Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Q&A with Marshall Karp



Marshall Karp is the author of the new novel NYPD Red 7: The Murder Sorority. It's the latest in the NYPD Red series; Karp co-wrote the first six novels with James Patterson. Karp is also a screenwriter, TV writer, and playwright.


Q: What inspired the plot of NYPD Red 7?


A: I started thinking back to the days immediately following 9/11. Our government was paranoid. They didn’t know where the next attack was coming from. The president declared war on terrorism. What did that mean?


I went to the State Department’s archives and read their report on the actions they took in the first 100 days. It was extensive and filled with phrases like “unprecedented coalition against international terrorism,” “global dragnet to help bring terrorists to justice,” and “tough new airline security measures.”


One response jumped out at me: 93 anti-terrorism task forces were created — one in each U.S. attorney’s district. 


What if, I thought, unbeknownst to the world, the president secretly authorized a special ops team of five assassins whose job was to infiltrate domestic terrorist cells and eliminate the leaders. Their job: cut off the head; kill the snake.


A few years pass, the group is dissolved, its history is expunged, and the five assassins are put out to pasture. They have all these skills, but no place to market them. So they form Kappa Omega Delta. KOD — Killers On Demand. The Murder Sorority.


Q: This is the seventh book featuring your detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald. How do you think they've changed over the course of the series?


A: First let me say that while NYPD Red is a series, each book can stand on its own. Readers can start with NYPD Red 7, much the same way you can tune into the latest episode of Law & Order, without having to watch Season One. 


But over the arc of the series, the characters have evolved. In the first book, Kylie joins the Red team and is assigned to be Zach’s partner. For him, it’s hell. She’s his ex-girlfriend, the woman he thought he was going to marry. She married to someone else, but Zach still carries the torch.


Over the course of the books, Kylie’s husband goes missing, and the sexual tension between the two ex-lovers heightens. But by now, Zach is in a relationship with Cheryl, an NYPD psychologist, who seems to have more insight into what Zach is going through than he does.


Zach and Kylie’s professional relationship has also evolved, but the changes have been more subtle. They are two partners whose lives depend on one another. And just like in real police work, the trust grows deeper, and the ability of each to anticipate what the other will do — especially in life or death situations — becomes keener.


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, in part, “Readers will agree that his [Karp’s] happy welding of police procedural and sly humor is the best yet in the series.” What do you see as the right balance between the two?

A: James Patterson has said, “Marshall Karp is the only author I know who can get big laughs out of murdering someone.”


With all due respect to James, that’s not 100 percent accurate. Murder isn’t funny. In real life, it’s devastating. And in fiction, it’s not something I can milk for laughs.


What is funny — in life and on the page — is how people cope with death. They laugh. It’s a release valve. Real cops do it all the time. For many of them, cracking wise is the only way to cope with the grisly horrors of their job. But the laughter isn’t meant to be disrespectful. It’s their way of gearing up for the next onslaught.


Doctors and nurses are the same way. If you could listen to the laughter coming from the break room of a teaching hospital, you’d be horrified.


Bottom line: murder is not funny; death can be. Not every author risks it. I do, because I’ve worked in, studied, and understand comedy. I’ve learned when, where, and how to break the tension. Not with a joke, but with humor that comes out of the situation.


My first book, The Rabbit Factory, also [like this new book] got a starred review from Publishers Weekly.  They said “the comedy never overshadows this smart, many-layered thriller.”


Getting back to your question — What do I see as the right balance between the grim reality of a murder investigation and the “sly humor” that lightens the tension? I don’t think I see it. I feel it. And the positive feedback I get from readers keeps me at it.


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I can barely write a chapter without doing research, much less a book.


Looking back over my notes for NYPD Red 7, I researched dosing errors with insulin, agoraphobia, Alzheimer’s, the Jimmy Breslin column on the man who dug President Kennedy’s grave, understanding the prefrontal cortex of the teenage brain, how to steal a UPS truck, the most haunted highway in America, and dozens of other topics, because fiction works best when it’s rooted in reality.


And then there’s my secret weapon. One of my closest friends, Danny Corcoran, is a retired NYPD homicide detective. Danny not only makes sure that the details of law enforcement are authentic, he tells me things I could never dream up.


Did anything surprise me? Yes. For a solid year I’ve researched ways to kill people, explored the underbelly of the dark side of the Internet, and watched countless videos of some of the most lethal weapons on the planet. And yet, I was amazed that an FBI agent never once came knocking on my door and said, “Excuse me, sir. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Snowstorm in August, my first thriller, and the first book in my newest series, was released on June 7. NYPD Red 7: The Murder Sorority hit the shelves 168 days later. To have two books published in that short space of time is an author’s dream. It’s also exhausting.


As soon as I wrap up my 2022 Shameless Self Promotion Tour, I plan to take a week off (someplace warm), start a new book (most likely the next in the NYPD Red series), and pull together something I’ve thought about for years — a writing course. Rather than focus on the mechanics of writing, I want to get to the heart of the craft. The working title for my class is “How To Write Books People Want To Read.” 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes. A lot of my best kept secrets are cleverly hidden on my website www.karpkills.com.


Not only are there sample chapters of my books, there are words of wisdom for aspiring authors from John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, and other celebrated writers, along with a free screening of my movie, Just Looking, directed by Jason Alexander, cool pictures of me and my constant companion/distraction, Kylie, and finally — buried in my bio — the shocking reveal of the career path I almost followed. (Anyone who reads it will be grateful that I didn’t.)


Thank you, Deborah, for supporting my life of crime.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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