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! **

First, can I just say how useful Twitter was for me today? After crabbing about my broken blog and the difficulty I was having getting help from my hosting provider, GoDaddy.com, @MommyMelee suggested I try @GoDaddyGuy, who not only wrote me back right away but also CALLED ME. And then, unlike the tech support person I’d talked to beforehand, he totally, like, figured out the solution for fixing my problem, even though it wasn’t technically a GoDaddy issue since it involved a mysteriously deleted WordPress file (which I swear I did not do but I am also very nearly as tech-savvy as a potato, so who knows), and seriously, this dude saved me days of tearing out my hair and probably accidentally hosing all my millions of blog posts which despite their lack of historical value and shameful prevalence of the term “Dirty Sanchez” would totally break my heart, and anyway: GoDaddyGuy, whoever you are, you ROCK.

Second, I would like to talk about swine flu for a moment, not because I think you need to hear more about the subject from some random dumbass who is an expert in exactly nothing, unless you count the “Sinking Pirates” episode of Curious George because let me tell you I can quote that sumbitch forward and back, but here’s the thing: I don’t understand all the backlash against the topic lately. The predominate opinion seems to be that we should just all calm the fuck down and that the media should quit scaring us into hysteria with the heavy coverage.

Okay, fine. But hey, how about not telling me how to react? Because I don’t think I’m panicking, but I’m thinking about it. I could be pooh-poohing the whole thing and mocking people for talking about it, but I guess I’d rather spend some time considering how our family can prepare a little bit. If this is all overblown and nothing happens and we all look back on the Swine Flu Scare of Aught-Nine and laugh hearty tears of told-you-sos, man, I don’t really care if I’m the douchebag who actually wasted some brain energy wondering about worst-case scenarios.

I’m not even necessarily super-concerned about any of us getting sick—although, hi, guess who re-read The Stand like two months ago, and if you haven’t enjoyed that particular Stephen King tale, let me break it down for you: EVERYONE ON EARTH DIES OF THE FUCKING FLU—but have you considered the implications of schools and daycares shutting down in your area? Or services being hard to access, like maybe even groceries? And supplies getting low on things you might need if someone did get sick? We randomly decided to pick up some N-95 particulate respirator masks tonight and where there would normally be an entire shelf, there was one lone box.

As for the media (the liberal media, of course) hype, well color me crazy but when the WHO phase goes to five, I personally don’t mind having a little news coverage on the topic.

Lastly, I heard a disgusted New Yorker being interviewed on NPR earlier tonight. “It’s the flu,” she said. “I mean, god. It’s just the flu.” All right, assuming this doesn’t mutate into some sort of horrific superbug that wipes out the entire planet and the few remaining survivors are drawn to the forces of good and evil and an epic battle must commence, but have you HAD the flu? Dude, it fucking sucks. I mean, the plain old regular does-not-kill-you flu sucks big hairy balls, and I don’t want it, and I don’t want my kids to get it. So yeah, I still kind of care about the possibility of a rampaging virus, even if it isn’t deadly.

This is the strangest public topic I’ve seen lately, where to profess that you actually give a shit about it is met with condescension. I figure, let me do a little quiet fretting and hopefully a little useful planning, and hopefully later you can tell me what an idiot I was for doing so. Not a losing proposition, in my mind.

PS: Right after I hit publish, I saw on a news feed that Seattle officially has it. The article links to a useful Pandemic Flu Planning Guide.

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