easy question. Mainly because I have no idea what is was about Flipping Out that resonated with you. The three dimensional characters?  The page turning drama?  The pants wetting humor?  The buzz killing sex?  The absence of zombies? 

Let me fess up to the fact that on the Fraud to Expert Continuum, I’m not the best guy to answer your question.  I’m not nearly as well versed in the genre as most of my readers.  So I Googled “best mysteries of all time” and guess what? Tons of opinions, and nobody agrees on anything. 

My all time favorite is The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. I read it for the first time in 1982, and it’s still selling briskly today. 

I’m not big into paranormal, and yet I just read — and loved — Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott. (And yes, they spell Vampyres the good old-fashioned way, just like my Hungarian great-great-grandmother spelled it.)  It’s hardly an all-time-must-read, but knowing your penchant for demons of the evening, I’d probably recommend it to you. 

Beyond that, the best I can do is give you some authors I’ve enjoyed over the years:  Donald Westlake, Robert B. Parker, James Patterson, Jeffery Deaver, Jeffrey Archer, and Michael Connelly come to mind. 

I’d say you stumped me on the very first question, but give me some credit for how I weaseled out of it. 

I love the main characters in Flipping Out, LAPD detectives Lomax and Biggs. Are they inspired from any real-life people you know, or did they spring Athena-like from the confines of your skull? 

Let’s see: Mike Lomax — warm, lovable, sensitive, pays more attention to the little voice in his head than he should, intelligent, intuitive, protective, good in bed — nope, nobody comes to mind.   

Terry Biggs — master of the quick comeback, goes for the laugh every chance he gets, loyal adoring husband, devoted father, workaholic, driven by the challenge of starting a new career and rising to the top — nope, I’m drawing a blank on him too. 

I guess I just made those guys up. 
I also made up Big Jim Lomax, Mike’s well meaning, totally meddling father.  Really — he’s completely fictional.  Just ask my kids.
An Amazon reviewer wrote that as a gift she read the beginning of Flipping Out to her husband while he “lazed in bed”. Do you find this 1) titillating, 2) flattering, or 3) disturbing? 

I was cool with it until you brought it up.  I mean “lazed in bed” sounds innocuous.  But once you mentioned it, I got to wondering — is there subtext here? 

Then on Sunday I had a book signing at the Chester County Book and Music Company in West Chester, PA.  The store is a fantastic 34,000 square foot monument to books, music, and film for people of all ages and every imaginable persuasion.  It’s a destination — like Disney World, only with a better restaurant. 

Anyway, guess who showed up at my book signing?  The “lazed in bed” couple.  They are very sweet.  I think they just enjoy lying down and having someone read to them.  Which, of course, I graciously did. 

You and I have chatted a bit about zombies. In the upcoming apocalypse of the undead, what do you think your personal chances of survival might be? 

I don’t know much about Zombie Criteria.  I don’t have a handle on whom they like or don’t like.  (If I really cared I’m sure I could look it up on Match.com.)  But based on the fact that my brand of non-threatening humor cuts across all races, religions, and life forms, I would imagine I’d fit right in with the undead.  At least I hope so, because I’ll bet they’d give me some really ungodly stuff to blog about. 

What’s next on your writing plate? Will we be seeing more of Lomax and Biggs? 

I am three weeks and a dozen chapters away from finishing the first draft of the next Lomax and Biggs.  It won’t be released till May 2010, and I can’t even tell you the working title, so I’m not trying to pimp it here, but I have to say I love it.  I love it in a way where I can barely take any credit for it.  The characters are now writing the books, and they have gotten so good at it, that if they could type, I’d wind up as a greeter at Wal-Mart.  I plan to keep working with those guys for as many books as they’ll keep me on. 

But there is one other thing on my plate.  Non-fiction.  It is based on what happened to me when I was 40 years old.  I was a high-paid creative director of a big New York ad agency.  Top of the ladder.  Top of the food chain.  Top of my game.  And one day (one night, actually — because I distinctly remember it was after cocktails), I looked in the mirror and said those infamous five words that sooner or later, every single one of us will say to some mirror somewhere: 

Is this all there is? 

I felt the same way the morning after.  And so I began looking for an answer to a few basic questions.  How did my 40-year-old self get to where he is?   What did I think would make my 60-year-old self so deliriously happy with his life that he had no regrets? 

The answers didn’t come fast.  But eventually I realized that everything about my life at 40 happened because some 18-year-old kid thought it would be cool for me to be in advertising.  Eighteen-year-old Marshall was long gone, but here I was, decades later, still living that dumbass kid’s dream. 
Was the 40-year-old Marshall going to follow that kid’s plan for the next 20 or 30 years?  I decided that he wouldn’t.  The working title for my book is Confronting the Teenager Who Screwed Up Your Life.   

This will not be a dry self-help book.  It will be hilariously real, because the official formula for being funny is Pain Plus Time Equals Comedy.  My own mid-life crises (yes, plural) were painful.  But enough time has passed so that I can turn it into belly laughs.  I think it’s a book that a lot of people over 39 are going to want.  

And I lived it, so I know I can write it.

Douchey question I have to ask: if you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?  

Douchey answer I have to give: don’t ask for advice on how to be an author. 
However, I can give you some advice on how to be a writer.  Put your ass in a chair and write.  Write what you know, what you feel, what you want.  Don’t ask for permission, and if you must get feedback, trust and rely on a very small cadre of people.  Preferably those who know and love you, have some kind of qualifications for giving you constructive feedback, and have nothing to gain if you write the next DaVinci Code. 

Let me sum it up: There are a lot of people who can prevent you from becoming an author, but only one person who can stop you from being a writer. 

And if you so much as dare to ask me who that one person is, when I come back in the upcoming apocalypse of the undead, I will go directly to your village and haunt your every moment.


So there you have it, if I wasn’t already a fan of his writing I think that interview alone would send me on my one-clicking way to Amazon.

I can definitely recommend Flipping Out, and I’ve been authorized to give away a free, signed copy of the book to one of you lucky blog readers. Just leave me a comment, include your email address, and I’ll randomly pick a winner — oh, let’s say by Monday, May 4.

As for comment fodder, tell me, do you have a favorite book genre? Or one you avoid altogether? For me, my favorites are memoirs and what I guess you’d call general fiction; I tend to avoid mysteries (until now!), romances, and Westerns. How about you?

** Update: comments are now closed, and I’ll be picking the winners soon! **


228 Responses to “Flipping Out over Marshall Karp”

  1. Leslie on May 2nd, 2009 10:45 am

    I love mysteries. And funny.

  2. Leslie on May 2nd, 2009 10:49 am

    Oops! Didn’t read the last comment before posting, and thought I had until Monday. Sad!

  3. JenniferB on May 2nd, 2009 11:44 am

    I love mysteries and have run through so many and would love to have a new favorite author! ;)Wink;) Flipping Out sounds like my kind of perfect afternoon read!

  4. Chaya on May 2nd, 2009 12:07 pm

    I wasn’t a big fan of mysteries until recently, save a junior-high obsession with Agatha Christie. Then I picked up one of a series, about some detectives in Amsterdam, and am completely hooked. The author’s name is Janwillem van de Wetering, and the books are this awesome mix of Zen and relaxed European-ness and jazz-playing detectives. Other than that, I read general fiction, as you said, but I barely get through a book a month these days…

  5. wordygirl on May 2nd, 2009 2:07 pm

    I was going to comment anyway, but since there’s a free book involved – EVEN a mystery – here’s my address: lauralyzer@gmail.com.

    I usually avoid mysteries as well, and I can tell you EXACTLY why: it’s because I can’t stop thinking of the writer cackling away to him/herself at exactly how damned _clever_ he/she is being, planting these seemingly innocent and unrelated clues and then suddenly tying them all together in a great big Package Of Answers that you TOTALLY should have seen coming, you great big doofus, HAHAHAH look at how much smarter I am than you! AND you paid money for this book! I WIN!

    Just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But then again I have issues. I don’t even like surprise parties, because it meant someone else knew what was really going on and I didn’t. Sense the theme?

    If I win the book, I’ll give it to my mother-in-law. She’s obviously way more well-adjusted than I am.

  6. Tina on May 2nd, 2009 3:00 pm

    LOVED the interview! I kept that unread in my feed reader until I could really focus on it, worth the 3 day wait. Just wish I had taken his book suggestions (and HIS name) to the library when I went yesterday.

    I love mysteries. And I never figure them out by the end. I just enjoy reading as the characeters figure it out. Seems to have more a point to reading it, there’s something to figure out at the end. I also like the general action novel…and sometimes a cheesy romance.

  7. veralynn on May 2nd, 2009 9:01 pm

    intlulu at yahoo d o t com

    Faves: fiction, bios, short story/short essay, travel writing (give me a story about somebody who sailed around the world or got into some freakishly surprising experience in the middle of nowhere and I’m happy as a clam), humor and every once in a while some sci fi. Never really got into romances, westerns or most detective/mystery stuff. LOVED the Dexter books though. Definitely interested in trying Flipping Out.

  8. Jem on May 3rd, 2009 5:40 am

    Debs – zacgal AT xtra DOT co DOT nz

    I mostly read auto-biographies.

  9. Kaushik Gopal on May 3rd, 2009 5:55 am

    Ok so far there are ~208 comments (yes I’m that jobless)…So probability of me winning the book is 0.48%. But then again Sundry specifically said to leave your email-address in the comment area(“Just leave me a comment, include your email address, and I’ll randomly pick a winner”),This implies(it does even if you say it doesn’t) that the email address must be included as part of your comment….(muhaha! leaving it in the email-address field doesn’t count muhahaha!),So my probability of winning just got jacked up to 11.1%……(1/9)(you forget how jobless I am)….On second thoughts, for taking the trouble to count all them comments and tabulating the result of me winning, sundry just abuse your “I’ll randomly pick a winner”-power an award me the book :) … oh yes: “kaushikgopal at gmail.com” muhahahah!

  10. Christine on May 3rd, 2009 9:33 am

    Sounds like a book I’d like to read!

  11. Caroline on May 3rd, 2009 9:46 am

    Great books for those who might not usually read a genre (in this case, science fiction) are the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold. They have really exciting, compelling stories, great characters and they’re so much fun. But I’ve never read mysteries and I’d love to try this one. I hope I win!

  12. Cheryll on May 3rd, 2009 1:09 pm

    This book sounds great, and already love the author. I read a ton of great books but mostly the common who did it.. also Jodi Picoult is one of my all time favs.

  13. Vicki Worthing on May 3rd, 2009 2:50 pm

    Would love a new book! You sure know how to write a review. If I don’t win, I’m definitely going to have to buy it. Vicki

  14. Erin on May 3rd, 2009 3:29 pm

    I am you basic, every day, chick lit lover. I love funny books and mysteries. Lately, I’ve been really into memoirs as well.

  15. Kate on May 3rd, 2009 4:50 pm

    I generally avoid mysteries, though I’m not quite sure why since I’ve enjoyed the ones I have read. After reading this interview I’m putting this one on my to-read list even if I don’t win – I love his wit!

  16. .303 Bookworm on May 3rd, 2009 7:51 pm

    Oooh, oh oh, me, pick me, over here, no down it bit, down a bit more… yep, here! Please, please, please pick me! I’m looking for a new author and this sounds just about…perfect. hmmm … books. Gotta love a good book and boy, can I recommend a few!

    Oh wait… mail to NZ might be a bit costly. Oh well. Maybe next time!


  17. .303 Bookworm on May 3rd, 2009 7:55 pm

    @Caroline – the Vorkosigan books would be top of my recommendations list. And for a light mystery/humour how about Janet Evanovich? the Stephanie Plum series (I’m talking the ‘one for the money’ upto ‘Thirteen’ something books not the novellas) are great.

    And why don’t more people read Terry Pratchett? Sheesh…

  18. jessica fantastica on May 3rd, 2009 9:26 pm

    I’ll read anything including the back of a cereal box or shampoo bottle. Am I also letting on that I like to read and eat and read and um, the opposite of eating?

  19. Micki on May 4th, 2009 6:28 am

    I discovered Marshall Karp by accident and really loved his first 2 Lomax and Biggs books. I’m delighted that he’s getting so much buzz.

    I’d love to win the latest book. I haven’t read it yet. Here’s my email address: micki.reid@gmail.com

    Have you read the Sookie Stackhouse vampire books that the HBO series True Blood is based on? They are light and fun (for vampire books).


  20. Amy on May 4th, 2009 6:56 am

    I’d love the opportunity to try out a mystery, and this one sounds really good. I love general fiction (Fannie Flagg comes to mind as a favorite), historical books (Jane Austen), and SciFi.

    My e-mail address is:

  21. Amy M. on May 4th, 2009 6:57 am

    I hope it’s not too late to enter! I love mysteries, but I also read fantasy (started with Madeline L’Engle as a child) & have recently been on a kick of non-fiction math/econ/business kind of books like “Freakonomics”, “A Drunkard’s Walk”, & “Sway”.

  22. samantha jo campen on May 4th, 2009 9:31 am

    I don’t know if it’s too late to enter but I’m not even lying when I say mysteries. That wasn’t a suck-up answer!

  23. Caitlin on May 4th, 2009 10:13 am

    Hope I’m not too late.
    I generally go for general fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, and non-fiction on topics that interest me (Fast Food Nation, Nickel and Dimed, Michael Pollan, etc).

    Just can’t get behind so-called Chick Lit. Most of it anyway!

  24. Trenches of Mommyhood on May 4th, 2009 10:21 am

    Am I still eligible?
    Fave book topics: general fiction; humor; memoirs
    I read until I’m in a drooling coma at night too. (usually about 5.2 seconds)

  25. Rosie on May 4th, 2009 10:47 am

    Goodness, that’s a lot of responses already! I used to read a lot. Now, I can’t even make time to read the books that my book club is reading. But I do listen to book CDs that I get from the library. I like your phrase “general fiction”; my taste is whatever catches my eye reading the back cover.

  26. Amy on May 4th, 2009 10:51 am

    I love mysteries! I just read a great book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was an awesome read and I am really looking forward to the sequel. I can’t wait to check this book out, thanks for the review!

  27. Farrell Hochmuth on May 4th, 2009 11:27 am

    I’m either buying it for my mom for Mother’s Day, or winning it here…come on lucky dice!

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