Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Scott Joplin

Appropriately enough, the west coast promotional tour for The King
of Ragtime concluded this past weekend at the 3-day West Coast Ragtime
Festival in Sacramento. The Festival is nonstop music from 9am to 11pm,
seminars (this year including a terrific talk by ragtime historian Ed
Berlin on new material that's come to light about Scott Joplin), dances,
reunions with friends, and CDs - and books - for sale. In short, a
three-day high.
The performers in the photos are 4 of my favorites. Guitarist
Craig Ventresco has long been a standout artist in early 20th Century
popular songs, ragtime and gutbucket-jug band music - he was featured on
the soundtrack for the movie "Crumb." For the past few years, Craig has
teamed with lovely rhythm guitarist-singer Meredith Axelrod, and I can
only hope this will be a longlasting relationship.
Frederick Hodges, at the piano to the left, specializes in novelty
ragtime (think Zez Confrey, Roy Bargy, etc.) and popular tunes of a
century ago, and when he teams up with Adam Swanson, to the right, the
place really rocks. Adam is a prodigiously-talented ragtime player,
researcher, and historian...and he's all of 16 years old. Whatever he
does when he grows up, I want to be around to hear it. If you think
"Take Me Out To The Ball Game" is a stodgy old tune, you haven't heard
Frederick and Adam rag it. Halfway home, it's still running through my
And I just realized: today is Scott Joplin's birthday, Nov 24,
either 1868 or 1867. Pause a moment to give a nod to one of the very
greatest of American composers, who died in 1917, thinking he'd failed
to achieve his goal of making ragtime a respected form of classical
music. Take a bow, Mr. Joplin, before you blow out the candles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

From Venice to San Mateo

Monday, we changed plans to get more time in at Venice, looking and
poking around to help me create a vivid sense of setting for the third
ragtime book, now in process. Julie and Robert, firefighters at Station
63, were kind enough to give me the mother of all Venice maps, so we not
only could find our way around, but I'll be able to refer back to it as
I write the book. We found Brun Campbell's house, with the garage where
his wife banished him to play his piano, his barber shop, and a couple
of houses to serve for some fictional characters. The weather was
terrific, 85 degrees and sunny, so we walked out on the Venice Pier,
where a couple of women just in from Dallas, and excited about going to
see the Dr. Phil Show the next day, took our picture.
Yesterday, we drove to Los Altos, in the SF Bay Area, and visited
friends. We passed right by the trailer park north of Pasadena that had
just been burned to the ground. If you think you've got troubles...
Today, my event was at San Mateo's M is for Mystery, as always, an
enjoyable visit with Ed Kaufman, the man with endless enthusiasm. Now
up to Berkeley for a day with son Casey and daughter-in-law Maggie befor
heading on to Sacramento for the big ragtime festival.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Ragtime Pow-wow

Here I am this past Sunday at Book'Em, in South Pasadena, enjoying
a post-event conversation with ragtime composer and historian Fred
Hoeptner. Fred has put together some interesting material on the
origins of both ragtime music and the word itself. In exchange, I gave
him a copy of my seminar from last year's West Coast Ragtime Festival,
where I presented new information on Brun Campbell, the real-life
Ragtime Kid.
One of the customers told me she didn't care for Scott Joplin's
music, but did like antique music boxes, and was interested in
medical-ethical concerns. So she left with copies of The Music Box
Murders and First Do No Harm.
Then Myra and I went down the street to Buster's, and enjoyed
four-star ice-cream cones. Book'Em and Buster's, a tough combination to

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Timing is Everything

I spent yesterday morning in Venice...California, where my sister,
Kate, took me to look over the haunts of Brun Campbell, the old Ragtime
Kid, who'll return to the trilogy in the third book, The Ragtime Fool.
His house still stands, as does his barber shop. How he ever fit a
piano in there is beyond me. He was quite a character.
Then, we went on to The Mystery Bookshop in Westwood, where I found
I had been lucky enough to have booked into their afternoon-long
celebration for their new owner, Kirk, complete with authors and food
galore. I had the 3 to 4pm hour, between Robert Crais & Gregg Hurwitz,
and Katherine Neville. Always great to see Bobby and Linda there, and
here I am with Richard, who helped me with the signings.
Afterward, we went to Santa Monica for dinner at Ocean Seafood,
then walked out on the Santa Monica Pier, a real time-travel moment, 50
years back in an eyeblink.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mind the Ax and Helmet

Last night at San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy, Ragtime met Medieval
Noir, as Jeri Westerson and I interviewed each other about the
characters and setting of The Ragtime Kid and Veil of Lies. We also got
into a good deal of exchange over the nuts and bolts of writing, showing
again that no two writers seem to go about it in anything like the same
way. It's always a pleasure to see Gretchen and Bob, friends and
readers, at MG

Today, we take a breather (if you can call navigating the LA freeways a
breather), visiting music box-collector friends Mike and Marilyn Ames,
and Robin Biggins. Tomorrow, I go to Venice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do I Really Look Like Jimmy Carter?

Here's Lesa Holstine, interviewing me yesterday at the Velma Teague
Library in Glendale, AZ. Afterward, one of the audience asked me
whether anyone had ever told me I look like Jimmy Carter. She insisted
I was nearly his double, and asked me to sign for her as Jimmy Carter.
So I did, with a tag line, "aka Larry Karp." The customer's always
In the evening, at The Poisoned Pen, Barbara Peters led a spirited
and engaging discussion among fellow Poisoned Pen author Mike Bowen, the
audience, and me on The King of Ragtime and Mike's book, Shoot the
Lawyer Twice. Afterward, we all enjoyed Barbara's fabulous pumpkin
bread with rum-soaked raisins. (I got away with a loaf for the road).
While in Scottsdale, Myra and I had good, if brief visits with my
HS classmate Sue Todd and with Gene And Gloria Friedman, who introduced
Myra and me 51 years ago.
We're now on Route 8 (Myra's driving), on the way to Mysterious
Galaxy, San Diego, tonight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the Road Again

I see it's National Novel Writing Month - - but for me, it's Novel Promoting Month. For the next couple of weeks, I'll be going to independent bookshops from Scottsdale's The Poisoned Pen, through California, then winding up at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Sacramento. Follow me via the link at the right to my schedule.
I'll keep you posted from time to time via my trusty Sidekick.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

This is where I write my books

 This is where I write my books, the white outbuilding, down the hill from our house, separated from the neighbor's house by a wall.  No phone, no other people in the room, nothing else going on there, no distractions outside.  No excuses not to write.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Blast at Seattle Mystery Bookshop

     It's always a pleasure to start off events for a new book at Seattle Mystery Bookshop.  This is a quintessential independent mystery bookstore with the motto, "For mystery lovers who know what they want, and for those who haven't a clue."  They ain't whistlin' Dixie.
     For the debut signing of The King of Ragtime, I had a good time catching up with the old friends who showed up, and talking about mysteries to a bunch of new readers.
     Signed, dated copies of The King of Ragtime remain available (SMB, 117 Cherry St, Seattle; 206-587-5737, or