First, Do No Harm
The Midnight Special
Scamming the Birdman
The Music Box Murders
The Enchanted Ear
The View from the Vue

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for more information on each of Larry Karp's books. 

Larry Karp is currently being published by Poisoned Pen Press

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"Larry Karp found a worthy, though neglected segment of American music history to set a cleverly devised story of fact and fiction. By filling some of the undocumented gaps with a plausible tale, he retells the early history of ragtime, with its undercurrent of racism and business dealings. Along the way he provides deserving recognition for several creators of the art form, aside from Scott Joplin and 'The Ragtime Kid,' Brun Campbell."

David Reffkin, Director of The American Ragtime Ensemble; Producer and Host of "The Ragtime Machine" on KUSF-FM, San Francisco 


"When fifteen‑year‑old Brun Campbell hears Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag at the fair in Oklahoma City it changes his life. All he wants to do is play real colored ragtime, but nobody in El Reno wants to teach him. Farm work is not for him, so he runs away to Sedalia to persuade Scott Joplin to take him on as a student. But on the way there, he discovers the murdered body of a young woman, and he takes two things from her and later wishes he had left well enough alone. In Sedalia he finds his dreams, and a whole lot of nightmares to go with them.


"You don’t need to enjoy whodunits to enjoy this book. For the first half at least, the crime is so far in the back that it might never have happened: but just when I was wondering why the author decided to write a crime novel, it all comes rising up again. It is also true to say that this book would stand up without the murders, as it is a largely biographical tale about more real people than invented ones. This is a book to read slowly, so you can savor the tangible reconstruction of Sedalia in 1899, with its bars, whorehouses, hopes for the future and the terrible legacy of the Civil War.


"Perhaps even more than a snapshot of a city, this is a novel about race relations (or lack of them), and the tinderbox atmosphere of Sedalia as the novel builds to its crescendo. This is a time only just beyond living memory, but this is a time of lynchings and riots, a time when black people were free but barely regarded as human by a large number of people. But it is also a picture of a small group of people who were making something (ie. ragtime) that white folk wanted a piece of, too. This is not the start of a series, and anybody who thinks that genre fiction is too lowbrow ought to read this. The Ragtime Kid is surely more a mainstream book, and one which is going to not only appeal to a large number of people, but has the ability to stay in the mind long after. Very highly recommended."

Rachel A. Hyde, Review, September 27, 2006   Link:



"Brun Campbell loves to hear and play music. In Oklahoma city he listens to some musicians in a music store playing a tune by Scott Joplin and knows instantly that is what he wants to learn how to play. He runs away from home at fifteen and hops a train for Sedelia, Missouri in the hopes that he can get Mr. Joplin to give him lessons. On the way into town he runs across the body of a woman strangled to death and he takes a musical money clip that is nearby and a locket on her neck.


"In town he meets businessman Mr. Fitzgerald who stakes him to a room at the YMCA and money to buy food while he looks for work. Someone who hears him playing music recommends he ask music store owner Mr. Stark for a job. Mr. Stark listens to him play and offers him a job on the spot. He also auditions for Joplin who agrees to give him lessons. When Mr. Fitzgerald is arrested for the murder of the woman Brun saw the first day he was in town; he knows the man didn't do it. The money clip which belonged to Joplin could implicate him and Brun in the murder. Brun decides to find the killer with the unwitting help of the townsfolk as he maneuvers them in the direction he wants them to go for information relating to the murder.


"As historical mysteries go, THE RAGTIME KID is one of the better ones. The author doesn't only write a good who done it, he shows the readers how the plight of the black man had changed very little since Emancipation back three decades earlier. Scott Joplin takes a big risk to be paid in royalties with his name as the arranger of the music, something unheard of in the 1890's. The protagonist has a touch of larceny in him that helps him get what he wants but he is so adorable, readers will root for him in spite of his faults.

Harriet Klausner, Harriet Klausner Reviews



"Real people, famous and not, comprise most of the cast of this mystery, set in Sedalia, Missouri, known in the late 1800s as a center for ragtime.  Teenage pianist Brun loves ragtime, but a white kid isn't supposed to play 'colored music.'  Stubborn as well as talented, he runs off to Sedalia to find Scott Joplin. On his first night in town, he comes across the body of dead woman.  Broke, he makes off with a money clip he spots near her body, only later realizing that his discovery links the gifted, driven Joplin to the killing.  Racism is a huge part of the story, and Karp weaves the theme thoroughly and convincingly into his depiction of the music business and of Sedalia society at the time.  His large cast could have been trimmed, and his characters frequently run to type, but that's not enough to sink this well‑intentioned and generally involving novel, which clearly shows the best and worst of human nature in days gone by."

Booklist, August, 2006



"With an appealing protagonist, Karp unfolds a fascinating story of a particular moment in history when Scott Joplin was transforming ragtime.  Fifteen-year-old Brun Campbell, a natural piano player, discovers Joplin's music and decides that he must study with him.  Running away from home to go to Sedalia, Missouri isn't a problem since life at home isn't that good and he can always earn a living by playing piano in saloons as he has been doing at home.


"Of course, tripping over a dead body his first night in town is a different matter.  Brun picks up a few items around the dead woman's body that are important, particularly since one of them is Scott Joplin's money clip.  Brun's luck changes when Fitzgerald, a nice Southern gentleman, helps him out, and when he gets a job at Stark's music store.  Joplin takes him on as a student and all seems well except for an obnoxious music publisher.  However, when Fitzgerald is arrested for the woman's murder, Brun is in a quandary about what to do.  Clearing Fitzgerald may implicate Joplin.  Brun is convinced that neither man is the murderer, and he is determined to find the culprit.  Although the guilty party is fairly obvious, the story builds to an exciting conclusion.  Karp captures the inherent racism of the times to give the story depth.  The Civil War is still a reality in the lives of those who fought in it by the turn of the century.  Karp recreates the time vividly for the reader.  The characters are complex and appealing.  Brun and America are changing at the same time.  Both are growing up and both are filled with potential. 


"Rating:  A"

Sally Sugarman, Deadly Pleasures Magazine, Summer 2006 (No. 48) 



"Ragtime suffuses the very air of 1899 Sedalia, Mo., in Karp's sweet‑natured historical featuring Scott Joplin and the fictional 16‑year‑old white boy Brun Campbell, who ignores the racial divide in his determination to play piano Joplin‑style. Brun runs away from home in Oklahoma and stumbles on the body of a young woman just hours after arriving in Sedalia. He carelessly grabs a locket and a money clip off the corpse, but soon learns that the objects will incriminate Joplin. To protect his idol, Brun decides to find out who the real murderer is. Karp (First, Do No Harm) does a wonderful job of depicting a town steeped in music history and in portraying Joplin, but the mystery plot pivots on a point that most readers will find hard to swallow, and the identity of the killer comes as little surprise.

Publisher's Weekly October 2 2006 



"This author is a master story teller and, once again, he has created a great story and mystery for his readers to enjoy. As Larry Karp's fans have come to expect, the unique and compelling story line, along with a cast of extraordinary characters, capture the reader's interest and attention from start to finish, and beyond. Warning: Do not be surprised if you come down with a case of ragtime fever and find yourself seeking out recordings of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, et al or sitting down at the piano to plunk out your own rendition of "Maple Leaf Rag."


"Most of the story is set in 1899 in Sedalia, Missouri. This was one of the great centers for ragtime music and at that time home to Scott Joplin. The author interweaves into the story actual historical persons and events with the fictional elements he has created. This approach gives the reader the bonus of a trip back in time to experience a very significant and exciting period in the development of ragtime music, along with a top flight mystery set in that rich context.


"The star of the story is Brun Campbell, AKA "The Ragtime Kid." Brun is a precocious fifteen‑year old piano player from Oklahoma who has a passion for playing ragtime and is enchanted by Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." He runs away from home to Sedalia to pursue his dreams, with all of the confidence and enthusiasm of youth. First and foremost, he plans to convince Joplin to accept him as a student and teach him how to play ragtime as it should be played.


"In very short order, Brun discovers that the path to realization of his dreams is not going to be quite the cakewalk he had anticipated. It is not an auspicious sign when he stumbles into the body of a murdered woman just as he is entering Sedalia. Not wanting to become suspect number one, he decides to vacate the crime scene as fast as his feet can carry him and not tell anyone about his grisly discovery.


"Brun later changes his tune when he learns a man who befriended him has been jailed for the murder, and one of the "souvenirs" Brun lifted from the crime scene seems to implicate Scott Joplin! Brun is reasonably sure neither of these men committed the murder and sets out to find the real culprit.


"As the story unfolds, Brun's considerable talents as a detective emerge, and he is given opportunities to exercise his incredible gift for thinking on his feet and finessing his way out of some very challenging situations. He encounters the full spectrum of humankind, from the most noble and heroic to the most unscrupulous, demented and evil beings imaginable. Fortunately, the resourceful Brun manages to team up with the good guys to bring the killer to justice. And ¼ through it all, he doesn't miss a beat playing his beloved ragtime music and perfecting its syncopated rhythm. What a "Kid!"

Gretchen Geib, Mysterious Galaxy Guest Reviewer  Fall 2006



"In the last years of the 19th century, the little town of Sedalia, Missouri, was something of a hotbed of ragtime music. Scott Joplin lived and worked there, playing piano in the Maple Leaf Club, and there were many others, living there and passing through, including Otis Saunders, Tom Ireland and Blind Boone. John Stark, not yet a publisher, ran the local music store.


"When 15‑year‑old piano whiz Brun Campbell meets Otis Saunders in Oklahoma City and is introduced to the music of Scott Joplin, he is deeply smitten. Within months, he has left his home and ridden the rails to Sedalia to seek out Joplin so he can learn to play ragtime. On the way, however, he stumbles on the body of a young woman. He first tries to revive her, but once he realizes the situation, he recognizes his own danger as a stranger in town and takes off, pocketing a couple of small items she no longer requires.


"Brun is a smart lad and good‑natured, and swiftly finds his feet in his new environment. He gets a job with John Stark, impresses a local saloon keeper with his piano playing, and manages to meet Scott Joplin and persuade him to take on a new pupil.


"Things seem to be going well, but then a courtly and rather ineffectual gentleman who helped Brun on his first arrival in town is arrested for the murder of the young woman. Brun is sure he didn't do it; he also realizes he has information that would point the investigation in another direction, but that direction would be straight at Scott Joplin. Deeply troubled, he sets out to uncover what he can and feel his way to a solution.


"This is a very lively book; it is well set in its period, with intriguing characters and a compelling story. The tenor of the times, the buoyant boosterism, the pervasive racism, the veneer of morality, are strongly portrayed. Many of the characters are real people ‑‑ the author includes a very useful afterward discussing what in the book is historical fact and what invention. I was interested to learn that Brun Campbell himself was a real person, and amused to discover that there was a cameo appearance by the three‑year‑old F Scott Fitzgerald, whom I did not recognize, somehow, in the course of the tale.


"The storytelling is particularly adept. Young Brun's experiences and the life and events in Sedalia are so rich a story in themselves that at first the mystery aspect seems just one small thread among many. Only gradually does it seep into the fabric of the tale, overtaking everybody's preoccupations and shouldering itself to the centre of things in the way that disasters insist on doing. RAGTIME KID is very well done."

Diana Sandberg  June 2006



"A mystery is afoot.  The locale is Sedalia , Missouri , the year is 1899 and the central character is Brun Campbell, with much help from John Stark and Scott Joplin.  What better way to entice ragtime lovers than to combine these three men in a mission to combat villainy in the town where the Maple Leaf Rag was born?


            Larry Karp has woven together known historical facts, surmised tidbits and a lot of “what-ifs” to create a work of fiction that is both a nailbiter and an “Entertainer” (pun intended).  Those readers who have spent any time in Sedalia will also recognize many other names, including Otis Saunders, Sarah and Nell Stark, Walker Williams, Charles Daniels and John Bothwell, as well as many familiar place names – all of which impart a friendliness to the story’s locale.


            Campbell (later dubbed “The Ragtime Kid”) meets Saunders who introduces him to the Maple Leaf Rag via a hand-written copy of the yet-unpublished score.  Campbell is besotted by its infectiousness and subsequently runs away from home at age 16 to meet Joplin, its composer, with the hope of taking lessons from him.  Arriving in Sedalia after dark, he stumbles over a corpse, pockets some evidence, receives lodging from a stranger and goes on to meet Joplin, who takes him on as a pupil.


            One stroke of fortune leads to another for The Ragtime Kid, and soon he is working in John Stark’s music store where he encounters an unsavory character named Elmo Freitag who has traveled to Sedalia from Kansas City to buy up all of the “colored” ragtime music he can find, accompanied by beautiful Maisie McAllister who may not have Campbell’s best interests in mind.  Trouble ensues and soon Campbell becomes embroiled in another murder and realizes it may be up to him to catch the killer and clear the names of Joplin, Stark and others who have befriended him.


            Karp pulls no punches when he paints Sedalia as a town where blacks and whites tenuously coexist, but with a racist undercurrent that can erupt to the surface when prodded by bigoted outsiders and ugly events.  Language is sometimes crude and the “n-word” appears with alarming regularity.  Yet there are also heartwarming exchanges between whites and blacks that display much hope for the future.


            The ending includes the obligatory unexpected twist for which mysteries are famous and somehow cleverly manages to dispatch the “what-ifs” and reconcile with the known facts.  Larry Karp has done his homework and his love of ragtime comes through clearly in this excellent mystery.  It should be enjoyed and appreciated by both ragtime aficionados and who-dunnit fans alike."

Jack Rummel, Ragtime Music Reviews, January 2007   Link:



David Reffkin, The Mississippi Rag, February 2007 (click image above to enlarge to a readable size)





Author:  Larry Karp
Hardback: 353 pages

Publication date: 11/4/2006

ISBN-10: 1-59058-326-4
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-326-5

currently out of print


Trade Paperback:  353 pages  

     Publication date: 10/1/2008

     ISBN-10: 1-59058-528-3
     ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-528-3


Large Type Trade Paperback: 368 pages 

Publication date: 11/4/2006

ISBN-10: 1-59058-327-2
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-327-2


Kindle e-book:  596 pages

Publication date: 12/18/2009
ISBN: 978-1-61595-108-6


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