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About Marshall

It’s been a great life so far.

I’ve been a writer all my life. Commercials, TV sitcoms, a play, a movie, and nobody wanted to know much about me. Now I’m an author, and people are stalking me. Well, maybe not stalking, but they sure have a lot of questions. Here goes…

IN THE BEGINNING…

I was born in Manhattan, but grew up in a small factory town across the river in New Jersey. But New York was a magnet for me. Happily I had family to visit in Harlem, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and every year I’d spend the summer with my aunt and uncle in Queens. My movie, Just Looking, is loosely based on those summers. It’s about a 14-year-old boy, who is fascinated with sex, but it’s 1955, so what’s he supposed to do? Well, in the movie, he does what I did in real life.

In high school my favorite English teacher, Cornelius O’Connor, encouraged me to write. But I knew my parents would be happier if I got a real job, so I went to Rutgers University to study biology and become a dentist. Really, a dentist.

Fortunately, I flunked biology. But I did well in English composition, and I was writing for the school paper, so I muddled through as an English major, with no real plans for what to do after graduation.

Uncle Sam, however, had serious plans. Vietnam. I had 110 percent chance of getting drafted, but I didn’t want to go to war. It wasn’t a political statement. It’s this phobia I have about being in a jungle with people shooting at me. So I joined the National Guard. I spent six months in active duty, most of it in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I learned to build bridges, wrote letters to the girl back home, drove the 860 mile round trip to Chicago with my friend Barry Labovitz as many weekends as we could, and not much else.

OK, SO I’M NOT GOING TO DENTAL SCHOOL. NOW WHAT?

By the time I got out of the army my girlfriend had a job as an advertising copywriter, so I got one too. How’s that for career planning, kids? Early on, along with my art director, Andy Langer, I created two award-winning campaigns. One, for Mutual of New York Life Insurance, featured people who seem to have bright futures, until you learn that the breadwinner of the family died, leaving them without any money. The first commercial starred an unknown named John Travolta. He appears to be a college kid on his way to class. Instead, he stops at a luncheonette, unlocks the door, and starts sweeping the floor. It won me a bunch of awards, and young Mr. Travolta did pretty well himself.

I followed up with the successful “Thank You, Paine Webber” campaign, and if you’re too young to remember it, good. I’m trying to bore the shit out of you, so you won’t ask so many questions about what I did before The Rabbit Factory.

MY FIRST MID-LIFE CRISIS

In advertising, the punishment for being a good writer is to promote you and tell you not to write. Before long I had a big title, a big office, and I supervised a hundred people. I was the boss, but all I could think was, “is this all there is?”

So I started writing at night, and in 1982, my play, Squabbles, was produced. First at a dinner theatre in Kansas City, then in New Hampshire, where it got great reviews in the Boston media. It was published by Samuel French, and a quarter of a century later, it’s still going.

ABC-TV wanted to turn it into a sitcom, and I wrote the pilot, but it didn’t fly. I wrote a few more pilots and in 1985, CBS picked one up for series. But I wasn’t ready to leave advertising. In 1987, another pilot got picked up. I took a shot and became producer/head writer of Everything’s Relative starring Jason Alexander. By the end of the first season the show crashed and burned.

I was immediately hired as a writer-producer on NBC’s hit show Amen. It was fun, but I didn’t want to uproot my wife and kids, so while I worked in Hollywood, they stayed in New York. After two years, I was so homesick I headed back east and did the unthinkable. I went back into advertising. Big agency, big job, but for me, it was been there, done that.

And then, along came the dot com days. I jumped on it. I opened Compelling Content, an Internet advertising agency. I created websites for all kinds of companies, and five years later I sold the company. I spent the next year in indentured servitude working for the idiots who bought it. Then, in 2000, two wonderful things happened. My movie was released, and the people who were running Compelling Content into the ground fired me.

At long last, I had time to write a novel.

HONEY, I THINK I’LL TAKE 6 MONTHS OFF TO WRITE A BOOK.

It took five years. From hiring an editor, to shuffling index cards, to first draft, second draft, finding an agent, finding a publisher, fifth draft, sixth draft, to the day I finally walked into a bookstore and said to the clerk “do you have The Rabbit Factory?”

He tapped into his computer and said, “by Marshall Karp?”

“Yeah,” I said, with my heart pounding. “That guy.”

“We’re sold out, and four people have it on order,” he said. “Do you want me to order you a copy?”

I was about to answer him, when my wife dragged me out of the store.

“Why did you do that?” I asked.

“Because I know you. You were going to whip out your driver’s license, show him who you were, and ask for the home phone numbers of the four people who ordered the book, so you could thank them.”

God, the woman knows me so well.

I’ve written three more Lomax and Biggs mysteries since then, and I’m currently working on book five -- a standalone thriller I'm co-authoring with James Patterson. And despite the fact that I murdered off a bunch of Hollywood producers in my first two books, in real life I couldn't scare them away. TBS just announced that they were developing Lomax and Biggs into a series with Lion’s Gate Television.

So, that’s my bio. I left out a few parts, which I’ll try to add from time to time.

But you get the theme. It was right there at the top of the page.

It’s been a great life so far.