In two new books out this spring, mystery writers come together to provide recipes from their lives, and the lives of their characters.
The first book, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For (Quirk Books) was released on March 24. Edited by Kate White, author of the Bailey Weggins series of mystery books, the work brings together recipes from Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Harlan Coben, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton, Charlaine Harris, James Patterson, Louise Penny and Scott Turow, among others.
White, a member of Mystery Writers of America, was approached by the organization’s publishing committee to see if she would be open to editing a cookbook featuring recipes from other members. Because of her editing chops—White is the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine—the group figured she would know how to pull a collection together. “But what amused me is that one of the committee members had read my Bailey Weggins mysteries and pointed out that I had a lot of food mentions in the series and thus was probably a foodie,” added White. “I don't think I realized until then how much Bailey ate!”
The book includes Mary Higgins Clark's recipe for Celebratory Game Night Chili, a dish she and her family eat while watching the Giants. And Sandra Brown's "Mystery Crackers" are from a recipe given to her by Mary Lynn Baxter, an indie bookstore owner in Texas, who read her first manuscript years ago and sent it to an editor who bought it. Other recipes are for dishes mentioned in actual mysteries—Sara Paretsky's "Chicken Gabriella" is cherished by her detective V.I. Warshawski (whose mother's name is Gabriella), and she cooks it for special occasions in the pages of the series.
But one of White’s favorite recipes is Nelson DeMille's Male Chauvinist Pigs in the Blanket. “It's not from a book, but it's hilarious and you get such a sense of Nelson from just reading it,” said white. “It makes you want to go out and buy all his books.”
White approached some of the biggest authors directly, but we also asked all Mystery Writers of America members to submit recipes. She then worked with the editors at Quirk to make the final selections. “We wanted to be sure we had a great cross section,” added White.
The book, which has a 30,000 first print run, will be launching during the week of the Edgar Awards at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City on April 27.
In The Cozy Cookbook: More than 100 Recipes from Today's Bestselling Mystery Authors (Berkley, Apr.), editors at Berkley Prime Crime culled together dishes featured in the imprint’s many culinary-series, like Avery James’s Cheese Shop mysteries, Laura Childs Tea Shop mysteries, and Victoria Hamilton’s Vintage Kitchen mysteries.
“So many of our Prime Crime mysteries contain fun extras like crafting tips or recipes,” said Berkley editor Michelle Vega. “It seemed like a natural fit for our audience and also seemed like something that would potentially engage food lovers who may not be familiar with our books.”
The cozy mystery genre is, according to Vega, particularly suited to a collection of this kind. “Cozy mysteries have great characters and intriguing plots while striving to give the reader an experience that they will want to revisit--a town they love, a protagonist they are rooting for and in some ways, a respite from the daily grind,” said Vega. “In that sense, cozies provide readers with a bit of comfort food just like many of the recipes you’ll find in this collection.”
White also echoed the sentiment, noting that a cookbook full of recipes from mystery writers marries two already intertwined categories.
“Food can play a big role in mysteries,” said White. “In certain instances, like in the classic story “Lamb to the Slaughter" [by Roald Dahl], food is an actual murder weapon.” Food, according to White, also works to “brilliantly define” character. “For instance, we can't think of Miss Marple without her scones and tea—she reportedly drank 143 cups of tea over the course of all those novels and short stories,” said White. “And where would Lee Child's Jack Reacher be without his coffee?”