CTG Reviews: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “Any mystery connoisseur worth their salt knows that whether it’s being used as a villain’s nefarious weapon or keeping their favourite detectives going, food plays a major role in the genre.

From the comforting breakfast cuisines of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mrs Hudson to the poison-laced meals of Agatha Christie’s fictional victims, food not only provides major plot twists but also defines characters.

Considering how intertwined food and murder fiction are, Mystery Writers of America presents The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For edited by Kate White – former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan and New York Times best-selling author of the Bailey Weggins mystery series.”

Okay, so I don’t usually review cookbooks, but as you can tell from the title, this one is a little different! With over a hundred different recipes in the book – some based on author’s favourites and others their character’s usual choices – there’s some really yummy (and unusual) recipes to try.

You can learn how to make Harlan Coben’s ‘Myron’s Crabmeat Dip’, Frankie Y. Bailey’s ‘Whole Wheat Wild Blueberry Lemon Pecan Muffins’ (which sound amazing), and David Housewright’s ‘Corn Chowder’ (I love corn chowder). There’s even a ‘special guest’ recipe from Richard Castle (the detective character in ABC’s hit TV show – CASTLE) – for the very apt ‘Morning-After Hotcakes’.

For me a few recipes stand out above the rest …

Sue Grafton’s ‘Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich’ – this is a fabulously simple recipe, and includes peanut butter, yummy!

Kathy Reichs’ ‘Shrimp Scampi’ – this Southern seafood recipe looks amazing!

Linda Stasi’s ‘Mystery Baker: Original New York City Cheesecake – New York Cheesecake is my absolute favourite dessert, and this recipe is mouth-wateringly gorgeous!

Coffee, black (in my favourite mug!)

Coffee, black (in my favourite mug!)

And then there’s the drinks …

You can make like Peter James with what he refers to as his rocket fuel to kick off his evening writing – ‘The Peter James Vodka Martini Writing Special’ (complete with ‘twist’ and ‘olive’ variations).

Or opt for a ‘strong and silent’ option and take Lee Child’s ‘Coffee, Pot of One’ – a recipe that helps you brew the perfect coffee, and pick the perfect mug to drink it from.

Whichever you go for, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook is a great, and rather different, recipe book to add to your collection. It includes a number of food related facts about mystery authors and their lead characters, and is beautifully presented with fantastic pictures of the food.

It makes me hungry just looking at it!

Notes from Harrogate: Part 2

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Saturday at Harrogate was again gorgeously sunny. After a fabulous breakfast, I went along (with minimal hangover) to Forensics: Val McDermid in conversation with Sue Black. It was a great session, and especially useful for any budding crime writers. Sue Black demystified the world of forensics with a special focus on identity including DNA sampling and facial reconstruction.

After a quick coffee (my fifth of the day) I went back into the hall for the New Book panel. Expertly chaired by Val McDermid, debut authors Derek B. Miller (Norwegian by Night), Anya Lipska (Where The Devil Can’t Go), Malcolm Mackay (The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter) and Colette McBeth (Precious Thing), discussed their novels, their journey to publication, and what was next for them. From this panel I heard one of my favourite quotes of the festival. It was from Derek B. Miller, who said, “crime writers don’t love crime, they love justice.” Brilliant.

After a quick lunch (sandwiches and crisps on the lawn – no alcohol) I headed to the Library for the C&R Crime party (and a glass of wine!). It was great to catch up with the team from C&R Crime, hear about all the exciting releases they’ve got coming up, and talk to their authors.

By this point it was almost five o’clock, and that meant it was time to get my seat for the Lee Child interview. The hall was packed to bursting, but with my trusty Festival Friend card (which gave the equivalent of ‘speedy boarding’ into the hall) I was able to get a seat three rows from the front. Comedienne Sarah Millican did a superb job with the interview – it was witty, insightful and all round entertaining. The hour-long session went past far too fast, but I was thrilled that I managed to meet Lee Child afterwards (he is my literary hero) and get a photo with him. I was grinning for the rest of the evening.

Anyway, from there it was a mad dash to the License to Thrill dinner. Author David Mark had written a bond themed murder mystery puzzle for the tables to solve during dinner. It was great fun and although the table I was on didn’t win, we had a lot of fun trying.

After a brief rest in the bar (!) it was on to the Late Night Quiz with quizmasters Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Although the rules clearly stated teams should have six members, we flexed the rules a little and went with seven. It didn’t matter, we reasoned, we were going to lose anyway. But, with plenty of wine (plus the Theakstons beers that we ‘had to’ drink as part of the Name That Beer Round) we discovered that we were not quite as rubbish at the questions as we had thought that we would be. We didn’t win a prize, but we weren’t too far off. So to celebrate we returned to the bar until the early hours.

And then it was Sunday. After a ridiculously late night/early morning I needed a bit of a lie in, so I only made it to one session. But what a great one it was. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (which became HBO’s True Blood) and a whole bunch of stand-alone novels and other mystery series’, was interviewed by Paul Blezard. An inspiring and highly entertaining hour.

And then it was over.

As I packed up my bags, loaded the car, and said goodbye to all the fabulous people I’d met over the weekend I knew one thing for sure. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Looking forward to summer: Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

 With the snow around us, one thing that’s keeping me going is planning how I’ll be spending the summer (hopefully warmer) months.

Something I’m really looking forward to is the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate. This festival of all things crime fiction is my idea of a perfect weekend getaway. So from 18 – 21 July 2013 I’ll be staking out the festival hotel and making optimum use of my weekend rover ticket.

It promises to be a fabulous weekend with special guests including Lee Child, Kate Atkinson, Charlaine Harris, Susan Hill, Ruth Rendell interviewed by Jeanette Winterson and Programming Chair, Val McDermid.

Weekend Break packages can be booked now, and individual event tickets go on sale in the Spring when the full programme is announced.

If you’re a fan of the genre, avid reader and/or budding writer, the festival website is well worth checking out http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime/ 

I’m really looking forward to it.

Perhaps I’ll see you there?