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! **

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Jillian
13 years ago

I wish I were cool enough to attract authors to my blog for a blog tour. Alas. I lack the cool gene.

willikat
13 years ago

My favorite types of books are nonfiction generally. I love memoir but I think the market’s a little flooded–but that’s not to say there aren’t terrific pieces out there. One of my all time favorite books is called random Family by Adrienne Nicole Leblanc and is one of hte best books ever written, made more spectacular by the very virtue that she’s a journalist, who essentially lived with the family (for ten (10)! years!) she wrote about. It’s a masterpiece, and if I could pick a genre, it would be one chock-full of real-life stories, beautifully rendered, with interesting socio-econo-political-life-lessons for us all to learn a little more about humanity.
Also, I love Margaret Atwood. She’s a genre unto herself.

Rachel
Rachel
13 years ago

Ooh books. I’m a book junkie. I almost single handedly justify the existence of my local library’s used bookstore. I adore book recommendations almost as much as I adore free books.

mothtoaflame@hotmail.com

Kristi
13 years ago

I love books, but also have always avoided Mysteries! My favorite genre is historical fiction (thanks Anne Rice!)

Jenn Perryman
Jenn Perryman
13 years ago

My favorite genre is plain-old fiction, I am ashamed to admit I’m the type that goes into the bookstore, finds that table close to the door with lazy summer reading fodder and buys a book based on how much I like the cover.

I’m pretty sure you’d have to tie me down and force me to read science fiction though.

Robyn
Robyn
13 years ago

I think I love him too! :)

Rachel
Rachel
13 years ago

I love mysteries, so I would love to win this book! Also, I’m very into anything that Laurell K. Hamilton writes.

Kami
Kami
13 years ago

I REALLY want to read this book (I also read Beth and Chris’s blogs) so this isn’t the first I’ve heard of Marshall…he sounds like a wondeful man and the book sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway :-)

alfredsmom
13 years ago

Ok, I have seen several posts on Marshall’s blog tour, but yours was the one that made me say “Ok FINE, I will buy the damn book already!”. Your questions were great, and I LOVE that he uses your same writing style and verbage to answer.

Kate
Kate
13 years ago

Ooh, I’ve been really wanting to read Flipping Out! I even braved the scary scary help desk people at the library (who are really scary and MEAN) just to ask if the library could maybe buy a copy, only to be told that they’ve had their budget cut and won’t be buying any new books until August…SUCK!

Elissa
Elissa
13 years ago

I used to read ALL the time. In fact, I often got in to trouble at school for reading too much. Now I find that I usually want to read family related dramas. My husband becomes frustrated with me because I tend to choose books that make me cry. He reads a lot of fantasy and science fiction type books. I would be willing to get the book you are talking about a try – it sounds great!!! :)

kat
kat
13 years ago

so fun! i heart beth a lot. marshall seems like he’d be so much fun to hang out with.

my favorites – definitely general fiction and for some reason, i do gravitate toward fiction by women authors not men authors. not sure why that is.

lately i’ve been liking historical fiction a lot.

Heather
Heather
13 years ago

I love crime thrillers (also defined as very tense mysteries, perhaps?) and have recently become addicted to young adult fiction, you know “for the kids.” And, although good ones are rare, I enjoy hard science fiction – that’s ‘hard science’, not SF that’s difficult to read.

Sharon
Sharon
13 years ago

When I get the chance to read, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately… a lot of evolutionary psychology and also economics, behavioral psychology, etc. (Think “Blink”, “Freakonomics”, “Why Do Beautiful People Have More Daughters”, “Stiff”, “Bonk”, etc.) —side note: is there no way to italicize or underline? The book titles in quotes thing is freaking out my inner English teacher who would insist that book titles get italicized or underlined only…—

I’m a sucker for Jennifer Crusie, but not a huge fan of the strictly romance category. Especially not historical romance. Gag. My best friend reads only mysteries. I don’t want to be scared at night. My husband reads only science fiction and fantasy. I can take small doses only. Although, “To Say Nothing of the Dog” was maybe one of the best books I’ve ever read. After Zora Neale Hurston, of course.

In all seriousness, I actually am a high school English teacher, and so I don’t get to read for enjoyment very often. It’s always papers to grade or curriculum to write. I’d love to find a “new” author to really enjoy and be able to relax with. Once the house is clean and the kids are in bed, that is. Perhaps in 2012? So, if you can’t throw me a maid, I’d love you to throw me a book!

Sharon
Sharon
13 years ago

I would definitely love a copy.

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

I love reading your blog. I started reading Purple is not a Fruit and then finally found you here. I just recently started reading Beth’s blog as well. You guys are both awesome and it is nice to know that I am not the only one who loves my kids unconditionally, but is also muttering foul language under my breath when what little sleep I get is interrupted by them. Thanks for writing.

Tracy
Tracy
13 years ago

I love fantasy & science fiction, but I can always be tempted with chick lit, or my mom’s hand-me-down mysteries. I’d love to check this one out!

Lucy Fur
Lucy Fur
13 years ago

I suggest Karl Hiassen. He doesn’t write mysteries really but there’s always murder involved. And talk about your colorful characters! “Assassination Vacation” by Sarah Vowell is a hilarious non-fiction/historical account that I loved to pieces (more dead bodies for you!) I love Bill Bryson and David Sedaris also. Having two boys and a busy life, I also rarely have time to read any more but I sure do love to do it when I have time. I’ll read just about anything but I think fantasy/sci fi like Lord of the Rings type stuff is my favorite.

Pam
Pam
13 years ago

Nice. Pick me. :)

Mel
Mel
13 years ago

I love James Patterson so I was happy to see him mentioned.

My current favorite genre is fantasy, specifically vampires. Yes, with the new age spelling. But I’m thinking I have to look up Vampyres of Hollywood now. As for the new age stuff, I’ve just finished reading Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. I started reading it because of the HBO series True Blood. And now that I’ve read the whole series of books, I can’t wait to see where the series goes!

I can’t remember if you mentioned that you watched True Blood or not, but I really think you’d enjoy it!

A.
A.
13 years ago

I just loved the questions you asked him. As a journalist, I can really appreciate good, original questions. Nice work!

I love your blog, but as a childless person, never feel like I have the authority to comment. But, since I blog about books myself, I couldn’t not this time. I’d love to be in the running the free book!

Lisa
Lisa
13 years ago

I enjoyed your interview! I love to read, and have been reading vampire (and other things) books. I avoid westerns and romances.

Laura
13 years ago

We recently ditched the cable, so I’m looking for something to read!

I also really want to check out Beth’s blog after the climbing in the crib with the baby comment :)

Amanda
13 years ago

Thanks for the recommendation and interview! I’m always interested in finding a new author. I read a ridiculous amount of books and am currently in a slump. I’m adding this to my library queue!

Melanie
Melanie
13 years ago

Great interview. I have a serious book addiction. Would love to add this one to my collection.

Pam
Pam
13 years ago

I do like mysteries! You definitely made this book sound enticing. If I don’t win, I will buy it on my own!

But, I think my favorite genre is non-fiction crime stories/who-done-its.

canknitian
13 years ago

I love Canadian fiction. LOVE it. Coast-to-coast, there are great people writing about real people from the past and present. And future. There are lots of sci-fi folks up here too, but that’s a genre I generally avoid.

[A good Canadian mystery writer is Giles Blunt. I’ve only read By the Time You Read This and it was excellent. There’s a whole series about the detective, Cardinal.]

I also love memoirs about great adventures, like Beyond the Horizon by Colin Angus, about the first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth. He biked, rowed, biked, hiked, and row, row, rowed his boat all the way around the world. His other books are great too. Back in Six Years by Tony Robinson-Smith is about another person who travelled all over the world. One of the best books of this genre that I’ve ever read is Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston, the hiker who was trapped by a boulder in a Utah canyon and eventually cut his arm off to free himself. It’s an absolutely incredible story.

Carrie
13 years ago

I read LOTS of stuff: sci-fi, fantasy, classic lit, brit lit, history, etc. I generally don’t like romances (well, except for Jane Austen, of course!), but lately I’ve developed a guilty pleasure for Janet Evanovitch–just cuz she’s so darn FUNNY!

I’m pretty sure after reading Mr. Karp’s blog tours, that I could dig him–am planning on checking him out soon!

canknitian
13 years ago

Oh, meant to say, I’m going to have to read Marshall’s books now. The synopsis + MK’s Q&A have won me over…

Therese
Therese
13 years ago

Oh, pick me, pick me. This book sounds like a great read. I absolutely love to read just about anything but sci-fi. I am due to have my first child in just a couple of weeks so it’s quite possible that I won’t be reading again for a looooong time, but we’ll see.

Sandra
Sandra
13 years ago

This sounds like an awesome book! My favorites? Hmm, well I’m a big fan of Stephen King (Captain Tripps anyone?). I enjoy Michael Connelly, Michael Crichton, and Diana Gabaldon.

But, I have to ask: can you list some titles that you like (the zombie related ones). I’m curious to read some of them. I’m as curious as the next girl when it comes to zombies…

Chataine
13 years ago

Fun! I never really have gotten into mysteries either – and I am definitely much more into fiction than non-fiction. (Though I just read “No Reservations” by Anthony Bourdain and loved it, so maybe I like that kind of non-fiction?) I’m a pretty big chicken when it comes to trying a new book, ’cause I’m afraid it won’t be worth the time investment and how will I know if I will like it, etc. But as long as I go on recommendations of friends, I am almost never disappointed to try something new. So bring on the mystery!

joaaanna
joaaanna
13 years ago

Really into memoirs right now. Used to be obsessed with mysteries. Can not tolerate romance novels, but adore a good love story. Mainly I wish David Sedaris would write continously and have it fed directly to me.

Barbara
Barbara
13 years ago

I would love a copy of his book…I like the way he answered your questions…I tend to read a little of everything, but I really avoid romance novels…too sappy!

Shannon
Shannon
13 years ago

I love mysteries and thrillers, along with most any other genre, but anything with humour in it (dark or otherwise) is good with me. Christopher Moore is one of my faves, and Patterson, Reichs, etc are all frequently on my bedside table.
Most recently, for anyone looking for zombie/vampire driven books, with humour and action and sex and drama and everything else? I highly recommend the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. The first book starts off pretty tame, they get progressively more twisted and entertaining as you go, the character development is good, and they’re funny. I’m on book 5 of the series, which I think has 16 so far??? Anyway…..go. Get em. Read. Enjoy. And PICK ME!!! :-)

Amanda
13 years ago

Memoir junkie here, but after reading that interview, HOT DAMN(!) I want to read that book!

Sign me up.

Donna
Donna
13 years ago

I read a lot, but not historical romance or spy novels or horror mostly contemporary fiction I also like the stories of woman and their struggles.

I’m going to look on the library website for Marshall Karp’s books maybe can reserve some today. Thanks for the interview and I love your blog.

ErinM
ErinM
13 years ago

“General fiction” I guess. NOT into Harlequin romance crap, otherwise, anything goes. The more suspense, twists, and turns the better! ;)

Mert
Mert
13 years ago

OH, me, me! I like mysteries, specifically murder mysteries. Also love romance, and true-life crime novels. Thanks!

Karen
Karen
13 years ago

I love this post and ordered both books ! The interview was great and I am always loking for new things to read !

hydrogeek
13 years ago

OH! Pick me! I love all non-fiction, even terrible, non-edited, vapid romance novels. But I’d rather have a mystery, especially a free one!!

Jennie C.
13 years ago

Speculative fiction. But I branch out into Dickens and Bronte occasionally.

Cristin
Cristin
13 years ago

I will read just about anything, but I HATE so-called ‘bodice-rippers’ like Harlequin. No idea why, just never met one I like.

Can’t wait to get my hands on these Marshall Karp books.

Peggy
Peggy
13 years ago

Great interview – definitely gets me to want to read the book. I also want him to hurry up and write that non-fiction book! I turn 40 in 19 days and am definitely facing the “is that all there is” question.

As far as what I read, it’s a mixture of chick-lit (although I hate that label), mysteries, parenting books and whatever my book club picked for that month.

Kris
Kris
13 years ago

I like vampire books, suspense thrillers are good too. I generally avoid the smutty romance novels but every once in awhile I find one that proves worthy of my time.

Anne
13 years ago

I have had similar thoughts about mysteries and have no idea why either…maybe its a stigma i have created in my head about the paperbacks that always end up on the shelves at airport convenient stores. it might be the same part of my brain that makes me buy a newsweek to hide my US weekly in so the guy next to me on the airplane doesn’t know my weakness for celebrity gossip. i recently stopped doing that. i know own my weakness for celebrity gossip. it does not own me!

i tend to find and author and become obsessed. i just finished a string of richard russo books. i think Straight Man might have pushed and shoved its way into my top 5.

Val
Val
13 years ago

I am a big fan of funny, be it websites, blogs, books, movies or TV. I’m always looking for a new way to incorporate humor, so if this book is a mystery but it’s funny – well then sign me up! And when I’m done reading it I’ll pass it to my mom who LOOOOOOVES mysteries and is always looking for new titles and authors to try.

KB
KB
13 years ago

I love good mysteries. Check out Stephen White for some good stuff. My fave genre is historical fiction, though this might have a lot to do with my desire to carry a parasol when I go out for a stroll…

Hey can you make sure to update us when his memoir comes out? I would love to read that too!

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

My favorite genre of late is non-fiction. I’m currently reading “Salt”, and have recently finished “Confederates in the Attic” (a good read, there). That said, I used to read lots of mysteries. I like James Patterson and Lawrence Sanders. Pick me!

Sarah
13 years ago

I have an MA in English Lit, so I think perhaps I’ll need to limit myself here.

I think we have opposite reading tastes. I blame my mother (and my own lack of planning) for getting into mysteries. I was visiting her, and I ran out of things to read, so I started on her Sue Grafton (so much for the English MA). I love fiction that is called magical realism (Garcia Marques and Allende). Some other favorites books: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee, and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia.

To be honest, I’ll read almost anything. I’ve got a gardening book, a biography of Beatrix Potter, and a just-finished Oprah book club book on my nightstand. (As an aside, I really need to learn my lesson on Oprah’s recommendations. Other than a few of the older books she recommends, I can’t stand her selections).