The Mystery Writers of America organization has been around since 1945, each year awarding authors in the genre with its prestigious Edgar, named after Edgar Allan Poe. Some of the biggest names in the biz are members, and they’ve consistently displayed their sense of play over the years.
For instance, please turn your attention to Exhibit A, “The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook,” edited by mystery writer Kate White (Quirk, $25, 175 pages; with color photographs). In the introduction, she writes: “Considering how intertwined food and murder are in fiction, MWA decided it would be a crime not to celebrate this idea. It features more than 100 recipes from many of the top mystery writers in the world.”
Some of the recipes are favored by the authors’ leading characters; others are among the authors’ favorites, such as Peter James’ Vodka Martini Writing Special and Alison Gaylin’s Smoking Gun Margarita.
Thumbing through it, we also find James Patterson’s recipe for Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake, and Scott Turow’s Innocent Frittata. Nelson DeMille’s appetizer Male Chauvinist Pigs in the Blanket starts with eight hot dogs and a can of beer, while Catherine Coulter’s Big Bang Guacamole calls for “lots of scallions.”
Further joining the table are Gillian Flynn (Beef Skillet Fiesta), Karin Slaughter (Cathy’s Coke Roast), Bill Pronzini (Nameless’ Italian Garlic Bread), Rhys Bowen (Classic Scones) and John Lutz (Gooey Butter Cakes).
S.J. Rozan contributed this recipe for Lavender Beets: Combine 6 cups of beets cut into 1-inch chunks and 2 cups of carrots cut the same way. Mix them with 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup chopped fresh lavender. Spread in a roasting pan, sprinkle with kosher salt and place in a preheated 400-degree oven. Stir them around every 10 minutes until they’re fork-tender and browned.
As a bonus, interesting and amusing sidebars are scattered throughout the book, such as the one about how “High Priestess of Poison” Agatha Christie dispatched many of her characters by adding poison to chocolate, curry, marmalade and other food items. Lee Child spells out his “recipe for writing a delicious best-seller,” and editor White explains the meaning of “red herring.”
The concluding sidebar offers culinary musing from writer Rex Stout’s “armchair detective” and gastronome, Nero Wolfe such as this one about chili: “Eaten with corn bread, sweet onion and sour cream, it contains all five of the elements deemed essential by the sages of the Orient: sweet, sour, salty, pungent and bitter.”
As Holmes once said to Watson, “Education never ends.”