Excerpts from the book can be found here and here. A related essay, “We Got Here Too Late to Leave Early,” can be found here.
Hailed by three separate publications as a “remarkable first novel,” Tom LaMarr’s October Revolution was praised by prominent authors including Joseph Heller. His sophomore effort, Hallelujah City, also earned widespread acclaim. (See “Endorsements, Reviews, and 3 a.m. Blues” below.) Zero Gravity, his third novel, is due in early 2017.
His daughter thinks he’s making it up, and he has yet to produce a single credible witness, but Tom loves to wrestle bears. He wrestles them while on family vacations in national parks. He wrestles them while camping in the mountains near his Colorado home. The bears typically win, but Tom derives a great deal of satisfaction from the contest itself.
His other interests are somewhat more predictable, and more easily verified. These include reading, travel, listening to music, creating his own music on a four-track analog recorder using a variety of instruments, two of which he actually knows how to play, hiking near tree line, and annoying his daughter with tales of menacing grizzlies.
Tom once hopped a freight train from Omaha to Los Angeles … with his boss. Close to abandoning their alcohol-nurtured plan in a Union Pacific rail yard as midnight approached on a brutally hot summer night, the pair received aid from a sympathetic brakeman. Tom soon had possession of an official forty-page route schedule, along with this piece of invaluable advice: “Ride in one of the extra engines. If anyone asks, you’re with Maintenance Way.” Four national parks, two mountain ranges, and one sprawling dessert later, the train trudged into the vast L.A. yards, at which point a voice blared from a speaker built into the control stand: “You have riders in Unit 3. You have riders in Unit 3.” A good minute passed before the engineer – who most likely had witnessed some very unprofessional behavior on the part of his passengers, from smoking a distinctly odiferous substance to hanging out windows to properly photograph the Wasatch Mountains – replied on that same speaker, “They’re with Maintenance Way.”
Apart from living a number of places – Tom grew up on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, studied at the University of Iowa’s Fiction Writers Workshop, worked in Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Jacksonville, Florida, and the District of Columbia – he didn’t make much of his brief internship as a drifter. Witness his final move to Colorado… now more than two decades ago. But he still has his Union Pacific freight schedule, sealed away in a box somewhere, should that lonesome whistle call.
In 2008, October Revolution came to the aid of Jerry Seinfeld. After Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures used the pun, “Give bees a chance,” to promote Seinfeld’s animated Bee Movie, a Florida-based pharmaceuticals firm sued, claiming to have filed for a trademark on the phrase one year earlier. Reading his morning paper, LaMarr took interest in the story, knowing the pun first appeared in October Revolution‘s Bee-In protest scene. He contacted Dreamworks, suggesting they make the satiric novel, copyrighted in 1998, part of their defense. Dreamworks, arguing the “Plaintiff’s claims are barred because Plaintiff was not the first to use the purported mark in commerce,” prevailed. Interestingly, the Florida firm also claims rights to “Bee In.”
October Revolution, coincidentally, was optioned for movie rights shortly after publication. The project made it to script stage (bad news for one of the main characters, who doesn’t make it to the end of this version), but has yet to see the light of a theater projector.
Read your novel with much ease, excitement, and pleasure. I found it “a lighthearted, dandy satire with a humorous plot and a variety of deft pops at many deserving targets.”
Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22
Humorous fiction is conspicuously absent from the bestseller lists.… Maybe the explanation for this lack is that truly funny books, those that understand the foibles of humans without falling into mean or sarcastic diatribe, are incredibly rare. Colorado is fortunate to have an author on the very short list of writers of good humorous fiction… October Revolution is an original and slyly funny book, and it is a remarkable first novel… [His] humor is based on true affection and understanding…
The Denver Post
Hallelujah City, like LaMarr’s debut novel, October Revolution, is a fast and funny read. Humor isn’t easy to pull off, but LaMarr does it effortlessly… Yet Hallelujah City is a melancholy novel, a meditation on mistakes that can never really be unmade. That tension, between laughter and tears, makes it deeper and more complex than many a New York Times bestseller.
Boulder Sunday Camera
LaMarr (October Revolution) has created a hectic, full-bodied account of a troubled young lady enmeshed in a bizarre religious cult… The plot is stocked with enough tension to hook readers until the chaotic, fiery climax.
Dads, so often missing from adoption stories or portrayed as minor players, have author Tom LaMarr to thank for bringing to light the uniquely male perspective on building a family. Geezer Dad takes its readers on a journey that will delight them with its wit, surprise them with its wisdom, and touch them with its tenderness.
Jana Wolff, Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother
This book is humorous and touching and full of insights into a problem faced by many, though the appeal is to all readers. It’s about hope and love winning out when the odds are tough.
Robert Garner McBrearty, author of The Lonesome Western Society
Tom LaMarr is a writer who confirms his comic gifts in this wonderfully funny first novel… The turbulent past of the Vietnam generation sneaks up and bites us where it both hurts and tickles most. Readers who lived through that era will see themselves as in a funhouse mirror. But everyone should find in October Revolution an absurd and exhilarating carnival ride of comic imagination.
Douglas Unger, author of Leaving the Land
T. Coraghessan Boyle, author of Water Music
October Revolution is a light romp of a book that explores the identity issues of a leftover ’70s revolutionary… Considering that this is Tom LaMarr’s first novel, he weaves his tale with expertise and, along the way, provides the reader with enough adventurous humor and silly plot twists to keep October Revolution consistently interesting.
San Francisco Metropolitan
October Revolution comes out of left – pretty damn Left, at that – field at you, unexpected and quirky and full of wit and marinated anger and a sense of the clash of cultures, that of the Hippies and the Yuppies. It begins and ends with the FBI taking care of Huxley’s cats out in Colorado. But in between, Huxley – who describes himself as a former “weekend hippie communist” – is drawn back into the world of his youth by an old buddy who is holding hostages in a Washington, D.C., Burger King asking for him. It is a comic, nostalgic, sad and somehow hopeful novel about all the things we’ve lost and all the things we’ve become and all the things we discover we can never quite abandon. October Revolution is very much a revolution worth supporting.
Thomas Gifford, author of The Assassini
Huxley’s not the only person looking backward to the ’60s and ’70s. LaMarr has written a satirical novel in the black-comedic style of that period, reminiscent of the work of Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. The surprise is that this retro form fits so easily into the late ’90s. Huxley is a funny if imperfect and self-absorbed observer of the end of the 20th Century… [LaMarr has] created a wonderful voice in Rod Huxley, simultaneously quixotic, resigned and oddly optimistic. He’s great company, and if this small novel doesn’t save the world, it’s enormous fun for as long as it lasts.
The Rocky Mountain News
Tom LaMarr fulfills the early promise of his first book, October Revolution, with a daring second novel, Hallelujah City. One part Canterbury Tales, another part On the Road, it begins with a prodigal daughter arriving unannounced at her father’s door and ends thousands of miles later with an explosive confrontation at a doomsday commune. Take an unforgettable road trip to Hallelujah City. You won’t regret the ride.
Timothy Hillmer, author of Ravenhill
Quirky characters, an unlikely road trip, and a doomsday cult are the disparate threads that bind Hallelujah City. The journey takes more than a few odd and amusing turns, and author Tom LaMarr has fun with the trip while capturing the essence of a father trying to rescue his daughter… LaMarr’s sense of timing and setting are good, but what is most enjoyable are his lost-soul characters who are seeking nothing so much as redemption. And they find it, not in encountering the end of the world, but in encountering each other.
Tom LaMarr’s writing is both hilarious and deeply touching. I have laughed out loud while reading his novels, and have also been deeply moved by his compassion and understanding of the human condition. Here is a writer whom one reads with real pleasure.
Robert Garner McBrearty, author of The Western Lonesome Society
LaMarr’s debut will invoke nostalgia in baby boomers no matter what their allegiances during the 1960s political wars. Well-executed flashbacks tell of [protagonist Huxley’s] youthful folly, his overzealous contemporaries.
LaMarr’s memoir [Geezer Dad] delivers everything it promises in its subtitle: “How I Survived Infertility Clinics, Fatherhood Jitters, Adoption Wait Limbo, and Things That Go ‘Waaa’ in the Night,” with plenty of humor, as well as raw emotion. It’s refreshing to read about the infertility struggle and intense desire to be a parent from an older father’s perspective. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, relatable read.
Adoptive Families magazine
Two Great Books About Adoption and Infertility: I have solved your holiday gift giving woes. I have read two good books about adoption and infertility that would make great gifts for Christmas, Hanukah, or whatever holiday you celebrate that requires a gift. You can thank me later for saving you from the torture of buying one more bottle of perfume or a tie. [The first book, Geezer Dad] follows one man from blissful ignorance to infertility and ultimately adoption, and manages to be honest, serious, and funny all at the same time…
Creating a Family
Tom LaMarr, author of two critically praised novels, returns with his first memoir… a story that features both Barry-esque humor and a helpfully pioneering attitude for older parents.
Boulder Sunday Camera
I can see [Hallelujah City] as a movie, up on the big screen…
Mensa Bulletin: The Magazine of American Mensa
A thought-provoking examination of how families are affected when one of their own joins a cult… Moving beyond media sensationalism, LaMarr depicts the vulnerability of those who join cults and the family suffering involved… LaMarr subtly but successfully portrays the manipulations of a self-proclaimed Messiah.
Rocky Mountain News
The result is a very unusual road trip and an explosive ending. This is a tale of family – both its failings and triumphs.
The Arkansas Traveler
If the intriguing title and the conflagration on the book’s cover don’t ignite your curiosity… LaMarr’s story blazes with characters who provide the fuel: an end-time leader with stage experience, a single dad with parenting regrets, a pregnant daughter who believes she’s delayed Judgment Day, and an author with serious doubts about his abilities to write and to stay one step ahead of the repo man. And there’s a bonus: LaMarr’s descriptions of winter in northern Minnesota will cool the scorch of summer in Iowa.
This is a great little book I randomly picked up in the library. It is the story of an end-times cult and what happens the day after the world fails to end. It is really more about a man and his cult member daughter and their relationship. I really enjoyed this book.
A mature reflection on the period that turned everything around. LaMarr clearly has been through it all and views it with detached humor throughout this novel of experience.
The Whitehorse Review
Hilarious … The narration is consistently funny and insightful.
In this remarkable first novel, Tom LaMarr creates a loveable comic hero… It’s rare and refreshing to find humor infiltrating a literary work about the Vietnam War and the peace movement. But, in one hilarious event after another, LaMarr successfully summons the era’s clash of ideologies with both wit and insight.
Iowa Alumni Magazine
I hate to admit I don’t do much fiction reading, but October Revolution made me realize what I have been missing. This romp is enjoyable for the lineup of always interesting characters as well as the historical context in which LaMarr places them.
The memoir Geezer Dad is a side-splitting look at handling infertility and adopting as an older parent.
Adoptive Families magazine
This is a very funny book.
Ryan Warner, Senior Host of Colorado Matters, Colorado Public Radio
A debut novel – half-comedy, half treatise on ’60s fallen dreams – that offers amusing insights.
A funny, sardonic debut from LaMarr … As comical as his present-day hijinks are, the hilarious rendering of Huxley’s political past is even funnier….
Boulder Sunday Camera
A wonderfully funny book.
Rocky Ford Daily Gazette
It is a delight and, what’s more, it has a great opening sentence: “The FBI is watching my cats.”
Still here? Then, thank you for visiting. If you have a question for Tom, or are closely related to Quentin Tarantino or Steven Spielberg, you are encouraged to contact tomlamarr at tomlamarr dot com.
Hidden bonus tracks:
“Live at the Kings 2 am (audience bootleg recording)”
“Live at the Kings 3 am (audience bootleg recording)”
“A Little Something”
“Old Monastery Road (Bury the Needle)”
“Sailing the Night Sky”
“Where the Wild Heather Blooms”
“When the Jones Boys Come to Play”
“Rain at the Beach”
“When Buddy Holly Worked at Motown”
“Happy Sex Robot Parade”
“Sex Robot Rebellion”
A taste of homemade jam for guests who scrolled all the way to the bottom. Beginning as improvisations, these tracks were layered and mixed on a four-track analog cassette recorder purchased on eBay for fifty dollars. Guitars, backwards guitars, bass, simple keyboards, and even simpler violin were played by the world’s oldest eighteen-year-old guitarist. Percussion was provided by a tiny drummer who lives inside a guitar effects box.