COOKBOOK CONTEST WINNER: CREAM-TOPPED CARAMEL APPLE CROSTADA
(not a Frenchified "gallette" for God's or any other son-of-a-bitch's sake)
Thanks to Gary Cahill for going above and beyond in securing and sharing the following recipe in honor of our Mystery Writers of America Cookbook giveaway contest.
RECIPE AND ITS PROVENANCE provided by: Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (retired, with exceeding prejudice, out of) Central City, Central County, Texas, U.S.A.
Currently residing: Federal Black Site, USP ADX West Texas Supermax Facility
Convictions: Murder (multiple), attempted murder (exponential), assault with intent, assault with intent on a police officer, felony battery, assault on corrections officer, grand theft, arson, conduct unbecoming of a police officer, etc.
Sentence term history: Life, possible parole; adjusted to death; re-adjusted to Life without parole.
Conditions: 7’x12’ cell, 23-hour daily lockdown, 1-hour daily tour of attached exercise cage, three daily meals in lockdown.
GC: Loose lips flapping on a real live, Rio Grande cowhand (who’s also a real live U.S. Marshal, in New York to haul a scared-shitless protected witness back to El Paso for some unfinished Mexicali cartel courtroom drama) led me to a search for a living legend. Nothing good happens in a bar after 2:00 a.m.? I beg to differ. The true crime stories we told, like nothing you ever heard, buster—back and forth, one-upping each other, oh yeah?-ing each other. Another fresh round of Guinness and Jameson (every other shot went into a now-deceased, low-light indoor potted palm, which I’ve since replaced) would pull Officer Yellow Rose down deeper, into darker places, until “Can you top this?” dropped me off at the last ring of hell, occupied by Lou Ford. The fiery pit splayed open unto me. Lou beckoned. And I followed.
Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me isn’t a novel; it’s a biography, and a confession, fed to Big Jim by li’l old Lou, back in 1952, when the deputy was 29 years old and as full of his “sickness” as he’d ever be. It’s all there—all, that is, save the real ending, the cuffs and the perp walk, away to the screaming sirens and headlines and gut-wrenching trials. The final candle-set suicidal conflagration, the cops lying in wait, even the deserved vengeance of an angered universe, were not enough to take him out. Eons of jail time only muted the violent rage that erupted the two times he shucked and jived a parole board into letting him out, until the Feds supermaxed him when he was pushing 80. Which must be an all-time record.
I pulled in every favor from every in-the-know badge, shield, doctor, political fixer, masseur, masseuse, doper, bookie and shark in the local cop/criminal class, and bingo! Some shaken-and-stirred elixir of ’em all convinced a certain well-known and popular –redacted– to get me a middle-of-nowhere, fifty-sniper-escorted, if-one-word-leaks-everyone-you-know-dies, honest-to-God sit-down with Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford—and a recorder for accuracy. I would transcribe, the Feds and those unknown deities above them would serve as my “editors” and whack at my work with sickles and machetes and threats and leave me with… what? With this. With enough. With a colorfully tendered recipe, as requested.
Lou’s 92 now.
The Killer Inside Me opens with him eating pie and coffee at midnight.
Here we were, dead of night.
Both of us hungry as hell, Lou hungry in a few ways beyond… well …
That boy still loves to eat. In his dreams.
And bake—if they’d ever let him near kitchen tools and fire again.
LF: (Much of Lou’s commentary has been redacted, for the security of confidential informants, protection of undercover law enforcement, and matters of taste. Now, with little need and no desire to disguise his madness, his “sickness” [as he calls it] shades the spirit and meaning of his words in ways the authorities deem unacceptable for even limited public consumption.)
After they’d let me out the second time, I was cruising as always for marks to verbally abuse, my usual way, and maybe the other way. I was a little more forward than I used to be when I had to protect my job and standing as deputy sheriff. After all that time in stir and my advancing age, it pains me to admit, I no longer considered “biding my time” if I got that old feeling and –redacted–
So this European pair, touring the great American Southwest, some boneheaded Eye-talian and a shitbird Frenchie walk into a bar… I know, the beginning of a thousand jokes, but this one keeps me laughing ’til this day. I swear, they never –redacted–
… and if Frenchie hadn’t gotten all weird about this pie being called a “gallette,” for Christ’s sake, well, it might have gone a little easier for him. As it was, I went with the Eye-talian fella’s “crostada” label, which was a little more solid in the shoes than “gallette,” if you know what I mean, and I thanked him by going a might bit lighter on his hide when –redacted–
But, you know, nobody sees an old man comin’.
Anyway, I only got to make this thing once before the law caught up to me for the last time, but it was sooo tasty I committed it to memory, and the thought of its aroma keeps me good company. Goes like this.
One and a half cups of regular flour (not bread, not cake, it’s what they call unbleached all-purpose) made into a pie paste with eight or nine spoons of cold butter and enough (a few spoons; whatever it takes) of iced milk or heavy cream or water with an egg yolk, barely mixed. Put it in the fridge to set. Later on that night I introduced Giuseppe and Frenchy Pierre, the Euro boys, to my family’s favorite baked good, the Southern beaten biscuit, where the whole point is to dig your fingers deep into that soft mess, push it, pull it, tearing it apart and slapping it back, and ball up a fist and rocket-launch it right down the middle until the fleshy dough folds over your hand and caresses –redacted–
A slender, flexible boning knife is perfect for the filling, for taking apart three or four apples. Something with a bite under all that sweet, like a red Winesap or green, green Gravenstein is where you’re going. Me, I’m for that deep, dark sanguine hue. The blade goes right through that skin and peels it right off, leaves that gold-glowing ivory fruit flesh all open, and if you’re careful and committed, you can shave those insides so delicately they’re goddamned translucent—the meat so much not what it was, even you can’t tell anymore who… I mean, what it was. Soak the slices in fresh lemon juice, toss them with a salted brown sugar caramel seasoned with some cinnamon, less of nutmeg, and more of allspice—I know, of all things. Fold up the edges of that dough, and pleat it so it won’t leak… much. Bake three-quarters to a full hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, on parchment, on a steel pan on a heated bread stone, if you have one, until it all looks done well. Spread a little melted berry jam on the hot crusty edge, then maybe a few sliced almonds. Cool and crisp on a rack to room temperature…
Get hold of a wire whip… sorry, whisk. Yes, grab up a whip whisk—one of those things with all those splayed razor-y wires in a big balloon—three spoons of sugar and a pinch of salt in a half pint of heavy cream and have at it, cradling the bowl in the crux of your elbow hard enough, tight enough… opening and elevating the blank-white fat to the air, recreating it, until the cream stands in prideful peaks and flaunts each new set of cracks and crevices and flayings.
Until the intended whipped cream topping turns to sugary butter.
Listen, my first try, I came pretty close to making cheese. Next. Get the other half-pint you so thoughtfully purchased and do it right, you bastard. You do need to be a little hard on yourself, from time to time. Then I figure I’ve earned a drizzle of that melted berry jam, ’specially if it’s raspberry—thick, slick and red, just tumbling down those ruts and running over the piled cream topping. It’s inspiring, I say.
It inspired my farewell to the Euro boys, so long ago.
(Mixed voices of security personnel, urging Lou to wrap it up and prepare to be loaded into the olive drab military surplus panel truck for his trip into the night, to the world of ADX. Lou nodded assent.)
I liked him, ol’ Giuseppe, and I blade… sorry, bade him good night… well, goodbye… with “arrivederci… avanti…” softly, over and over, until speaking to him became… pointless.
Frenchy Pierre, well, a lot less love was lost there, I’m sorry to say. As I slid one last thrust between his ribs, my free hand squeezed his cheeks together to turn a moaning, long-voweled “ohhh” into a purse-lipped, short-voweled “oooo,” I leaned in over what remained of the ear he had left, and whispered, “laaa… laaa…”
GC: He whistled a familiar old-timey tune on his way to the transport, from the end of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and lifted the lyric to say goodbye.
“We’ll meet again,” he lied, same as he did to haunt Giuseppe in the next life with arrivederci. “Don’t know where, don’t know when.”
“Sure we will,” I said. “That’s money, officer.”
“And it’ll be a bright and sunny day, all right. For sure. So long, Gary. Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford, signing off.” He saluted, crisply, like he still wore the Old Smokey hat. “Over and out.”
For his amazing efforts, gourmand Gary wins a free copy of the The MWA Cookbook, now on sale.
FESTIVALS AND CONFERENCES IN GENERAL; BOUCHERCON IN PARTICULAR
Note to MWA-NY members: Once you sign in, a new menu will appear under the current menu at the top of this page. One of the choices there is Festivals and Conferences. As chair of the relevant committee for our chapter, I asked a few of our members to weigh in with their opinions and advice about attending conferences in general and Bouchercon in particular. Here is what they have to say.
What Mystery Writing Conferences Are All About
"Many publications for writers, as well as books on writing, including Writer's Digest, offer excellent guides to the variety of conferences and festivals. All conferences, whether on American soil or abroad, broaden a writer's talents — in untold depths. Attendance and participation help an individual writer avoid being insular.
"These conferences combine for adults the excitement and bonding of sleepaway summer camps, going away to college or university, and ocean cruises! The exhilaration and stimulation not only strengthen the gifts of writing but forge lifelong friendships. Mingling with great talents, meeting familiar and new people — are gifts no other experience can equal for a writer.
"The energies absorbed from a room filled with talent and new thoughts gives one a charge of life-giving, inspiration creativity that is hard to find anywhere else.
"The stimulation of bonding with like-minded men and women is worth the investment of registration fees or travel costs!" — Thelma Straw
Regarding Bouchercon, in Particular
"Bouchercon World Mystery Convention is an all-volunteer effort that each year between September and November draws approximately 1,500 fans, authors, librarians, booksellers, agents, publishers, and media representatives to a different city with four days of robust crime fiction loving camaraderie amid uninhibited panels, unique programming, author signings, and awards ceremonies. It is home to the Anthony Awards and a premier fan-driven operation dedicated to mingling and creating friendships.
"Named after Anthony Boucher, the distinguished writer, editor, and critic regarded as the cornerstone of modern mystery analysis, Bouchercon recently celebrated its 45th year as the world’s largest moveable feast for the crime fiction genre. Here’s a list of dates and locations for upcoming Bouchercons: Bouchercon 2015 (October 8-11) Raleigh, North Carolina; Bouchercon 2016 (September 15-18) New Orleans, Louisiana; Bouchercon 2017 (October 12-15) Toronto, Canada; and Bouchercon 2018 (September 13-16) St. Petersburg, Florida."— Jeffrey Siger, Chair of the Board of Bouchercon
"Bouchercon is the biggest and most diverse gathering of mystery fans and writers. New ideas, new books, new friends and old ones. What’s not to like?" — Triss Stein
"Networking, making friends, meeting other authors, getting inspiration, and more networking. Oh, and occasionally feeling overwhelmed." — Julia Pomeroy
"Bouchercon is primarily a fan conference. Yes, there are some craft and marketing sessions, but really it’s for fans. It’s a good conference for published authors because it’s always well-attended, and you can meet some great readers there, but I wouldn’t really recommend it for those who don’t have something to sell. (I mean, I would totally recommend it for them, but as a social and networking experience, not as an event that would help them get ahead.)" — Laura K. Curtis
"I go to Bouchercon because it is the premier gathering of mystery writers and readers in the US. Even at your first conference, you are immediately among friends—new friends who welcome you and become your old friends very quickly. As a new or aspiring writer, you will become known and recognized. As an established writer, you will be remembered. The networking opportunities are invaluable. Go!" — Ken Isaacson
"Bouchercon attracts hundreds of mystery fans, so if you get a panel, you can intro yourself to at least a hundred of them all at once. And you come in contact with lots of other writers.
"BCon’s size can be overwhelming. I’d advise a newbie to take a buddy. Make a rational list of plans: introduce yourself to the booksellers (give them an ARC if they’ve never heard of you); find a few opportunities to chat with fans. Don’t have unrealistic expectations about what any conference can do for your sales and your chances to bond with writers more famous than you are." — Sheila York
— Patricia King
Under the pen name Annamaria Alfieri, Patricia King is the author of Invisible Country, her second historical mystery. Her novel City of Silver won critical acclaim. Deadly Pleasures Magazine called it one of the best first novels of the year, and the Washington Post said, "As both history and mystery, City of Silver glitters." Writing as Patricia King, she is also the author of the short story "Baggage Claim," in the anthology Queens Noir. Her latest book Blood Tango imagines the murder of an Evita lookalike against a background of tumultuous days in Buenos Aires 1945.
Mug Shot: Henry Chang
Henry Chang is a native son of New York City’s Chinatown, where he sets his stories, from the underbelly of the immigrant demimonde. He’s been a lighting consultant, and a freelance journalist. He has been a Security Director for the Trump Organization, and for corporate and retail loss prevention. A local product, he attended Pratt Institute and graduated from CCNY. He resides in the Chinatown area of Lower Manhattan—“in the old ‘hood," as he calls it. He is currently working on his fifth book in the NYPD Detective Jack Yu series.
- What is your writing routine?
I consume copious amounts of weed and alcohol, then amp up some old Led Zepp and get to work . . . . But seriously, my writing day begins early, with a steaming pot of sencha, and a quiet house. I’ve gone from nightcrawler to early bird, so pre-dawn is nothing new to me, just trying to catch first light now instead of dodging it. I’ll review the previous day’s work and then move the characters along the skeletal plotline, projecting the action forward. In the afternoon the cup of sencha becomes a glass of Sancere and the story moves along. And for the sake of continuity, the writing life is really a 24/7 flow.
- Tell us about your current project.
My current project is the fifth book in the NYPD Detective Jack Yu series. Title still wip. I’ll be bringing back some hardboiled people so it’s going to be explosive: Straight Outta Chinatown. Detective Jack Yu will also tie up some loose ends in his life, and may be moving on from the NYPD. So stay tuned, there’s a lot going on.
- Which writers, living or otherwise, would you host at a dinner party and why?
I’d host five writers, managable, and six is a lucky number. Those five writers would be, in random order: Hubert Selby, Jr., Junot Diaz, Haruki Murakami, Patricia Cornwell, and Iris Chang. Five powerful and diverse points of view. Can you imagine the cross conversations? The ideas electric in the air?
- What do you enjoy about your MWA membership?
I LOVE The Third Degree [the MWA national newsletter for members], always informative, and entertaining. I like the cameraderie of the local chapter, and the easy going vibe of the org in general. Very cool.
WHY WRITERS SHOULDN’T DRINK
“Are you killing time?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, “and I’ve got the bar tab to prove it.”
“Would you like some company?” She sat down on the stool to my right without waiting for an answer.
She was not what you would call a pretty woman, but sitting in the bar at O’Hare, two hours to kill until boarding, she was pretty enough.
“What are you drinking?" I asked.
I don’t normally drink martinis, but what the hell, I figured, how often does a middle-aged man, balding and overweight, get a chance to sip martinis at an airport bar with a strange woman. So I ordered two.
And then two more.
And then . . . well, to be honest, at that point, things start to get a little fuzzy. At some point, I do remember excusing myself to use the men’s room and then staggering through the terminal, making my way to the gate. I was relieved, finally, to board the plane and sink into my window seat. It had been a long day.
Not 12 hours earlier I had been sitting at another window seat, on another plane, making the flight in the other direction, from my home in New Jersey, to Chicago. My workshop had gone well. I sold a few books and made a few new friends. It had been a good day. But I was tired and grateful to be on my way home.
The crew was preparing the plane for departure when the Air Marshals came on board. In this day and age, that’s not a good sign. Still, I was kind of curious; I think we all were. Was our flight about to become the lead in tomorrow’s news? Who were they looking for? I felt a vicarious thrill when they came up the aisle. Apparently, I was sitting next to the woman they were after.
No. Evidently she was sitting next to the man they were after. I would not make it home that night. Without an explanation, the Air Marshals led me off the plane. Did you know there’s a jail, of sorts, in the bowels of O’Hare International Airport? I didn’t, either. But there is. And it was only after we’d entered the secure facility that the reason for my detention became clear.
“A woman has been found dead in the men’s room,” the Air Marshal said. In her hand, she clutched a bookmark promoting one of my books. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Murder, it said. And it was. A helluva lot like murder. My name, of course, was printed on the bookmark. And my phone number, in lipstick, was scribbled on the back.
It had been a long day. It promised to get a lot longer.
Jeff Markowitz is the author of the award-winning thriller, Death and White Diamonds, as well as three books in the Cassie O'Malley mystery series.