Today I welcome Alan Russell. Over the course of eleven previous novels, including the bestselling Gideon and Sirius series (Burning Man, Guardians of the Night), Alan Russell has earned a reputation as “one of the best writers in the mystery field today” (Publishers Weekly) by crafting gripping thrillers based on “what if” scenarios pulled from the headlines and his own imagination. In his latest, A COLD WAR (Thomas & Mercer, October 6, 2015), Russell creates his most suspenseful psychological thriller yet: the story of an abducted woman fighting for her life against a diabolical captor in the wilds of Alaska.
ALAN RUSSELL: The Voices Behind A COLD WAR
A COLD WAR is my twelfth published novel. Every one of my books involves a personal journey. I first started thinking about writing this novel more than twenty years ago. It all started with an idea: the abduction of a well-off young woman who is taken into the wilderness by a survivalist mountain man.
Over the years I kept thinking about the book. Who is this woman? Was she taken for a reason? Could she survive under such terrible circumstances? Is there anything in her life that could prepare her for this cold hell?
I knew this wouldn’t be an easy book to write. I don’t like it in real life when bad things happen to good people. Because of that, it’s difficult for me to even write fictional accounts of brutality and privation. At the same time my favorite novels, and those that I get the most satisfaction from writing, center around the notion of redemption. In order to be redeemed, Nina must survive a terrible crucible.
As the years passed I kept making notes, and continued thinking about my protagonist and potential antagonists. When my family visited Alaska I was preoccupied with plotting the book. Everywhere we stopped, and all the excursions we took, were potential scenes. For years before our visit I had researched Alaska, but the state is so huge I knew it would not be easy to encapsulate its immensity in the written word.
Some books you have to fight. I had to go to war with A COLD WAR. There were times I wanted to give up on the book, but I couldn’t. I wanted to know what would happen to my protagonist Nina Granville, and was especially taken with the “secret sharer” relationship Nina established through the secreted journal of Elese Martin. Elese had preceded her in enforced bondage. She was a honeymooner that the mountain man had snatched years earlier. Although Elese is dead, it is through her words in the hidden journal that Nina finds the will, and the way, to survive.
Most of my novels have come out in audio. My readers are always shocked to hear that I’ve only listened to snippets of my own books, never sitting through more than five minutes of any recording. I guess there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to tamper with the voice that’s already in my head, especially as several of my recent books have been bestsellers. I was afraid to mess with success.
I was excited, though, when I heard Teri Clark Linden would be doing the audio of A COLD WAR. From the first time we communicated, I said, “This is Nina!” If you go to You Tube and enter Teri Clark Linden Acting Reel, you can see her versatility. If you are a movie buff like I am, you will remember her scenes. She is never on the big screen for long, but she always makes an impact.
Writing is always considered a solitary pursuit, but Teri almost made A COLD WAR feel like a collaborative effort. She wanted to know about Nina. She wanted to be Nina. During the course of our writing back and forth I learned that Teri lives in Ohio. Having a family for her is much more important than landing a Hollywood role, which is why she’s in the Buckeye State. She also has a beautiful German shepherd named Gerty (a.k.a. Gertrude Vondergill) whom we think would be a wonderful girlfriend for Sirius (the K-9 partner of Detective Michael Gideon in my BURNING MAN series).
Teri told me she needs to bring a different set of skills to audiobooks than she does to stage or film. “When I act I usually focus on one person,” she said, “and most of the time I use my natural voice. With audiobooks I have to use a range of voices. I also have to do a lot of preparation with regards to the text and pronunciation.”
Because of what my character Nina experiences, I thought she would be difficult to voice, but Teri didn’t feel so much challenged by the narrative as much as she did in considering Nina’s east coast residence and social position. Teri also picked up on the fact that Nina is a different person at the end of the book than she was at the beginning.
“Her experiences change Nina,” she said, “and I tried to show that through vocal shifts.”
Before she did the narration, I confessed to Teri that in my mind’s eye I thought of Nina being somewhat akin to Jackie Kennedy – smart, sophisticated, attractive, and privileged. I also saw Nina as indomitable and having a fierce resolve; attributes she needed to survive. Teri had much the same take on Nina, and tried to show that in her voice (“Even though I in no way tried to make her sound like Jackie Kennedy!” she said). As for her narrating the emotionally charged scenes, Teri said she had to rely on her acting training.
Teri said she always reads a book two or three times before she records it. During those readings she flags unfamiliar words and names so as to be familiar with their pronunciation. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of stopping and starting that goes with the reading of a book. A COLD WAR clocks in at almost eleven hours as an audiobook, but it took Teri three days and more than twenty-five hours to narrate the novel.
In talking to Teri I found that writing and acting have common ground. As a character, Nina felt like a real person to me. Teri experienced much the same thing, and said that when she plays a character on stage for some time, “The character feels like someone I know.”
As a sometime listener of audiobooks (at least those of other authors!), I am always amazed that the narrator can remember the voices of so many different characters. When I asked Teri about that, I almost felt like I was asking a magician how a trick was performed. Teri admitted that keeping track of the characters wasn’t easy, but one of her methods was to “see the scene in my head.” And then there’s the “trial and error” method she said: “Sometimes I have to play around for a while with various voices and read aloud dialogue throughout the book before I’m satisfied with how a character will sound.”
A COLD WAR will be published on October 6th. I hope you will read it – I mean listen to it – then.
I was so excited to post that Michael Robotham won the Gold Dagger for Life or Death that I neglected to list the winners of the other Daggers. The awards were given out this evening in London. Congratulations to all!
CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
Food trends and cooking bloggers may come
and go, but the writers at
MysteryLoversKitchen.comare celebrating almost six years of daily recipes and stories. Aside
from the daily blog posts, these writers have had
more than forty cozy culinary mysteries published by Berkley/NAL over the past five years.
They use current themes like competition between celebrity chefs, reality TV cooking shows,
and fatal food allergies to spice up their culinary mysteries.
“The best part of the Kitchen is the friendships we’ve developed, not just between the
authors but with readers, too,” says blog founder
“We feature a recipe every day and
invite other authors to share favorite recipes with
us on Sundays. There’s something for everyone.”
Here’s a taste of our culinary crime files.
SUBJECT: Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib GUILTY OF: Turning up the heat.
Hayley Snow, the restaurant critic character in
my Key West mystery series, is a serious foodie.
She loves sampling the flavors of the restaurants
in the city, and teasing out what makes one meal
good, but another magical. For her, the cooking
itself is not so much the miracle. It’s all about the
eating. And then choosing the words that bring
food to life on the page.
Here’s how she describes food writing in
Death in Four Courses:
When we write about simmering a stew or
a sauce for hours or days, we are really talking about how much we owe to the folks
who came before us and the importance of
cherishing their memory. And how much
we yearn to give to the people in our present who’ll be gathered around our table.
We are writing about food as family history,
and love, and hope, and sometimes a little
splash of guilt.
Writing this series has expanded my food horizons. I have to cook what Hayley Snow might
cook and eat where she might eat. Since Hayley
came on the scene, my husband and I have enjoyed her shrimp and grits, key lime cupcakes,
coconut cake, and many more ravishing dishes.
And we’ve tried about every restaurant in Key
West. There’s only one problem. These days, if I
don’t photograph dinner before putting it on the
table, my husband worries: Does this not meet
Hayley Snow’s Key Lime Parfaits
5 whole graham crackers, crushed, to make
about one cup
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1⁄2 cup key lime juice
key lime zest
2 cups whipping cream 1⁄4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Crush the graham crackers. (Easy way: Place the graham crackers in a ziplock bag and roll
them to crumbs with a rolling pin.)
Mix the crumbs with the melted butter and
brown sugar. Spread this on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake for ten minutes or until
golden. Let this cool, then break into crumbs
Meanwhile, whip the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla. Set half of this aside for
Juice the limes and strain out any seeds. Mix
the condensed milk with the lime juice. The citrus will cause the milk to thicken. Gently stir in
one cup of whipped cream.
Layer some of the baked crumbs into eight
parfait or martini glasses, then add some of the
key lime mixture, and repeat. When you have
distributed all the ingredients, top with dollops
of whipped cream. Sprinkle with more crumbs
and some zested lime if you want a stronger flavor.
Lucy Burdette’s sixth Key West food critic mystery,
Fatal Reservations, will be published on July 7. Her
website is www.robertaisleib.com.
As Gouda as Dead
SUBJECT: Daryl Wood Gerber and Avery Aames GUILTY OF: Double booking
From Charlotte: Hi. I’m Charlotte Bessette,
owner of Fromagerie Bessette, or as locals in
Providence, Ohio like to call it, The Cheese Shop.
I took over management from my grandparents a
couple of years ago, in partnership with my
cousin, a wine connoisseur. Together, we’ve created a go-to destination in our darling tourist-
driven town. I’ve lived in Ohio all my life. Recently I married the love of my life.
The only thing that doesn’t make my life bliss
is the fact that I occasionally find myself investi-
gating a murder. Needless to say, the chief of
police, who happens to be a good friend, isn’t
thrilled, but I’m a bit of a fixer and I can’t sit idle
when a family member or friend is accused of
murder. Would you? Oh, by the way, drop by The
Cheese Shop any time for a sampling or a taste of
our daily quiches.
By the way, have you heard about the fabulous
culinary bookshop in Crystal Cove? I’ve been
online chatting with the owner. I think we’re going to become fast friends. I’ll let her introduce
From Jenna: Hey, thanks, Charlotte. For those
who don’t know me, I’m Jenna Hart. Yes, my
aunt and I own The Cookbook Nook and the
Nook Café in Crystal Cove. We’re located along
the northern portion of the Central Coast of
California. It’s beautiful here, with a crest of hills,
the gorgeous blue ocean, and a Mediterranean-style climate to beat all. I used to work in advertising, but I wasn’t thriving after my husband died. I returned home to find my smile. And I
have. I adore Crystal Cove and all of its residents.
We, like Charlotte, have a tourist-driven econ-
omy, which is great for a shop like mine. We sell
cookbooks as well as culinary fiction and darling
kitchen items. I have a ginger cat named Tigger.
He adopted me. Charlotte, you forgot to mention
Rags, your sweet Ragdoll, also adopted. I live in a
cottage on the beach. It’s part of my aunt’s property.
Like Charlotte, I, too, have found myself embroiled in a few investigations. The first involved
my college roommate. Such a loss! How could I
not get involved? Unlike Charlotte, I don’t cook.
Well, I do. I’m learning, but I didn’t learn until
recently. Right now, I’m tackling ten-ingredient
recipes. Quite a giant step for a non-cook like
me. I am a foodie, however; I adore gourmet
food. Stop in The Cookbook Nook, and we’ll
chat. If you want, ask my aunt to do a tarot card
reading for you. She tells fortunes on the side.
She’s pretty on the mark. See you soon!
We’re sharing Apple Bacon Gouda Quiche.
Quiche because Charlotte makes a daily quiche.
Quiche because it’s only a few ingredients, which
means Jenna can master it as long as she doesn’t
attempt the crust!
Apple Bacon Gouda Quiche
1 pie shell (store-bought, usually frozen, can
1 green apple, pared and sliced into thin slices
4–6 slices of bacon, crisply cooked and crum-
1⁄2 cup sour cream 1⁄2 cup whipping cream 1⁄2 cup milk 1⁄2 cup mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
1 tablespoon brown sugar 1⁄2 cup shredded Gouda cheese 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired
Heat oven to 400° F. Bake pie shell for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce
oven heat to 375° F.
Arrange apple slices in cooled pie shell. Arrange crumbled bacon on top. Sprinkle with
In a small bowl, mix sour cream, whipping
cream, milk, mascarpone cheese, and eggs. Mix
in the shredded cheese. Pour the mixture into
the pie shell on top of the apples and bacon. (The
apples and bacon will rise in the cream. Don’t
worry.) Dust with cinnamon, if desired.
Bake 35 minutes until quiche is firm and
lightly brown on top. Serves 4-6.
Daryl Wood Gerber writes the Cookbook Nook
mystery series; as Avery Aames, she pens the Cheese
Shop mystery series. Daryl is an avid foodie and loves
to cook. As a girl, she sold chocolate cream pies
around the neighborhood. Prior to her breakout as an
author, she catered, ran a restaurant, and even did
some shortorder cooking.www.darylwoodgerber.com
The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss
SUBJECT: Krista Davis GUILTY OF: Chocolate theft
Food was always a big deal in my family. It
didn’t have to be fancy, it just had to be good.
Let’s face it, entertaining and celebrations always
revolve around food. So it wasn’t a big stretch for
me to add recipes to my mysteries. Like my protagonist, Sophie Winston in the Domestic Diva
mysteries, I love to entertain friends. What’s
more fun than friends and family gathered
around the table enjoying a great meal?
When I started my new series about dogs and
cats, I could have omitted recipes entirely. But
Holly Miller has the ultimate luxury of living in
the Sugar Maple Inn where someone else does
the cooking. She’s busy running the inn with her
German grandmother but there’s no shortage of
delicious meals. There’s even a refrigerator in
their private kitchen where yummy leftovers end
up! Ahh, now that’s the good life!
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1⁄2 cup butter
2 cups flour 3⁄4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
21⁄2 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla 1⁄4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
additional 1⁄4 cup semi-sweet or dark choco-
late chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Melt the butter, and set
it aside to cool. Line a cupcake pan with paper
liners. Use a fork to mix the flour, sugar, baking
powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
Mash the bananas with a fork in another large
bowl. Add the cooled butter and vanilla and mix.
Add the eggs and mix well with the fork.
Pour the flour mixture on top and fold until
the flour disappears. Do not overmix!
Gently stir in 1⁄4 cup chocolate chips. Spoon
into the cupcake liners, filling them almost to the
Bake 20 minutes or until the muffins are a
light golden brown on top.
Melt 1⁄4 cup chocolate chips in microwave on
30 second bursts, stirring in between. Use a fork
to drizzle chocolate over top of cooled muffins.
Makes 12–16 muffins.
Krista Davis’s next release is The Diva Steals a
Chocolate Kiss on June 2nd. She is the author of the
Paws and Claws mysteries, including Murder, She
Barked and the Domestic Diva mysteries, including
The Diva Wraps It Up. Her friends and family
complain about being guinea pigs for her recipes, but
she notices that they keep coming back for more. Visit
her at KristaDavis.com.
Once Upon a Grind
SUBJECT: Cleo Coyle GUILTY OF: Brewing up murder
New York City may be crowded, loud, and
expensive, but it’s also a delicious mix of peoples,
cultures, and cuisines. It’s such a tasty melting
pot that “Eat with diversity!” has become our
motto —one we’ve lent to Clare Cosi, the amateur sleuth in our long-running series of Coffee-house Mysteries. Clare grew up baking biscotti
and serving espressos in her grandmother’s Italian grocery, an upbringing she puts to good use
managing the landmark Village Blend coffee-house in Greenwich Village.
Of course, in New York, crime happens; and
when murder crosses her coffeehouse doorstep,
Clare steps up as an unlikely but capable sleuth—and what appetizing turns her sleuthing takes....
From the best egg tarts in Chinatown, to Little
Manila’s exquisitely purple Ube Cake, to Brooklyn’s finest bean-to-bar chocolatier, Clare leads
readers on the same foodie odysseys we’ve experienced in our three decades chewing on the Big
Apple. As for the murders on our menu, they’re
often culinary crimes.
In French Pressed, a chef is sliced and diced,
and Clare’s daughter is charged with the killing.
Clare’s sleuthing puts her into tight (but yummy)
spots—like sampling smuggled beluga caviar
amid shady characters in Brighton Beach’s Little
In A Brew to a Kill, a nutritionist is struck by
a van that might belong to a crazy cupcake queen
on New York’s competitive food truck scene.
Clare is on the case with a Salvadoran pupusa in
her pocket and a ticket to New York’s Dragon
Boat Festival, where more exotic treats await.
In Once Upon a Grind, Clare investigates a
sleeping beauty and discovers the bliss of
Frisbee-sized Bosnian burgers in Queens, and
the true story behind the best frankfurter in
Yorkville—one that comes with classic New York
hot dog onions.
You’ll find those recipes and many more in
our culinary mysteries, another way we happily
share the tasty contents of New York’s melting
pot. Now for another classic recipe...
New York Coffee Egg Cream
Into a tall, frosted glass, pour 1 inch of chilled
coffee syrup, recipe below. Add cold milk until
the liquid line reaches 2 inches. Using a fork,
whisk the coffee syrup and milk. Once they are
fully blended, continue whisking as you slowly
add cold seltzer (do not use club soda) until the
fizzy, white head reaches the top.
COFFEE SYRUP: Brew very strong coffee by placing 1 cup of ground coffee (medium to fine
grind) into your drip coffee maker. Place 2 cups
of water in the reservoir and brew. This will yield
about 1 cup of concentrated coffee. Place this
coffee into a small saucepan over medium heat
and slowly stir in 11⁄4 cups of white, granulated
sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer. Continue stirring for
about 15 minutes until it thickens enough to coat
the back of a spoon. Store in the refrigerator.
Cleo Coyle is the pseudonym of Alice Alfonsi, who
collaborates with her husband, Marc Cerasini, to write
the Coffeehouse mysteries and the Haunted Bookshop
mysteries for Penguin. When not haunting
coffeehouses or hunting ghosts, Alice and Marc are
also media tie-in writers.
There’s more to Orange County than theme parks and stunning beaches. For the second time, the Southern California tourist capital will be the setting for an all-day literary event that celebrates women who commit crime by writing about it. Ladies of Intrigue, featuring local and internationally known mystery authors, will be held Saturday, October 3, at Hotel Huntington Beach.
Catriona McPherson will be heading south to be one of the headliners. The Scottish native, whose books include the Dandy Gilver mysteries, and the new standalone The Child Garden, is president of Sisters in Crime National. The other keynote speaker is Carol Higgins Clark, who pens the best-selling Regan Reilly series and, with her famed mother Mary Higgins Clark, a popular holiday mystery series. Another dozen-plus authors will be featured on panels.
Like the inaugural Ladies of Intrigue, which was held in Spring 2014, this year’s event will explore popular mystery topics. Panels will focus on cozies, the darker side of mystery and the hot sub-genre, young adult.
Authors who’ll explore the latter are authors Margaux Froley (the Keaton School series), Abby McDonald (titles include The Anti-Prom; and, as Abigail Haas, Dangerous Girls and Dangerous Boys), Michele Scott (her multiple series include the PSI Trilogy and the Holly Jennings thrillers) and Sarah Skilton (Bruised, High and Dry). The moderator is librarian and book reviewer Marlyn Beebe.
Mysteries that dig deep/dark will be discussed by Anne Cleeland (the Orange Countian pens the New Scotland Yard series), Ann Parker (the Silver Rush historical series), Pamela Samuels Young (legal thrillers including Murder on the Down Low) and Betty Webb (the Lena Jones P.I. series.) O.C. radio host Barbara DeMarco Barrett (of the show “Writers on Writing”), a writer and writing coach, will moderate.
Panelists who’ll talk cozies are Connie Archer (the Soup Lovers’ Mystery Series), Sue Ann Jaffarian (her books include the Ghost of Granny Apple and the Odelia Grey series), Harley Jane Kozak (Dating Dead Men is one of her many titles) and Mary Marks (a Quilting Mystery series). Diane Vallere, president of the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and author of a trio of cozy series with fashion/décor-themes, will moderate.
Ladies of Intrigue attendees will also be introduced to the published authors of Orange County Sisters in Crime.
The ticketed event, which will include a luncheon, will begin at 8:45 a.m. (Registration begins at 8 p.m.) Additional information is at www.ocsistersincrime.org
Today I welcome D.E. Ireland, a team of award-winning authors, Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Long time friends, they decided to collaborate on a mystery based on George Bernard Shaw’s wonderfully witty play, Pygmalion, using all his beloved characters, including Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, and Colonel Pickering. Sharon and Meg both live in Michigan, have patient husbands, brilliant daughters, and share a love of good books, tea and history. Their first book in the series, Wouldn’t It Be Deadly, was a 2014 Agatha nominee for Best Historical Mystery.
For more information, check out their website.
D. E. Ireland: Those Exciting Edwardian Women
The beauty of writing a book set in 1913 is that it serves as a bridge from the privileged world of the Edwardians to the upheavals of the 20th century. Although the Edwardian era officially began with Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 and ended in 1910 with the death of King Edward VII, the years 1910-1913 seem little more than an extension of the Edwardian period. It is not until the outbreak of WWI in 1914, that radical social change is visibly seen. By the time ‘the war to end all wars’ ended in 1918, the world was a much different place. We find writing about this time period fascinating – especially for our female characters.
In Move Your Blooming Corpse, we included two groups of Edwardian women with totally different aims: the Gaiety Girls who took to the stage, and the Suffragettes who took to the streets in political protest. Gaiety Girl Diana Price kicks off the deadly action in our second book by being too beautiful – and too curious – for her own good. And we introduce suffragette Sybil Chase to our permanent cast of characters. Engaged to marry a Scotland Yard detective (who also happens to be Eliza Doolittle’s cousin), Sybil manages to stay one step ahead of the arresting police during her own political protests… at least so far.
Gaiety Girls – Beginning in the 1890s, pretty young women looking for an exciting career found work as chorus girls in London’s musical theater world. Because they were showcased at the Gaiety Theatre, these women became known as Gaiety Girls. Unlike the actresses who appeared in earlier burlesque shows, the Gaiety Girls were viewed as respectable young women. The rich men of London flocked to their performances, waiting eagerly outside the theater afterward for their favorite chorus dancer. Their admirers grew so plentiful, the term ‘Stage Door Johnnies’ was coined.
Both men and women looked upon the elegant Gaiety Girl as a feminine role model. The top clothing designers of London created costumes for their shows, turning the Gaiety Girls into style icons. Photographs of them in their latest outfits became a staple of fashion periodicals. Many of these young women went on to have successful acting careers; one even became a member of Parliament. But marriage was still the key to social mobility, and many Gaiety Girls married aristocrats.
Although titled families were often less than thrilled by such marriages, several Gaiety Girls married not once – but twice – into the peerage. One of them, Denise Orme, became wife to a baron, and later a duke. And no Gaiety Girl was photographed more than Gertie Millar. The beautiful singer/dancer married composer Lionel Monckton, who wrote many of the shows for which she became celebrated. Following his death, the irrepressible Gertie went on to become a countess when she married the Earl of Dudley.
The Gaiety Theater was demolished in 1903 and rebuilt in a new London location. It continued to provide a showcase for the beautiful Gaiety Girls until it finally closed in 1939.
Suffragettes – Women began campaigning for the right to vote before Queen Victoria sat on her throne. Social reformer Richard Pankhurst tirelessly fought for many liberal causes, but it was his wife Emmeline, along with their daughters Christabel and Sylvia, who became the leading figures of the suffrage movement. In October 1903, Emmeline formed the Women’s Social and Political Union, which quickly gained notoriety for its extreme civil disobedience. This October, Meryl Streep will portray Emmeline Pankhurst in the film Suffragette.
The militant protests of the suffragettes caught the world’s attention: chaining themselves to the railing at No. 10 Downing Street, smashing windows, arson, and disrupting political meetings, even in Parliament. English society was forced to take sides, especially after the tragic death of Emily Davison, who deliberately ran onto the racetrack at the 1913 Derby and was trampled to death. In our second book, we utilized the true copycat incident of Harold Hewitt, a supporter of women’s rights, who rushed out onto the track a few weeks later at Royal Ascot. Although Mr. Hewitt survived, Emily Davison did not, and, her funeral prompted thousands of suffragettes to follow the hearse through London’s streets.
World War I put suffrage on hold. While soldiers fought on the front lines, women contributed to the war effort by taking on jobs normally held by men. It was their stellar performance in shouldering these wartime responsibilities that gained widespread respect for the suffrage movement. The U.S. passed full voting rights to women in 1920, and England passed full rights in 1928. The struggle took far too long, but was well worth the fight.
This is only one stop on the MOVE YOUR BLOOMING CORPSE Mystery Virtual Book Tour. For other stops on this tour, CLICK HERE.
You can also read more about Eliza and Higgins in WOULDN’T IT BE DEADLY, the first book in the St. Martin’s Minotaur mystery series.
It’s always been a tricky task to watch some of Britain’s best television unless it got picked up by Masterpiece Theater. But the international borders of broadcasting are somewhat eroded by the news that the BBC plans to launch a Netflix-style streaming service offering programming past and present. Some of its most popular shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock,
which already air in this country, won’t be included, but there’s
plenty more to watch: Few networks around the world can boast the kind
of back catalogue the BBC has. Read More Here.
On November 18, during the National Book Awards ceremony, Patterson will
receive the Foundation’s 2015 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service
to the American Literary Community, which they describe as an honor for
“a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and
Patterson takes the prize for donating millions of
dollars for scholarships and grants, including ones to teachers
colleges, school libraries and independent bookstores. He’s also given
more than 250,000 books to U.S. children and 650,000 to the military.
Today I welcome back award winning author Les Roberts.
Les Roberts is the author of 18 mystery novels featuring Cleveland
private eye Milan Jacovich, as well as 11 other books of fiction. The
past president of both the Private Eye Writers of America and the
American Crime Writers League, he came to mystery writing after a
24-year career in Hollywood writing and producing television shows. A
native of Chicago, he now lives in Northeast Ohio. Les’s newest book is The Ashtabula Hat Trick. For more information, visit
Les’s blog at LesRoberts.com or “like” him on Facebook
Les Roberts: Bringing BIG Ideas to the Mystery Novel
Mystery novels—at least the ones I write—are entertainment. But as I grow older and more experienced, I find my "whodunits" bring forth ideas about very important subjects. At least MY important subjects.
In my latest Milan Jacovich novel, The Ashtabula Hat Trick (it's Milan #18), there are three murders within a short period of time in a very small fictional town in Ashtabula County, and Tobe Blaine is asked to investigate. She brings Milan along for the weekend. But as they go about solving the case, I discuss several things in the real world that bother the hell out of me.
Racism rears its ugly head very early in the novel—something that drives me berserk almost every day! Then, a prison in the plot became very important to me, as so many prisons in our country, once run by the state or the municipalities, are now owned and operated by private companies whose ONLY business is to make money, ergo there goes the smallest shred of decency once given to inmates—especially the non-violent ones. The Ashtabula County prison, originally a very small plot point, became huge as I wrote.
Thirdly comes homophobia. I have many LGBTQ friends, and it enrages me that they face ignorant hatred and ignorance every day of their lives.
I won't stop writing, fictionally, about real things that are hateful and disturbing. I have books dancing in my head that I yearn to write—dealing with dog fighting and with the sex trafficking of children. As long as I can still sit up straight in front of my laptop, my books, especially the Milan Jacovich novels, are going to voice what I think. I hope, though, they'll be suspenseful and entertaining. After all, entertaining is my first job!
The amazing Bill and Toby Gottfried are the recipients of the 2015 David Thompson Award, named for the late beloved publisher, bookseller, and crime fiction reader advocate, and presented by the National Bouchercon Board to recognize EXTRAORDINARY efforts to develop and promote the mystery and crime fiction community. Nominees include writers, publishers, readers, editors, and fans.
Extraordinary Efforts: Who better to receive this award than that extraordinary couple, Bill and Toby Gottfried, who have promoted mysteries and crime fiction through their involvement in mystery conventions, books groups, book buying, discussions and so more more. Bill and Toby exemplify what's best about the Mystery Community.
Bill and Toby have attended almost every Bouchercon since 1985. Their involvement in the mystery community goes far beyond attending conferences and buying books. They have actively participated on multiple Bouchercon committees and have chaired two Left Coast Crime Conventions.
They plan vacations and travel around mystery conventions. At each convention, they make authors and readers feel welcome, breaking bread with them, and welcoming them in every possible way into the mystery community as friends and family.
Their involvement in the mystery community is driven by a love of people intellect, mystery, history, and fun.
The David Thompson Award will be presented at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC, on Saturday, October 10, 2015.
If you're going to Bouchercon, be sure and congratulate them!
Today I welcome Nathan Ward, author of The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (Bloomsbury, September). He has written for the New York Times, Village Voice, Wall Street Journal, and other publications and was an editor and writer at American Heritage. Ward is the author of Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront (FSG, 2010). Ward is on tour this month. Be sure and check the schedule. Thanks, Nathan, for stopping by Mystery Fanfare.
Nathan Ward: Dashiell Hammett & The Missing Clue
There was much to discourage writing a book about Samuel Dashiell Hammett’s elusive early years, which is perhaps why one didn’t exist when I went looking for it to read. Hammett’s early life did not offer much of a paper trail for a biographer to follow—far fewer letters than you’d want, certainly no diary, and since he did not start writing anything until his late twenties, there wasn’t the usual collection of youthful poems and manuscripts to pick over.
I typically like learning the story behind the art—for instance, that Picasso was possibly inspired by childhood memories of a Spanish earthquake and fire when he composed his masterwork Guernica, or what was the true criminal story behind the film On the Waterfront. But in the case of Hammett, much as I loved his stories and novels, it was skepticism that first drew me to investigate his early background as a Pinkerton. He was presented as a sort of late-blooming accidental artist, someone who took up writing out of necessity and then led a revolution in crime writing. This myth was hard to fathom, though appealing. “I decided to become a writer,” he recalled in 1929. “It was a good idea. Having had no experience whatever in writing, except writing letters and reports, I wasn’t handicapped by exaggerated notions of the difficulties ahead.”
The dispatches (known as op reports) he had written as a Pinkerton detective comprised his professional writing experience before 1922, when he began sending out his first stories. But his actual reports themselves have never been found. What there was was an intriguing myth, what in comic books is called an origins story: young man contracts tuberculosis, becomes incapacitated out of detecting work and, desperate to feed his family, decides to try writing crime stories based on his former experiences. The full biographies, like cross-country trains, could not afford to stop very long at this station of Hammett’s life on their way to Hollywood and Lillian, McCarthy and the sad end. They had so much else to cover. I decided that by concentrating on his youth and transition, a sort of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pinkerton, I might have the room to really understand this vital but murky period—if there was anything to find.
Just as the Kansas City Star (with its famous style sheet requiring short sentences and vigorous English) helped shape the prose of the young Ernest Hemingway, out of the scores of men trained as Pinkertons, one emerged from the Agency able to make something entirely new from his experiences. “Detecting has its high spots,” Hammett recalled in the twenties, “but the run of the work is the most monotonous that any one could imagine. The very things that can be made to sound the most exciting in the telling are in the doing usually the most dully tiresome.” His deeper skills lay in that telling.
How good a detective had he been? What sort of jobs did he perform as a Pinkerton? No one had ever said except for Hammett himself, who once claimed his reputation within the agency was higher than it should have been because of the quality of his reports. I believe that. The written record was indeed pretty skimpy; most of the stories of his Pinkerton cases were expansively told only by Hammett himself, and the lore grew over time. Was the San Francisco cable car robbery his last case? Did he really find a stolen ferris wheel? And, if he was so sick during this time, how could you find out when he was too ill to work as a detective? I needed something to serve as a chronology, a way of keeping track of him through time as I investigated. The Army, in which he had first contracted tuberculosis in 1918 (discharged, early 1919) kept track of his health for years afterward as he was examined to determine his disability. His Army medical file laid out a biography of Hammett’s illness, which turned out to be one reliable way of keeping tabs on him through his vagabond days: Where he lived month to month, how he seemed physically and thus what kind of work he was fit for, what he told each visiting nurse he was doing for money (for instance, did he brag to her about selling stories?) and where his wife and children lived year to year.
For years there was only one document extant (found by the private detective and Hammett scholar David Fechheimer) in which Hammett gave his profession as a Pinkerton op. But online I was able to not only track his listed addresses from year to year (even if they sometimes lagged behind where he was living), I found his draft card, where he gave his profession as ‘Private Detective,’ and (through Google books) I discovered the works and portrait of the real Mr. Flitcraft, the insurance publisher whose name Hammett lifted for his famous story within Maltese Falcon. Most interesting to me, however, was the 1900 census, taken when the Hammetts lived in Philadelphia: It was probably his mother Annie who came to the door of their row house at 2942 Poplar Street, since the census taker recorded the address was then home to three children: Reba, Richard, and a six-year-old middle child, “Dashell.” Hammett’s evolution from Sam to Dashiell is not a straight line, but his mother certainly called him Dashiell (Da-SHEEL) as a small boy, although he was known to most everyone else by his first name, Sam, until the late twenties, when he became the literary figure Dash Hammett, and donated his name (and his San Francisco apartment at 891 Post Street) to Sam Spade, who lives there still.
After three years, I felt that the myth of how he went from real detective to writer of detective books was roughly true. But, in writing about Hammett’s transition there were two major items I would have given anything to find and couldn't—even now in the time when someone’s death certificate, draft card, passport applications, and even embarrassing high school yearbooks all end up online. Obviously, I would have loved to find his missing op reports (and I learned a lot about the Pinkerton life during Hammett’s tenure by reading hundreds of op reports by other detectives). The other document I would have loved to have was seemingly small but might have gone far toward filling in the gaps in those early years when, sick in his apartment, he taught himself how to write—improving story by story and stubbornly freeing his gift. His library card would have given stamped evidence of what precisely he was reading week by week (Henry James, Wilkie Collins, Ford Maddox Ford, various criminologists) while he started writing stories for magazines. It would have deepened the picture.
Here and there in later years, Hammett would mention books that had inspired him, telling James Thurber, for instance, that there were elements of Henry James’s Wings of the Dove in his Maltese Falcon, but a successful man recalling his lofty influences is not the same as the stamped, dated titles on a library card. In Hammett’s story “The Tenth Clew,” the op ends up throwing out much of his evidence in order to make a fresh start and solve the crime. In a similar vein, in trying to solve the mystery of Dashiell Hammett, I would have traded some superfluous information—a couple of the early jobs he was fired from, perhaps, before he walked into the Pinkerton offices in Baltimore in 1915-- for that reader’s card. It was probably tossed years ago, but it haunts me as a clue that got away.
Join Mystery Readers NorCal for an evening with Award Winning author Catriona McPherson. Wednesday, September 30, at 7 p.m. in Berkeley, CA. Please leave a comment below with email if you want to attend.
Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and is the author of critically-acclaimed stand-alones including: Anthony Award-winning Best Book of 2013, As She Left It; Edgar, Anthony and Macavity-nominated The Day She Died; and Come to Harm. She also writes the award winning Dandy Gilver historical mystery series, set in 1920s Scotland. McPherson is the president of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America. The Child Garden (Midnight Ink) is McPherson's latest standalone.
"An enchanting brew of mystery, poetry, legends, and dreams, Catriona McPherson's The Child Garden is also an elaborate shell game that will keep readers guessing until the very end."--Hallie Ephron, NYT bestselling author of Night Night, Sleep Tight.
"Okkupert" (Occupied) is a 10-part mini-series, written by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø. The plot: Russia invades Norway at the urgent request of the European Union after Norway's new eco-activist government stops oil and gas production in the North Sea. "It was bold, but it was very intriguing," says Erik Skjoldbjærg, who directed the mini-series. "And the what-if scenario about Norway and how would we react is what really attracted me to the series."
Russia has protested their portrayal as the aggressor in "Okkupert." The Russian embassy in Oslo released a statement saying "the show continues in the worst traditions of the Cold War, scaring Norwegian viewers with a non-existent threat from the East." Skjoldbjærg says he's not so surprised by the Russian government's reaction. He wants to stress however that "this is not a series about Russian's foreign policy. This is a series [focusing] on how people within a democracy react to radical change. In other word's how would you react if your democratic rights were threatened?" It's all fiction. And there's no historical context in which to base the series on either. Skjoldbjærg says, "Russia has never attacked Norway, in the military sense."
Today I welcome Mexican writer and journalist Héctor Aguilar Camín with an exclusive blog post. Born July 9, 1946 in Chetumal, is a Mexican writer, journalist and historian, and the author of several novels, among them Death in Veracruz and Galio's War, of which Ariel Dorfman (Death and the Maiden)
has exclaimed, "Without hesitation, I would call either one of these a
classic of Latin American fiction. ... Essential reading for anyone who
wants to understand the history of Mexico, but also who simply wants to
be thrilled by extraordinary narrative power."
Death in Veracruz, the first of the novels to be published in English, will be out from Schaffner Press next month (October 2015). First published in Mexico thirty years ago, Death in Veracruz is a noir novel of ambition, politics, friendship, betrayal, money, and murder. Heralded as “a classic of contemporary Latin American fiction,” by celebrated South American author and playwright Ariel Dorfman and as a work of “genius” by bestselling novelist Jim Harrison, this novel is a realistically drawn and beautifully detailed noir that explores the era of crime and graft in the late 1970s when Southern Mexico and its people were under siege from the oil cartels and the gangs who lorded over their fiefdoms. In the following article, Aguilar Camín writes about the roots of this work of fiction in his non-fiction reporting—but cautions that this does not necessarily make it a roman á clef. (translated from the Spanish by Chandler Thompson).
Héctor Aguilar Camín Death in Veracruz: Nothing is what it seems, except death
Except for the deaths, nothing is what it seems in Death in Veracruz. It’s a realist novel set against a backdrop of mirrors in a dance of shadows with a way of becoming facts.
This seemingly simple story is anything but. Its first-person narrator is an influential newspaper columnist we know only as El Negro, whose career is sidetracked by his old pal Rojano, the husband of Anabela Guillaumín, the girl they both courted in college. Rojano has a plan to grow rich and powerful that depends on getting El Negro to write about a series of murders in the state of Veracruz where huge petroleum deposits were recently discovered. Rojano, claims labor boss Lázaro Pizarro is behind the killings of owners of the lands atop the oil finds and covets them for his Union of Mexican Oil Workers. Anabela becomes Rojano’s cynical and seductive collaborator, and she works her wiles on El Negro. A battle ensues with the romantically triangulated Anabela, Rojano and El Negro on one side and the dark forces of Pizarro on the other. It’s a naked struggle for power and money papered over by the stifling rituals of Mexico under the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
Death in Veracruz was, and sometimes still is, read as a roman à clef with repercussions that resonate beyond its pages. Readers confuse the realistic condiments in my stew with fact because I used put them to flesh out a picture of Mexico in the throes of an oil boom, of garish cities and murky politics in a gaudy tropical setting.
I am also guilty of modeling Lacho Pizarro on the man who ruled the Union of Mexican Oil Workers in the 1980’s, Joaquín Hernández Galicia, nicknamed La Quina, Pizarro lives in the oil town of Poza Rica, and like La Quina he uses the volunteer labor of his followers to raise fruits and vegetables on union farms. Lacho and La Quina are both short and squarely built. Both have pencil-thin mustaches, bifocal glasses, and brown skin weathered by the sun.
Many readers equate El Negro with Manuel Buendía, the prominent political journalist murdered in the 1984 plot for which José Antonio Zorrilla, then chief of Mexico’s political police, was convicted six years later. (The assassination brings to mind a fact that would have been hard to weave into any fiction: the night of the murder Zorrilla, having passed himself off as a friend of Buendía’s, attended his wake and paid for the funeral.)
The identification of Buendía with El Negro is not my doing. People who never met Buendía often point to him as a prototype for El Negro, but they bear no physical resemblance one another. I conceived of El Negro as part of a generation following the footsteps of an illustrious predecessor.
For the police Contact who protects El Negro and feeds him information I borrowed the appearance, mannerisms and meticulous grooming of Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios, who later became Secretary of Internal Affairs then Governor of Veracruz. Manuel Buendía introduced me to him and considered him a friend. My own relations with Gutiérrez Barrios continued to be cordial after Manuel died.
Death in Veracruz bore the brunt of many overly documentary readings. Some commentators linked it to squabbles surrounding the 1988 presidential succession. Top leaders of the oil workers, including Hernández Galicia, saw the book as a politically motivated attack on their union. They bought space in major newspapers to denounce my novel as just another feeble attempt to paint to the Mexican labor movement in the worst possible light. “The law of the jungle is invading our country, and killing journalists is the order of the day,” the ads warned.
Finding myself in the middle of fights not my own, I approached the late Manuel Camacho, then a key player in Mexico’s Kafkian political milieu. After a careful reading of the book, Camacho said he doubted I was the real target of the union’s wrath. He saw the newspaper ads less as the start of a war against journalists than labor’s parting salvo in a longstanding struggle with Gutiérrez Barrios.
Camacho knew what he was talking about. Neither the oil workers’ union nor Hernández Galicia himself showed any further signs of hostility towards me personally, and needless to say, I don’t write to order for anybody. Right or wrong, I cleave to the dictates of my own mind and imagination.
Like many novels, Death in Veracruz is an amphibious literary animal, an imaginary construct with streaks of so-called reality—facts, actions, scenes; what people wear, how they look, the stories they tell. Try as they might, novels never quite become real worlds with rules and meanings that are exclusively theirs.. Nabukov calls reality a word that should always be placed between quotation marks.
Though tales of killings and rivalries as personal as they are political must be true to life, mine also demanded a measure of invention. I never met La Quina, and I’d never been to Poza Rica or Chicontepec where key scenes in my story take place. I’d never been in a headquarters of the oil workers union, and I hadn’t been in Veracruz since the early 1970s. Yet I needed to paint pictures so colorful that I believed in them myself.
Death in Veracruz has its literary roots in Truman Capote`s novella ¨Handcarved Coffins” about a murderer who kills the jurors who find against him in a dispute over a well. His story inspired me to dream up a similar character in Mexico. Capote’s Quinn is a reclusive, utterly self-interested psychopath poisoned by the cult of individualism in the United States. His Mexican counterpart Lázaro Pizarro is a union boss afflicted by a similar scourge in a nation built on authoritarianism and corporatism.
Food trends and cooking bloggers may come
and go, but the writers at
MysteryLoversKitchen.comare celebrating almost six years of daily recipes and stories. Aside
from the daily blog posts, these writers have had
more than forty cozy culinary mysteries published by Berkley/NAL over the past five years.
They use current themes like competition between celebrity chefs, reality TV cooking shows,
and fatal food allergies to spice up their culinary mysteries.
“The best part of the Kitchen is the friendships we’ve developed, not just between the
authors but with readers, too,” says blog founder
Krista Davis. “We feature a recipe every day and
invite other authors to share favorite recipes
with us on Sundays. There’s something for everyone.” Here’s a taste of our culinary crime files.
An Early Wake
SUBJECT: Sheila Connolly GUILTY OF: Waking the dead
As a child I was a finicky eater. I tolerated
meat, starch and vegetables, as long as they
didn’t touch each other on the plate. I wouldn’t
go near anything like a casserole, although stew
was acceptable, kind of. (Of course, I always
But I still remember the first apple I picked from a tree and ate. The tree had long since
been abandoned, and was untended for years,
but the apple was crisp and intensely flavorful.
It was wonderful—and the benchmark for every
apple I’ve eaten since. Is it any wonder that my
first series was about an orchard? Everybody
loves apples. And the nice thing is, you can use
apples in almost any dish, sweet or savory.
Now I write three series, but in two of them,
the main character really doesn’t cook and
doesn’t care. (And I created these people? For
shame!) But Meg in the Orchard Mysteries does
cook, when she has the time and energy (running an orchard is hard and physical work!). In
fact, she even helped to open a new restaurant
in her small New England town. To keep her
supplied, I’ve been scouring cookbooks old and
new for apple recipes, and haven’t run out yet.
Some of those recipes probably go back to the
18th century, and use apple varieties that have
long since disappeared. But there are still new
apples coming, and new recipes to go with
Apple Ginger Chutney
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
11⁄2 teaspoons mustard seeds
In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over high
heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and cook
until they stop popping. Remove the lid and
reduce heat to medium-high.
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, halved
Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic and ginger
and cook briefly. Add cloves and cinnamon and
cook another minute.
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped
coarsely (choose an apple variety that stays firm
in cooking, like Granny Smith)
1⁄4 cup raisins 1⁄2 cup brown sugar 1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
11⁄4 cups water
Stir in the apples, raisins, brown sugar, vinegar and water (there should be enough water to
cover). Simmer, uncovered, until the apples are
soft but still hold their shape, and the mixture
thickens (30–40 minutes). Remove the cinna-
mon sticks and chill. If you want to spice it up a
bit, you can add a dash of cayenne or some hot
pepper flakes. This may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It makes one quart.
Sheila Connolly writes three bestselling mystery
series for Berkley Prime Crime and has also
published ebooks Once She Knew, Reunion With
Death, and the Relatively Dead paranormal romance
Assault and Pepper
SUBJECT: Leslie Budewitz
GUILTY OF: Assault with spices
Like my blog sisters, I write cozy mystery.
Some writers don’t like the term—as Carolyn
Hart points out, what’s more uncomfortable
than murder in a small town where everyone is
affected? (Or in the urban cozy, a city within a
city.) And I work hard to show that impact, one
I’ve seen often as a practicing lawyer. But I like
a cozy mystery is about community. Murder disrupts the social order.
Our amateur sleuth investigates because she has a personal stake
in the crime and in making sure the
killer is brought to justice. She may think law
enforcement on the wrong track, or her role in
village life may give her insight and information
they lack. The professionals’ job is to restore
external order by making an arrest. Hers is to
restore internal order.
And what better signifies community than
food? In my Spice Shop mysteries, Pepper Reece
owns a spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
She works with everyone from new cooks to
seasoned chefs, helping them spice up their
lives and create joy at their tables. In my Food
Lovers’ Village mysteries, Erin Murphy manages the Merc, a regional foods market in her
family’s hundred-year-old grocery in Jewel Bay,
When life goes wrong—as it does now and
then—Pepper and Erin use their retail skills,
their understanding of the community, and
their knowledge of food and spices, to suss out
killers. To serve justice, and the people they’ve
come to love. Pull up a chair. You’re just in time
Herbes De Provence
A savory touch to transport your taste buds.
21⁄2 tablespoons dried oregano
21⁄2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried crushed lavender flowers
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried sage
Mix spices in a small bowl. Store in a jar with
a tightly fitting lid. Makes just over half a cup.
As with all herb blends, experiment with
your own touches. Let your taste be your guide.
Other frequent additions: rosemary, sweet marjoram, or fennel seed. (Marjoram and oregano
are distinct herbs but closely related and can be
substituted for each other in some recipes.) Try
a blend with whatever combination of the suggested herbs you have on hand. Then, next
summer, grow a pot of lavender on your deck or
in a sunny window!
Herbes de Provence are spectacular sprinkled
on sautéed potatoes, rubbed on chicken before
grilling, or best of all, in roast chicken and potatoes. Add them to a lamb or a vegetable stew—
think eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini, maybe
some cannellini (white beans). Use them to
season homemade croutons or tomato sauce.
They add just the right herby flavor to the
Potato-Broccoli Frittata featured in Assault and
Pepper and on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen.
Wrap a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence in
cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string to make
an herb bouquet, also called a bouquet garni.
Drop it into a small jar of olive oil for a few days
to make an infusion for salads or sautées. The only author to win Agatha Awards for both
fiction and nonfiction, Leslie Budewitz writes the
Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and the Food
Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in northwest Montana,
where she lives. Connect with her on her website,
Iced to Death
SUBJECT: Peg Cochran
GUILTY OF: Stealing calories
Cozy mysteries generally have a “hook”—
crafting, knitting, weaving, etc. Alas, my only
hobby is cooking and eating, and I love both! I
decided that my protagonist in my Gourmet
De-Lite series, Gigi Fitzgerald, would have to be
involved with food. Of course, I needed to do
something different, so I decided she would
deliver home-cooked, lower calorie, but gourmet meals to a select group of clients. Because I
really believe you can enjoy good food without breaking the bank.
Gigi’s business allows her plenty of time to snoop. If she’s making her clients a slow-cooker
meal like a lower calorie (but delicious!) chili or
soup, she can get out of the kitchen and go
around asking questions and digging for clues.
And delivering the finished meals allows her to
poke her nose into places she might not ordinarily go—the country home of a famous soap
star, the wife of a partner in the town’s most
prestigious law firm and a ne’er do well investment banker and his trophy wife. But when the
tension of the mystery threatens to ratchet up
too high—the reader can spend a few quiet
moments in Gigi’s kitchen while she preps her
Chicken Tortilla Soup De-Lite
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts or
chicken tenderloins cut into bite-sized pieces
4 ounce can of chopped green chilies
15 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cans reduced fat chicken broth
11⁄2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons flour 1⁄2 cup water
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
Add chicken, chilies, tomatoes, chicken broth
and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and
simmer 15 minutes.
Mix flour and water. Add to soup and stir.
Add beans and frozen corn and simmer for an
additional 10 minutes.
6 servings, 190 calories/serving
Peg Cochran is a Jersey girl transplanted to Michigan
where she lives with her husband and West Highland
Terrier, Reg. She is the author of the Gourmet
De-Lite series, the Sweet Nothings Lingerie Series,
written as Meg London, and the upcoming
Cranberry Cove series and Farmer’s Daughter series.
www.pegcochran.com The Wolfe Widow
SUBJECT: Victoria Abbott GUILTY OF: Cooking the books
Food, wonderful food. Where would we
writers be without it? Our readers count on us
to transport them to fascinating fictional
worlds, using the senses to make them feel present in the story. For us, the sense that has the
most impact is taste. No wonder our books are
full of delicious food.
(Oops. Here’s a disclaimer from Mary Jane:
Okay, none of my protagonists cook. However,
Charlotte Adams wolfs Ben & Jerry’s Super
Fudge Chunk from the freezer, Fiona Silk survives on hummus and Courvoisier, and Camilla
MacPhee can make a meal out of a latte. Sometimes, my readers feel like they’re there.)
food plays a major role in the Book
Collector mysteries. Jordan Bingham, the resident research assistant,
dogsbody and amateur
sleuth at Van Alst House, enjoys the mountain-
ous meals served by the talented and zany Signora Panetone in the
historic dining room. Jordan’s made the jump from her family’s
traditional beans and franks with secret ingredient
Heinz ketchup. We get to join her in the dining
room, when she’s not risking her life to locate a
tricky first edition from the Golden Age of Detection. Right now she’s
recovering from The
Wolfe Widow, when it looked like Van Alst
House and everyone in it might have been lost.
This should help her recover.
The signora would make this simple chicken
dish using luscious tomatoes and juicy peppers
from her garden. But it’s good in winter with
whatever passes for tomatoes and peppers. For
you busy people, it’s easy, reasonably quick and
even better the next day. The signora usually
makes it like this. But sometimes she changes
this typical Italian dish because she has a little
more or less of some ingredient. You can too.
Pollo Ai Peperoni 2 chickens, cut into serving pieces
4 tablespoons good olive oil
3 garlic cloves, slivered 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
3 juicy peppers, seeded and cut in strips. We
used orange and green to contrast with the tomatoes
1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp
1⁄4 cup flour
Salt and pepper
Culinary Crime II
In a large pan, heat the oil with the garlic for
about 5 minutes. Dry the chicken and shake in a
bag with the flour.
Add chicken to the oil and garlic, and brown
the pieces all over. If there is too much chicken
fat, you may want to remove some. Then sprinkle pan with wine. Cook two minutes.
Add tomatoes and peppers. Season with salt
and pepper, cover tightly and simmer for about
40 minutes. Don’t cook too high or too long.
The signora serves this with a crisp green salad,
a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of Frascati.
Victoria Abbott, author of the Book Collector
mysteries, is a mysterious collaboration between the
artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her
mother, Mary Jane, who also writes the Camilla
MacPhee, the Fiona Silk and the Charlotte Adams
mysteries. You can find them near Ottawa, Ontario.