Mark Douglas is an IRS accountant, a former Marine content to hide out in his cubicle and audit suspicious tax returns. His latent thirst for action is satisfied by occasional forays into the field, armed with tear gas, a bull horn, and a rental truck to haul in whatever pays the back taxes of the most egregious evaders.
Life is good for Mark. After long days at the office courting carpal tunnel syndrome, he joins his co-workers at their local watering hole to relive past glories deciphering fraudulent tax returns, ponder unexpected consequences of tax loopholes, and ogle busty barmaids.
Mark’s boss, Lila, is a beautiful and sexy tax prodigy. One day, she discovers “odd jiggles” in three seemingly unconnected 1040s, and is murdered for what she knows. Mark suddenly has lots of chances to put his very particular set of ex-Marine skills to work.
Death and Taxes (Aperient Press) is a first for author Mark Zaslove, who previously earned three Emmys and a Humanitas Award for his work on Disney’s The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh television series. He’s a writer, director and producer of animation and stop-action projects for movies and television, creating content for Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros.
But back to the book. One loophole leads to another, and soon Mark and his band of IRS pranksters are up to their pencil sharpeners in an FBI investigation involving money laundering, bigamy, smuggled plutonium, and hawala (the ancient system of money transfer based on passwords and trust). Also in the mix: the leader of the Mongolian Mob, Erdenetungalag Antioch, who proves Rudyard Kipling was right about the female of the species being more deadly than the male, with the possible exception of Juju Klondike, the eunuch assassin.
“Death and Taxes reminded me that I love writing prose, more than the scripts I’ve been fairly successful at,” says Zaslove. The book also kept him entertained. “It’s just so silly, and I like the characters,” he adds. With slapstick humor, libidinous innuendo and groan-worthy puns served up with much tequila, Death and Taxes will entertain readers, too.
BookTrib recently had a phone interview with Zaslove at his home in Santa Monica, California, where we talked about taxes, being audited, potential sequels, and stories about IRS agents.
BookTrib: Were you ever audited?
Mark Zaslove: Actually I was, once. A very crazy person audited me, a nice guy, but kind of an ex-rock and roller who’d just come back from Vegas, and was on the phone trying to explain his trip to his girlfriend at the same time.
BookTrib: You thank a “wily” IRS agent for inspiring your book. Can you share any of his real life tales of tax adventure?
MZ: In passing, he mentioned that an associate doing a really routine check on a tax return discovered something that raised a red flag and led to mob connections. When the agent started investigating, he was killed.
BookTrib: Are there really repo accountants who go after tax cheats?
MZ: That was another story the agent told me. The IRS does send out some agents to repossess things, like cars, but they do not bring weapons or tear gas.
BookTrib: Are you writing a “Death and Taxes” sequel?
MZ: I’m calling it “Declare the Pennies,” and there are a few things going on. An extreme right wing type of religious figure is killed. The chief suspect is the husband of a liberal animal rights poster girl, but the husband has an alibi: He’s on camera at a basketball game kissing his girlfriend at the time of the murder. Meanwhile, Mark’s girlfriend’s dog has gotten into the blueberry-flavored vodka. He seems to have a drinking problem.
BookTrib: Who are your favorite authors?
MZ: At the time I wrote “Death and Taxes” I was reading Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard, writers who write snappy, fun stuff. I thought, I’m a smart ass, I can do that. But I also like the Magical Realists, and Nabokov and Salinger.
BookTrib: Who is your favorite Winnie the Pooh character?
MZ: When I was working on “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” I was known to behave like Tigger. I was always bouncing around the room.
Death and Taxes is now available for purchase.
ABOUT MARK ZASLOVE
Mark Zaslove is a long-standing writer/director/producer, live-action and animation entertainment industry veteran, working in both movies and television. He’s done time – scratch that – created content for all the major studios, including Disney, Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing/producing, Mark also won the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies – go figure). He also writes short fiction and right after college (where he studied astrophysics), he served as senior editor on various magazines including a couple for the notorious LFP, Inc.—google it—but from there he went to “Winnie the Pooh,” so his karma is still cool.
Finally, one day, he got fed up with the rigorous structure of scriptwriting and everyone giving him notes and decided: “WTH! Time to stretch my legs, step on the gas and write a novel for the sheer fun of it!” And voila, almost before you could say “Death and Taxes,” the book was done. What’s more, it’s just the first in a series of fast-paced thrillers following the escapades of IRS agent Mark Douglas and his band of merry revenuers as they bring justice to those in great need of same, while collecting your Federal dollars along the way. Hey, for both Marks, it’s a living.