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In the first-class dining room, dinners were elaborate multi-course meals based on French cuisine with concessions to hearty English fare. Waiters brought the food to the table on silver platters, offered guests a portion of every dish, and suggested a wine to pair with the food. We have no way of knowing how much of this meat-heavy feast the passengers consumed. No recipes survive from the Titanic's kitchen, but recipes from that era tend to use butter and cream liberally.
The cards chided women for looking and dressing too well, or for not paying enough attention to their appearance. They were criticized for frowning too much or smiling too broadly. Women who campaigned for the right to vote were prime targets.
Men were also the butt of vinegar valentines, criticized for drunkenness, vanity, stinginess, and stupidity.
Nasty valentines poked fun at people’s physical traits or misfortunes: their age, excessive weight, or widowed status. The worst cards suggested suicide.
The image on one of them depicts an oncoming train with the verse: Oh miserable lonely wretch! / Despised by all who know you; / Haste, haste, your days to end – this sketch / The quickest way will show you!
View more examples of vinegar valentines and read how they became popular and eventually died out in my article in CrimeReads.
Aside from looking like a Sherlock Holmes actor, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh was a man of mystery and many talents.
1. He wrote a detective novel often included in lists of the best crime books of the 20th century. The Red House Mystery, published in 1922, is still in print and available as a free ebook through Project Gutenberg. The novel is a classic whodunit featuring an English country house setting, an amateur sleuth with a sidekick, a locked-room puzzle, and enough clues for the reader to solve the case.
2. He wrote dozens of plays and screenplays. His drama, The Fourth Wall, was staged in the U.S. as The Perfect Alibi. It was an early, possibly the first, play to use the inverted form of detective fiction, with the murder shown to the audience in the first act followed by the investigation. The play's popularity resulted in its adaptation as a movie, Birds of Prey (1930), for which Milne shares the screenplay credit.
3. He was the first author to sell merchandising rights to a character. In 1930 Milne sold Winnie-the-Pooh rights to an agent who earned $50 million within a year for a doll, radio program, board game, and other paraphernalia. The mystery, at least to copywriters, is whether to hyphenate Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne did. The Disney Company, which acquired Pooh rights in the 1960s, dropped the hyphens.
4. He played cricket with the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Besides A.A. Milne and Arthur Conan Doyle, the amateur athletic team included J.M. Barrie and P.G. Wodehouse. The team formed as an offshoot of the Authors’ Club, founded in 1891. The authors played matches against teams of publishers, actors, and artists.
5. He had a secret job in British Military Intelligence. After being wounded in World War I, Milne worked as a propagandist. Though records of his MI7b unit were ordered destroyed, some mysteriously survived. Saved from a dump in 2013, the papers include his satirical poems, one about a Captain William Shakespeare, who is assigned to a propaganda unit.
Happy birthday to Alan Alexander Milton. Born on January 18, 1882, he was at the center of English literary life in the early 20th century—a gifted novelist, poet, dramatist, and children's author.
I enjoy visiting book clubs because ...
I like visiting book clubs even if they don't feed me and even if I do it remotely by Skype or FaceTime. Check out my Book Club page for topics of discussion about the Five-Ingredient Mysteries.
Turkey is the classic Thanksgiving dish, but you cannot live by turkey alone. What's your favorite holiday side dish? Comment for a chance to win a free book. Below you'll find two reader-favorite recipes from the first Five-Ingredient Mystery, By Cook or by Crook. The dishes are suitable for Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners. I'm also sharing a simple herb stuffing recipe. To view the recipes, click Read More below.
Leave a comment about your favorite holiday side dish to enter a drawing for the Five-Ingredient Mystery of your choice or an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of the upcoming sixth book in the series. To comment, click on the word Comments in the column to the left of this post.
Last day to enter: Sunday, December 16, 2018. The winner is Kay from Arkansas. Thank you to everyone who shared their favorite side dish. Stuffing seemed to get the most votes, followed by yams or sweet potatoes.
Today is the 106th anniversary of the day when the Titanic hit an iceberg. When I started researching S'more Murders, my Titanic-themed culinary mystery, I was surprised to find dozens of nonfiction titles about the disaster at my local library, a small subset of the books on the subject. A Google search of Titanic brings up 28 million hits. A rare copy of a menu from the first meal served aboard the Titanic is slated for auction later this month, expected to sell for 100,000 British pounds (140,000 U.S. dollars).
What explains this fascination with a disaster that claimed 1500+ victims more than a century ago? Comment with your thoughts for a chance to win an Advanced Reader Edition of S'more Murders. Note: The contest ended May 1, and the winner is K.G. from Arkansas.
To comment, click on the word "Comments" in the column to the left of this post.
Edgar Allan Poe’s spirit hovers over the Mid-Atlantic. If you fly over the region at night, you can see a string of lights connecting places where Poe lived and worked: Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York. Each has a Poe museum. Looking forward to the publication of my Poe-themed mystery, The Tell-Tale Tarte, I visited the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond last weekend. What a treasure trove!
Scam Chowder (Five-Ingredient Mystery #2) is out. Here is a preview of the opening chapter from Val, the sleuth in the series.
Cook and run—those were Granddad’s instructions to me this evening. I was supposed to make the chowder for his dinner guests from the retirement village and get out of the kitchen. Then he would add the final ingredients and claim credit for the whole meal. This ruse was part of his campaign to win the heart of Lillian, the Village’s most attractive widow, whose husband had made her gourmet meals. To convince Lillian of his cooking skills, Granddad has no qualms about passing off my recipes and my dinners as his own creations. By eavesdropping, I discovered that more than a romance was at stake tonight. Granddad, egged on by Lillian, planned to confront a dinner guest who’d scammed retirees out of their savings. But someone beat him to it, making tonight’s chowder the last thing the scammer would eat.
Val makes two types of chowder for her grandfather's guests. When writing the book, I found a helpful video on cooking chowder: How to make three kinds of clam chowder, with Providence chef Michael Cimarusti. The 5-ingredient clear chowder meets Granddad's standards for a recipe.
Which type do you prefer: clear chowder, red chowder, or creamy chowder?
Thrilled to have a recipe in the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, I am hosting a giveaway, courtesy of Quirk Books. Between the handsome covers of this book, you'll find recipes and anecdotes by today's crime writers. You'll also find essays on food in the writings of Poe, Conan Doyle, Christie and other giants of the mystery genre.
The vegetable salad recipe I contributed is a family favorite for holiday dinners. “Take Your Pick” in the recipe title means you can substitute different vegetables depending on the time of year and your own tastes. The best feature of this recipe is that the veggies marinate for a day, giving you one less dish to prepare at the last minute. What dish is a favorite when you get together with family and friends?
To enter the drawing for a free book, leave a reply to this post. For another chance at winning, sign up for my infrequent newsletter. If you've already subscribed, say so in a comment, and I'll add another entry for you. The contest runs from March 19 to midnight on April 18 eastern time. It is open to U.S. and Canada residents. Check back the last week of April for the winner's name. Good luck!
Finally, if you're a mystery fan, try the trivia quiz on this site, which involves matching a recipe from the book to the writer who submitted it. You'll find clues in the recipe titles.
Now that I’m writing the Five-Ingredient Mysteries, friends give me cookbooks to plump out my collection of low-ingredient recipes. Here are three favorite books you might consider as gifts this season for yourself or someone else.
If you have a favorite cookbook with recipes requiring few ingredients, please leave a comment and share your find. Here's why I like these three books.
"What could a book club discuss about your mystery?" The question came up at my launch party for my first Five-Ingredient Mystery, By Cook or by Crook. Afterwards, someone suggested I post book club discussion questions on my website. You can download and print a copy of the questions about all my books on the Book Club Topics page.
Book #2 in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series has a mouth-watering cover . . . with a missing ingredient.
The first book in the series had a cover image that set the style for future covers: the five ingredients needed for a dish in the forefront. This book's title made it clear what dish's ingredients would have to appear on the cover.
When my editor asked me to suggest images for the cover, I proposed the tureen with the series name on it and the bay view. I also listed five chowder ingredients to depict. For whatever reason, possibly aesthetic, one of the ingredients doesn't appear on the cover.
Any chowder cooks reading this? What other ingredient would you put in your chowder that's not shown here?
This post is part of the Sisters in Crime Blog Hop. The best part of the writing process takes place for me while I sleep. Until I wrote fiction, I had no idea how much creative work goes on while the body sleeps. Sometimes I go to bed with a lingering writing problem. Maybe I can’t figure out how to liven up a conversation between two characters. Or I wonder how to transition from the scene I’ve just written to the one that’s coming up. Or I don’t know how to insert a clue so that it’s not too obvious. The next morning I wake up with a solution to the problem.
During the night while my conscious brain was sleeping, my subconscious took over and came up with answers that eluded me the day before. If I don’t have a particular issue that stemmed from the day’s writing, my subconscious tackles a problem I didn’t even know I had, for example, it tells me about a clue I should have inserted fifty pages earlier.
Because sleep is essential to the creative process, I’ve worked hard to conquer my difficulties falling and staying asleep. A consultation with a sleep specialist helped me immensely. In an earlier blog, I shared the tips the sleep doctor gave me. One of those tips is related to this post: Keep a notebook on your night table to jot down any inspirations that come to you in the middle of the night. Knowing that you won’t forget your brilliant idea by morning makes it easier to fall asleep.
Unfortunately, sleeping doesn’t help me get the words on the page, the most challenging part of the writing process. In order to finish a 75,000-word book on deadline, I have to sit at a keyboard and write the number of words I’ve set as a daily goal. Some days I reach my goal by mid-afternoon, other days, not until nine at night.
Writing, like so many other things in life, requires both inspiration and perspiration.
For other blog posts that are part of the Sisters in Crime blog hop, visit Carolyn Mulford's blog. Carolyn tagged me and I tagged Shari Randall. Her blog will appear Monday, September 29 on the Writers Who Kill blog.
This blog, like the books and stories I write, combines mysteries, food, trivia, and a bit of humor to leaven the grim subject of crime. Sometimes random subjects intrude here .