The area where I live and write is a roiling cauldron of dazzling literary talent. As you might expect given the plethora of politicians, staffers, judges, lawyers, bureaucrats, spies, lobbyists, judges and military folk who comprise the epicenter of this place, the vast majority of tomes produced around here are very, very serious. For example, try losing yourself in a few scintillating pages of An Annotated list of Literature References on Carpets and Rugs 1940 to 1963 (Dept. of Agriculture). Or perhaps you'd prefer curling up with a dog-eared copy of Distinguishing Bolts from Screws (U.S. Customs and Border Protection). True, every so often the ceaseless political and personal scandals abounding in our nation's capital produce some delightfully bawdy material for the bestseller lists. Be that as it may, "funny" isn't the first thing that springs to mind when "Washington, D.C." comes up in a game of word association. At least, not funny as in ha-ha.
Against such a somber backdrop, native Washingtonian author Alan Orloff's "Last Laff" series is a refreshing departure. His just-released book, Deadly Campaign, is the second entry in Orloff's series (coming hot on the heels of the series' debut, Killer Routine). The novels feature the amateur sleuthing of troubled stand-up comedian and comedy club-owner Channing Hayes, and are set in and around Washington. Orloff will be the first to concede he doesn't write the series to punch his ticket to the Comedy Hall of Fame. Still, his books are sprinkled liberally with sly humor and good jokes, in addition to being engaging thrillers.
To celebrate Orloff's new release, I invited him to visit Gazalapalooza for a fresh installment of Author Spotlight. Rather than pretending he doesn't know me, or faking his own death, we're fortunate he graciously accepted my invitation. Without further ado, let’s get this blazing spotlight fired up and test Mr. Orloff's antiperspirant.
Gazala: In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.
Orloff: Thanks for not mentioning my transgressions (embarrassing!). Would I be allowed to trade the works of Shakespeare for the works of Stephen King? If not, then I’ll take The Stand as my fiction choice. It’s a great book, and it’s long enough that I’ll forget most of it by the time I reach the end (making it ideal for re-reads). For nonfiction, I’ll take the Guinness Book of World Records. That should keep me entertained, and who knows, it may inspire me to try to break a record or two.
Gazala: Your latest novel is an excellent and gripping thriller titled Deadly Campaign. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Deadly Campaign, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.
Orloff: First off, let me say that your recommendation should sway readers. I mean, from where I sit, you have excellent taste and judgment! My main goal with Deadly Campaign was to write an entertaining story with fun, three-dimensional characters. At the same time, if I could provide readers with a glimpse into the world of stand-up comedy, as well as skewer a few make-believe politicians, then so much the better. I’ve lived in the D.C. area most of my life, so I know something about the sordid stories associated with those walking the corridors of power.
Gazala: What are books for?
Orloff: Oh, where to start? Books are for entertaining, enlightening, enchanting. Liking, loving, lusting. Transporting, teaching, training. Enough alliteration? How about, “Books are for everyone to cherish in their own special way"? (Or is that too Mr. Rogers?)
Gazala: W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?
Orloff: Actually, there are at least a dozen rules, but no one knows what the additional nine are either. Ba da bing. I believe there’s too much subjectivity/individuality involved in the writing/reading process to sum up the process with a tidy set of rules. If something works for a writer, then it works. Period. Ask ten writers how they write a novel and you’ll get eleven answers (at least). And that’s a good thing. Otherwise, one novel might read too much like the next (and the next and the next…).
Gazala: There's someone at my door. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.
Orloff: (If it’s a Girl Scout, could you please order me a box of Samoas?) My question to myself: What’s the best part about being a writer? Aside from the lax dress code and flexible working hours, I’d have to say the best part about being a writer is the opportunity to share your work—your ideas, your visions, your stories—with readers. Of course, working in sweats is pretty sweet!
You don't have to look too hard to find Deadly Campaign. If you want a quick and easy way to get your copy, clicking on this link will make you happy.