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Wednesday, October 2,2013

Cooking the books

Two author talks this week incorporate cuisine in uncommon ways

by Bill Castanier
The table is set for a gourmet treat of fine reading from authors who are as different as Little Debbie and Baked Alaska. Jeffery Deaver is among the leading thriller writers in the world; Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, aka “the Beekman boys,” are reality TV stars. All three appear in the Lansing area this week to speak and sign copies of their new books.

Deaver’s most recent book, “The Kill Room,” is his 31st in the competitive genre of thrillers. He writes complex plots with surprise endings through a flurry of adrenaline rushes. Readers might remember his novel “The Bone Collector,” which was adapted for the screen starring Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington, as Deaver’s quadriplegic New York detective, Lincoln Rhyme.

“The Kill Room” again features Rhyme, and it’s as contemporary as the Sunday New York Times. Deaver admits his imagination may been a little cutting edge for the plot of “Kill Room”; he said it was only a couple of weeks before publication that President Obama confirmed the U.S. had used a drone to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al- Awlaqi.

“I’ve never written a political book, mostly because they move too slowly,” he said recently in a phone interview.

However, “slowly” is certainly not a word that could be used to describe the action in “Kill Room,” which sees Rhyme racing to avoid a major assassination. Deaver, 63, a journalistturned-corporate lawyer-turned-full-time writer, weaves high-tech government spying on its citizenry and a whistleblower who tips off investigators into a taut, fastpaced storyli

With “Kill Room,” he gives his killer a penchant for gourmet meals and conveniently provides the killer’s recipes online at jefferydeaver.com. He said he created an assassin chef who is almost as creepy as Hannibal Lecter to make his character real and to “create a product that makes an emotional connection to the reader.”

“Too often we see the clichéd villain as a balding thug with a pony tail,” Deaver said. The admitted foodie posted recipes for 14 dishes that the fictional assassin prepares, including one for a sponge cake that was handed down from his grandmother.

As with all of Deaver’s thrillers, in the end the bad guys get their just deserts, but what makes his books intriguing is that you don’t know who the bad guys are until the last few pages. While in town on Oct. 9, Deaver will also discuss his newest book, “The October List” (out this week), a ”Memento”-style thriller written from the end to the beginning.

And speaking of desserts (well, almost), lifestyle authors Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell, a 1991 Michigan State University graduate, have created a collection of recipes for mouthwatering desserts in their newest book, “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook.” It has 100 recipes, including Kilmer-Purcell’s favorite: Pancakes with maple cream frosting.

“It’s a great way to use leftovers,” he said in a recent phone interview. The recipes, illustrated with 120 full-color photos, are divided by the season and all are collected from family and friends, Kilmer-Purcell said. The husband-and-husband team won the 21st season of “The Amazing Race.” They also own a 60-acre farm in upstate New York where they stage their lifestyle brand, which has the makings of a business empire. Their progress is documented on the Cooking Channel’s reality show, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys.”

“Heirloom recipes are living things, and every generation puts their own twist on them,” Kilmer-Purcell said. He said family recipe books will likely have notations in the margins, and their new book leaves dedicated room for these generational notations.

During his days in the dorm at MSU, Kilmer-Purcell, 44, remembers gaining a lot of weight and eating a lot of turkey tetrazzini. He says by contrast, at the Beekman Farm he and Ridge, a physician and former consultant for Martha Stewart, grow 110 fruits and vegetables along with raising their own meat.

“I haven’t been to a grocery store in months, and I find it very inspirational as a cook to deal with the restraints of the garden and the livestock,” he said. “You go into the garden and you ask what do I make today? If there’s a lot of Swiss chard, you tend to get creative.”

Kilmer-Purcell said he got his first cooking lessons by working alongside his mother.

“She was a very good Midwest cook,” he said. “She cooked on a tight budget and had three men to feed.”

One fond memory he has of food on the MSU campus comes from the dairy section.

“It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had,” he said.

Jeffery Deaver

Discussion, Q&A and book signing 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9 Schuler Books & Music, 1982 W. Grand River Ave., Okemos schulerbooks.com

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge (“The Fabulous Beekman Boys”)

Discussion, Q&A and book signing 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 Schuler Books & Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing Township schulerbooks.com

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