Regular readers will know that I have become a big fan of Marshall Karp in recent years. Karp is a New York (state) based author writing a detective series set in LA that is inspired by his days there working as a Hollywood script writer. (See reviews of The Rabbit Factory and Bloodthirsty.)
His writing has drawn some comparisons to Carl Hiaasen and Janet Evanovich. As I have not read the latter I cannot comment on those, and while I understand the Hiaasen comparison - they are both very funny - this only goes so far as Karp is a more conventional writer of police detective tales. But his is a refreshing and entertaining voice, as hinted at by his answers below, and his books are cracking mystery stories that deserve a wide audience.
I am grateful to Marshall, who I have interviewed "live" before - here - for answering more questions following the publication of his third novel, Flipping Out, by Allison & Busby publish . Flipping Out is another winner, and I will have a review shortly.
Is Marshall Karp, Lomax or Biggs?
Terry Biggs is a New York wiseass, the 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. So it’s pretty obvious — definitely not me.
On the other hand, Mike Lomax is warm, lovable, sensitive, pays more attention to the little voice in his head than he should, intelligent, intuitive, protective, and good in bed. Not me either.
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.
Flipping Out has a great plot premise - is it based on real LA events?
Yes and no. The primary plot revolves around a bestselling mystery author who buys a run-down house in LA, and while her business partners turn it into a showpiece, she makes it the scene of a grisly murder and the star of her next book. It may sound like a plausible LA scheme, but it’s something I created — although it’s not a bad idea to put into practice. However, as you get deeper into the book, a second, much more sinister plot opens up. I won’t give it away here, but it is based on the real life activities of some very nasty criminals.
People in the UK regard LA as being a sort of giant theme park of the bad, the mad and the utterly insane. Is it as loopy as it looks long distance?
LA is a thriving metropolis with real people doing real jobs and living real lives. But that wasn’t my experience when I lived there for two years.My world was show business, and while I met some genuine people along the way, I also ran into some of the people who live up to the Tinseltown stereotype. LA, especially the entertainment business, is a magnet for the greedy, the needy, the egomaniacs, and the ego starved. It may look loopy from afar, but when you get up close it can be downright ugly. I have no regrets for my time spent in LA, and only a few resentments toward some of the more arrogant, exploitive people I met. And while they were in the minority, I’m kind of grateful for having met them. Many of my best murder victims were thinly disguised versions of assholes I worked with.
Can you give any hints about the next Lomax and Biggs plot?
Broad hints. When the first body is found (the wife of a British diplomat living in LA), the killer has left behind a detailed scrapbook as a signature. The subject of the scrapbook: the victim. Since I seem to have this penchant for multiple bodies, there will be multiple scrapbooks. If it seems simple so far, let me warn you that no one who has read it has been able to figure it out. And of course on the lighter side, Big Jim and Terry Biggs team up in a hilarious get rich in Hollywood scheme, and Mike Lomax and Diana ponder the question so many of their fans have been asking. Should they or should they not get married and/or have a baby?
What do you make of the Hiaasen / Evanovich comparisons?
There’s something about this business that seems to invite people to discover a new writer and then try to pigeonhole him by comparing him to established writers. I wonder whom Hiaasen and Evanovich were compared to when they started out. In the broadest sense I think the comparison has merit, because they both write funny, and so do I. But I hadn’t read either of them before my first book was published. I think the most accurate comparisons I’ve gotten are from close friends or others who know me well who say “your books remind me of you.”
Who/what are your literary inspirations?
James Patterson is a good friend whose style of rapid fire, easy to digest, hard to put down chapters had an enormous impact on how I craft and pace my books. While our writing styles are different, he understands better than any author what readers want and knows how to give it to them. I’ve learned a lot from him, and since we’re friends, I often get the education first hand.
My comedy style is influenced by the American playwright Neil Simon, and to some degree by Woody Allen. And I’ve learned a lot from American humorists, particularly Mark Twain.
How has your background in TV writing helped in writing novels? What are the principle differences?
My books have a lot of dialogue, and not a lot of description. Certainly that comes from my TV background. TV scripts are all dialogue. But then, so much of life is dialogue. (Especially mine. According to my wife, I do tend to prattle on.) The major difference between TV and books is that I have to remember that some description is necessary. TV shows have a scenic designer to build the set, a casting director, a wardrobe department, a location scout, and a whole crew of people to bring a script to life. When I sat down to write my first book I had to learn how to paint the pictures and capture the emotions for the readers with words alone.
If you were holding a dinner party and could invite six guests - three fictional, three real - from any era of his choosing, who would your guests be? And what would he serve them?
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Superman. I’d have the guests order whatever they wanted from any restaurant in the world, then a few minutes before dinner, I’d send Superman out to pick up the food.
For more from Marshall Karp, check out his excellent website: LomaxandBiggs.com