Friday, August 28, 2020

The Key Lime Crime Key Lime Pie Martini from Lucy Burdett


It's Key Lime Pie martinis with a side of murder in Lucy Burdette's latest Key West Mystery...

In my tenth Key West mystery, THE KEY LIME CRIME, food critic Hayley Snow is covering the action at a Key West key lime pie contest, and writing articles on where to find the best pie in the city. Of course a murder ensues, and Hayley is on the case.

David Sloan (a real person who allowed me to use him as a basis for a character) served up these little gems at his booksigning at Key West Island bookstore, during one scene in The Key Lime Crime. Here’s a small snippet of that scene where Hayley is chatting with the bookstore owner and then David:

“Make sure you try one of David’s martinis. Christopher’s a wonderful bartender—executes a recipe perfectly. David’s borrows him for events when he’s not working a shift at the library. Beware, they do pack a punch. Don’t drink these if you’re driving your detective somewhere, or likely to get pulled over.”  

We both laughed and I walked over to the man tending the table at the end of the fiction bookshelves. Now I recognized him from the library event the other day. He’d been trying to contain the pie-throwing damage, along with Michael, the administrator. 

He raised his eyebrows and smiled. “Martini?” 

“Why not?” I said, thinking this could be another round-up article for Key Zest during the high season: Key lime drinks were as hot as Key lime pies, it seemed. He mixed Stoli Vanil, Liquor 43, and heavy cream in a shaker with ice, shook it, and then poured it into a plastic martini glass rimmed with graham cracker crumbs. I took a sip. 

“Wow,” I said, as the heat of the booze blazed a path down my throat. “She wasn’t kidding—that packs a wallop.

This recipe can be found in the real David Sloan’s cookbook, The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook. I’ve reprinted it here and in THE KEY LIME CRIME with his permission.


2 oz. Stoli Vanil

1 oz. Liquor 43

1.5 oz. heavy cream or half and half

1 tablespoon fresh Key lime juice, plus a little extra

Crushed graham crackers

Add the first four ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Dip a martini glass into a plate containing Key lime juice and then into the crushed graham crackers. Strain the vodka mixture into the glass and enjoy!

About THE KEY LIME CRIME:With her intimidating new mother-in-law bearing down on the island and a fierce rivalry between Key lime pie bakers to referee, food critic Hayley Snow is feeling anything but festive…

 It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s and Key West is bursting at the seams with holiday events and hordes of tourists. Adding to the chaos, Key lime pie aficionado David Sloan has persuaded the city to host his Key Lime pie extravaganza and contest. Hayley Snow can’t escape the madness because her bosses at Key Zest magazine have assigned her to cover the event. Every pie purveyor in Key West is determined to claim the Key lime spotlight—and win the coveted Key Lime Key to the City.

Another recipe for disaster—Hayley’s hubby, police detective Nathan Bransford, announces that his mother will be making a surprise visit. Newlywed Hayley must play the dutiful daughter-in-law, so she and her pal Miss Gloria offer to escort his mom on the iconic Conch Train Tour of the island's holiday lights. But it's not all glittering palm trees and fantastic flamingos--the unlikely trio finds a real body stashed in one of the elaborate displays. And the victim is no stranger: Hayley recognizes the controversial new pastry chef from Au Citron Vert, a frontrunner in Sloan’s contest.

Hayley must not only decipher who’s removed the chef from the contest kitchen, she's also got to handle a too-curious mother-in-law who seems to be cooking up trouble of her own.  

"Charming characters, an appealing setting, and mouthwatering bonus recipes make this a perfect choice for foodie cozy lovers." Publishers’ Weekly, May 2020

“The well-described Key West setting nicely complements the foodie frame in this satisfying cozy, which is a natural for fans of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries.”


ABOUT LUCY: Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of 18 mysteries, including THE KEY LIME CRIME (Crooked Lane Books,) the latest in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She's a past president of Sisters in Crime and the current president of the Friends of the Key West Library.





Friday, August 7, 2020

House of Desire - Whisky and Wine

Margaret Lucke flings words around as a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of four mystery novels: House of Desire, House of Whispers, Snow Angel, and A Relative Stranger (an Anthony Award finalist). She is also the editor of Fault Lines, an anthology of mystery short stories published last year by the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime. She has taught writing classes for more than 20 years, and she has published two how-to books on the craft of writing. Let's see what drink she's chosen to match her novel, House of Desire. 

In my new novel, House of Desire, reluctant psychic Claire Scanlan attends a gala fundraiser to save a grand San Francisco Victorian. There she encounters a mysterious young woman, Roxane, who is invisible to everyone but her. Roxane is a “soiled dove” plying her trade in the mansion in 1896. She has discovered a secret portal that lets her slip into what she calls the Future House when she needs to escape the most brutal of the men who buy her favors. 

When the party’s organizer is murdered in the mansion, Roxane is the sole witness. Terrified, she flees back to her own time. Claire’s philandering brother-in-law is accused of being the killer. To clear his name she must find the elusive Roxane—which means risking a perilous journey into the past from which she may never return.

The Burnham Mansion in the story is based very loosely on the Haas-Lilienthal House, where the preservation group San Francisco Heritage is headquartered. I had the pleasure of working on their staff a number of years ago. One of the many liberties I took was to give my house a piece of history that the real house doesn’t share. In the 1890s the fictional Burnham Mansion was a parlor house, or upscale bordello, known as Chez Celeste. 

The action in House of Desire moves back and forth between Claire’s contemporary world and Roxane’s Victorian-era environment. Among the many things that differentiate the past and present in the book are the beverages people drink. In the 21st century scenes, Claire and her cohorts are likely to choose wine—a full-bodied zinfandel or a crisp chardonnay. The gentlemen who patronize Chez Celeste will often purchase a tot of whiskey, poured from a decanter so they won’t notice that it has been watered down even though they are being charged full price.

While Chez Celeste didn’t offer cocktails, they were popular in the Victorian era. When looking for Victorian whisky recipes, I came upon this one, which Charles Dickens apparently enjoyed when he visited America. It may be the original cocktail, or at least 

the first to be called by that name.

The Cock-Tail

1 teaspoon super fine sugar or simple syrup

2 ounces of rye whiskey

3 ounces of water

4 dashes of bitters


Combine first four ingredients and stir. Top with grated nutmeg

Note: This recipe need not be limited to whiskey. The 19th-century instructions say that rum, gin, or brandy will work as well. Whatever your pleasure, I hope you enjoy your drink.


Margaret Lucke flings words around as a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of four mystery novels: House of Desire, House of Whispers, Snow Angel, and A Relative Stranger (an Anthony Award finalist). She is also the editor of Fault Lines, an anthology of mystery short stories published last year by the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime. She has taught writing classes for more than 20 years, and she has published two how-to books on the craft of writing.

You can find Margaret on Twitter: @margaretlucke 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Q&A with Paul D. Marks

Paul Marks joins us today to talk about his new book, The Blues Don't Care. Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn”. Betty Webb of Mystery Scene Magazine calls its sequel Broken Windows “Extraordinary”. His short story “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award. And “Fade-Out on Bunker Hill” came in second in the 2020 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. “Windward” was selected for the Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, and won the 2018 Macavity Award for Best Short Story. He has written four novels, co-edited two anthologies and written countless short stories, including many award winners and nominees. His short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Akashic’s Noir series (St. Louis), Alfred Hitchcock Mystery MagazineHardboiled, Switchblade, Mystery Weekly, and many others. He has served on the boards of the Los Angeles chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. 

How is the Blues Don't Care different from your other novels?

The Blues Don’t Care is different from my other novels. First, it’s set in 1940s Los Angeles during World War II and second, it’s more expansive and goes into a lot more description of the setting. I wanted to immerse the reader in the time period—really make them feel like they’re there listening to swing music, inhaling the smoke from a cigarette and feeling the rhythm of the band playing. And I wanted to dig deep into the main character, Bobby Saxon, as I find him unique and interesting.
The character of Bobby was challenging to write in that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Bobby’s on a mission. He wants to play piano for the Booker ‘Boom-Boom’ Taylor band, the house band at the famous Club Alabam on Central Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles. But there’s a problem: he’s young and he’s white. So if he gets the gig he’d be the only white player in the otherwise all-black band. That’s not the only thing standing in his way. In order to get the gig he must first solve a murder that one of the band members has been accused of. And if that’s still not enough there’s another big thing standing in his way…

Where did you get the idea for THE BLUES DON'T CARE? What made you decide to tell this story in the past rather than the present?

I had previously written three short stories with the Bobby Saxon character, but they were published quite a long time ago, so I don’t think most people remember them. The general inspiration for Bobby came from a real person. But everything else about Bobby is fictional. 

One of the elements of this story was the attitude of society at that time towards people who were different from the mainstream. Bobby doesn’t fit into the society of the 1940s and by joining an all-black band he becomes an outsider among outsiders and that gives the story another layer of depth. 
I’ve always loved the 1940s era and wished I’d been born in the 20s so I could have lived then. I think the time period is fascinating and full of conflict, both in terms of the war and in terms of changes happening in society at that time. Conflict in real life maybe isn’t so good, but it’s good for writers. It’s the engine of your story. And I think telling this story in the past allows us to view things that are happening today through the prism of the past.

What was it about the music scene that called to you? Do you have a background in jazz/swing/other music yourself?

Although I’ve always loved music, I didn’t always love swing music. My dad loved it and any time we went somewhere in the car he would play it on the radio—his car his rules. I wanted to listen to rock. Later, my dad took us to see Benny Goodman, and I was bored. But I was a dumb kid.

Then something strange happened: as I got older, I started to like it. Maybe having been exposed to it as a kid gave me an appreciation for it that came back to me later on. 

Also, as an adult I started watching old movies from the 30s and 40s and the swing music in some of them started to appeal to me. My friend Linda and I would go to swing dances and concerts at various venues and even went to see many bands and singers from that era that were still around. We got to see Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell sing Tangerine and Brazil. We saw Tex Beneke lead the Glenn Miller Orchestra. I got to see Johnny Otis, who took over as band leader of the house band at the Club Alabam, though I would have loved to have seen him there.

My musical background, at least as a player, is rock. Bass player. I was in a few bands when I was young, but knew I didn’t have the talent to do it professionally. But that didn’t stop me from trying. And, of course, I can always listen to various kinds of music.

What did you do to research THE BLUES DON'T CARE?

I love research. It’s a downfall of mine. I just like learning stuff and love history. General history and L.A. history in particular. Blues is set on the Los Angeles home front during World War II. 
I start with the usual sources, books and the internet. But also the music of the period gives you a feel for it and for what people were thinking. As do the movies. Watching movies from the time can show you how people dressed and talked, etc. Same with reading fiction written at the time. But I also had another source that was terrific: my mom and her friends, who remembered L.A. from when they were young during the war years. So I had first-hand sources to go to. And they had things to say that you normally wouldn’t find in books or other second-hand sources.

And one question I had was how to get the characters from Point A to B. Because in those days not only were there no freeways, but some of the roads were different as well. So one of the best resources I found were old 1940s maps of Los Angeles on eBay. I bought several. And I figured out how to get Bobby and his ad hoc partner Sam from L.A. to Long Beach on surface streets. Today we’d just take the freeway, but not back then. So maps are something I highly recommend as research tools.

What was the most challenging part of dealing with several controversial subjects such as race and gender?

It’s always challenging dealing with controversial issues because writers aren’t like journalists. We’re not always trying to be objective observers. We’re trying to tell a story from our characters’ points of view and we have to get inside their heads and see things the way they would have seen them. There’s always a temptation to look at things from our modern POV but if you do that you lose authenticity.

I think the main thing is that you want to be true to the time period but at the same time realize that we’re living in a different age with different sensitivities. So things that people (characters) might have said or done back then can be hurtful today. That said, I want to be true to the time and the characters, so my way of dealing with it is to put an author’s note—or what these days might be called a trigger warning—at the head of the story so people know what to expect and can decide not to buy or read the book if they think it will upset them.

If Bobby was actually a real person, would you be friends? Why or why not?

Interesting question and one I hadn’t thought of. Yes, I think we’d be friends. I enjoyed writing Bobby in all his aspects. I think I’d enjoy his music and empathize with his struggles as an outsider.

I like Bobby because he’s trying to find his way in the world. He’s on a mission, he knows what he wants. And is willing to do almost anything to get it. I’m kind of the same.
Also, I think we’d relate on the level of our love of music, though he’s a much better musician than I could ever hope to be. We’d also relate re: detective movies. There’s also things that we wouldn’t have in common, but that goes for anyone. 

Do you share any traits with your protagonist? Which traits?

I share traits with pretty much all of my characters because they’re filtered through me. In terms of Bobby specifically, we both love big band music. Both like detective movies. And I wish I could rock a fedora and a trench coat. I don’t smoke like he does. But I do sometimes feel like an outsider and Bobby is an outsider. In fact, he’s an outsider among a group of outsiders in the society of that time. I think we’re both struggling to find our way in the world. Like Bobby, I didn’t have a good relationship with my father and needed to look outside for role models. And I think, like him, I had certain screen characters that I found that in. And later musicians and some others. 

I’m also like him in that we’re both on missions. He to become a musician in the club band at the Club Alabam. And me to make something of myself as a writer. So even if Bobby and I are different in some ways I think in others we’re very similar. Driven. Dedicated. Sacrificing other things to do what we want. And trying to make our way in this crazy world.

What was the last mystery novel you read, other than your own, that you LOVED? Why did you love it?

This is a tough question because I know a lot of contemporary authors and if I mention someone then someone else’s feelings might be hurt if I leave them out. So I hope you don’t mind if I dodge this at least a little. I’ll talk about some books that I really like by well-known authors so no one feels snubbed. So these might not be the latest books I’ve read and loved, but they are definitely books I love.

Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep (and pretty much all of his novels). He’s a master of description and really puts me in the Los Angeles of another time. I feel like I’m there. And Philip Marlowe is the epitome of the cool, cynical P.I. Michael Connelly’s The Poet. I read it when it came out but it’s stuck with me and I’m ready to read it again. I like it because it’s so well written and plotted that you never see the twists coming. It’s my favorite of his books and blew me away when I read it.

Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source. A hardcore look at the dark side of the LA sun, sand and surf scene.

Walter Mosely’s Devil in a Blue Dress. Mosley brought back the P.I. novels of the 40s and 50s but from a new perspective. Easy and Mouse are memorable, well drawn characters.
David Goodis’ Down There (renamed Shoot the Piano Player after Francois Truffaut’s move of that name, based on the Goodis book). It’s been said that Goodis is the “poet of the losers” and that couldn’t be more true. But there’s something about his losers that keeps me coming back for more.
All of Carol O’Connell’s Mallory series. Mallory is a near-sociopathic NYC detective. She had a tough life and is a hard as nails cop. I turn almost everyone I know onto this series and people either love it and her or hate it. What I like is that even though Mallory is intense, the stories are poignant and touching. It’s almost like Mallory’s lack of empathy and warmth brings out the more human elements of the other characters.
James Ellroy. Particularly his L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz). His stories are tough. They don’t particularly conform to reality. And if you’ve ever been to one of his signings he’s whacko. And I guess that’s part of what I like about him.

What is your favorite book of all time?

My favorite book of all time isn’t a mystery. It’s The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. It’s about someone trying to make sense of the world and where they fit into everything, which is something I relate to and which also comes through in Bobby’s character. Another favorite book is Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. I like revenge stories and that’s the revenge story to end all revenge stories. My favorite mystery would probably be Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Just so good.

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your novels?

There’s a lot of good things, but if I had to pick one it’s getting to know people in the writing community. I’ve met a lot of terrific people. I’ve made some good friends and what more can you ask for? And I feel like there’s almost no state that I can’t go to and have dinner with someone. Someone maybe I’ve met already in person or someone that I only know online. That’s pretty cool. And it goes for some foreign countries too. 

What are you working on now?

I have several things going. I’m working on the third novel in my Duke Rogers series that began with White Heat and Broken Windows. I’m also working on a stand-alone that’s set in New York City. I’m known, to the extent that I’m “known,” as an LA writer. But I write things in other locales too. And I’m really excited about this NY novel. I think it’s pretty high concept and can’t wait to finish it. I’ve also had a series of stories running in Ellery Queen—the Howard Hamm stories—and I’m working on a new one in that series, which I hope they’ll like. Have recently completed a couple of short stories for anthologies. So there’s always something happening.

Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn”. Betty Webb of Mystery Scene Magazine calls its sequel Broken Windows “Extraordinary”. His short story “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award. And “Fade-Out on Bunker Hill” came in second in the 2020 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. “Windward” was selected for the Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, and won the 2018 Macavity Award for Best Short Story. He has written four novels, co-edited two anthologies and written countless short stories, including many award winners and nominees. His short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Akashic’s Noir series (St. Louis), Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Hardboiled, Switchblade, Mystery Weekly, and many others. He has served on the boards of the Los Angeles chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.