Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Yes, I am the hipster OJ Simpson

Michael Estrin is the author of Murder and Other Distractions. I have just finished reading his book and really enjoyed it. If you want to grab a copy, Murder and Other Distractions is available in the Kindle store at and

If you’re wanted for murder, the last thing you should do is smoke a joint, eat a taco, and alienate potential alibis. Then again, Ethan isn’t a very good murder suspect.

Maybe it’s just been a lousy week for him. There are layoffs at the office, poorly written death threats, and a vapid, but alluring coworker sending Ethan mixed signals. The f-buddy who loves to loathe him doesn’t understand that it’s over, and his philosophizing best friend is pretty sure that Ethan’s problem is merely the dreary momentum of the hipster ethos. Or it could be that Ethan’s pot dealer is out of baggies once again.

But the cop who’s after him doesn’t buy any of that bullshit. Despite being lazy and crooked, Boyd is damn good at his job. He’s certain Ethan murdered his ex—The Girl Who Got Away—along with her nobody of a boyfriend. And the more Boyd hounds him for a confession, the more Ethan comes to see the murders as his way out of the existential crisis consuming him.

So who is Michael Estrin?

Michael Estrin grew up in Los Angeles, fled, and returned.

He has written for a broad range of publications, including American Way, Nerve, Bitter Lawyer, AskMen, Draft, California Lawyer, and Penthouse (yes, they have articles, too).

Murder and Other Distractions is his first novel.

I invited Michael to write a guest post for my blog. Here is his contribution, entitled Yes, I am the hipster OJ Simpson.

There are two kinds of authors—those who divide the world by broad generalizations and those who do not. Guess which group I belong to. There are also two kinds of readers—those who believe fictional characters are loosely based on a real person or an amalgam of real people, and those who believe fictional characters are lifted wholesale from real people in the author’s life (albeit with a name change and, perhaps, a physical malady to avoid legal entanglements and awkward cocktail party conversations). My mother-in-law, apparently, falls into the second camp. This Christmas she bought me a t-shirt with the warning: Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel. I love the shirt, but I swear I’ll never wear it.

Plenty of writers base fictional characters on real people. In fact, there’s a cottage industry of Internet lists unmasking the real-life inspirations for fictional characters (see, here, here, and for a seemingly more comprehensive Wikipedia page, click here). But so what? Is the search for the American dream more, or less, compelling in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because you know that Raoul Duke is Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego? Is A. A. Milne less of an author because he used a bear at the London zoo as his model for Winnie-the-Pooh? Are the Coen brothers somehow less original because The Dude is based on Jeff Dowd, who, along with “six other guys,” was part of the Seattle Seven?


But then I unwrapped the t-shirt from my mother-in-law, and I knew that I should have added a Frequently Asked Questions section at the back of Murder and Other Distractions. If I did, it would have gone something like this.

You’re Ethan, right? Admit it.

No. Ethan is the protagonist in my novel, which is a work of fiction.

Yeah, but Ethan is a based on you, right?

Only in the most superficial ways. For instance, we’re both men. We’re both from Los Angeles, which is actually kind of rare because you don’t find a lot of LA natives. And we both have strong opinions about where the best tacos in LA are. Also, we both think Tone Loc is severely underrated.

OK. But Ethan works as a staff writer for a website, isn’t that your old job?

Yes, I’ve been a staff writer for several websites. I’ve written extensively about lawyers, advertising, and the porn business (there’s more overlap than you might think).

Ethan works for a website that is an also-ran to Gawker or Buzzfeed. But it’s a big Internet, so I’m pretty sure we’re not the only people who have ever held writing positions at online publications.

But seriously, Ethan is totally you? You can tell me, I can keep a secret.

Oh! In that case, there was this one time when I was a suspect in a double murder. It was a real mess. This crooked cop thought I was the killer because the victims were my ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend—two people identified in court documents as The Girl Who Got Away and Lesser Me.

ANYWAY, things got pretty hairy there for a while. I was like the hipster O.J. Simpson. At one point there was even a low-speed Vespa chase!

Are you serious?

Totally. But I beat the murder rap.


It was easy. The key piece of evidence against me was a bloody t-shirt that my mother-in-law had given me. The cops thought they had me dead to rights. But anyone who knows me, knows that I never, ever wear the T-shirts my mother-in-law buys me. So it was pretty easy to prove that this whole thing was a frame-job. Classic case, actually.

Unreal. What did that T-shirt say?

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Follow Michael on Twitter @mestrin
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