I’d like to welcome Friend of the Wickeds, Ang Pompano, back to the blog. The Wickeds met Ang through Sisters in Crime New England and the New England Crime Bake. Plus, he’s been in a writers group for years with Wickeds favorite, Lucy Burdette!
Ang is here to celebrate the release of his latest book, Diet of Death: A Reluctant Food Columnist Mystery. Leave a comment on the post below and one lucky person will receive a copy of Diet of Death.
Here’s the blurb
Betty Ann Green is the Oprah of the cooking world. No wonder cookbook authors, celebrity chefs, and weight-loss experts alike would kill for a mention in the “Cooking with Betty” column in On Topic Magazine. Diet Guru, Dr. Alan Tolzer, is no exception.
He craves the chance for instant success for his latest Westport Diet Book with an interview by the columnist. It’s enough to make him swallow his pride and try to patch up his long-standing feud with the reclusive Betty.
No surprise there.
Everyone sells their soul in one way or another in the cooking industry. But murder is on the menu when Betty’s assistant, Quincy Lazzaro, arrives for the interview. Quincy becomes entangled and his complicated relationships with both Betty and investigating police sergeant Nina Estevez is nothing less than a recipe for disaster. Bringing the murderer to justice without exposing the secret to Betty’s success proves to be more difficult than sticking to a fad diet.
Take it away, Ang!
Barbara, thanks for having me back to talk about my new book, Diet of Death. It’s my version of a culinary mystery. Or as someone said, Agatha Christie meets Christmas in Connecticut. But in this case, an aspiring investigative reporter, Quincy Lazzaro, is tricked into writing a food column called ‘Cooking with Betty.’ He’s not a good cook but with recipes provided by his octogenarian neighbor, Mary Ticarelli, the column becomes a hit. When an interview results in the murder of a Diet Guru, Quincy must solve it with Mary’s help. All while protecting the secret that Betty doesn’t exist.
Barb, as you know, I’m a big fan of your Jane Darrowfield character. I love reading about and writing about older people. My last book, When It’s Time for Leaving, has a detective in the early stages of dementia. And my short story, “The Bucket List,” deals with an older couple whose devotion to each other gets them involved with a hitman.
Older characters have so much to offer. They have wisdom based on experience. Think of how Miss Marple bases her theories on her observations of the villagers of St. Mary Mead.
In Diet of Death Mary not only helps Quincy by providing recipes for the column, but she fancies herself a detective. In this excerpt, she’s trying to convince Quincy that there may be a coverup in the Diet Guru’s death. As Miss Marple might, she relates her theory to the experience of her cousin Lucy.
“How did he die?” She pulled me into her apartment. She brought me into her kitchen and put a plate of baked eggplant layered with cheese and tomato sauce in front of me.
“I don’t know. He was old, I guess.” I caught a glimpse of her gnarled fingers and wished I could have taken back my snarky comment. “It was probably a heart attack.”
“Well, that doesn’t look good for a diet doctor—to die of a heart attack.”
“I guess not.”
“Of course not. My cousin Lucy can vouch for that.”
“What does your cousin have to do with it?” I shoveled some of the eggplant into my mouth. It was delicious.
“Everything. She had a catering business she ran from her kitchen to make ends meet. Her husband, Charlie, was a gambler, never worked a day in his life. He died in the chair.”
“The electric chair?”
“No, the kitchen chair. He was eating dinner. So she dragged him outside and put him in a lawn chair under the grape arbor before she called for help.”
“Why would she do that?”
She gave a wave of her hand as if I were a fool not to understand. “People talk! If they found out he was eating dinner, right away they’d say ptomaine. End of business.” She slapped her hands in an up and down motion as if they were two cymbals.
It almost scared me that I got her point.
I must confess that the Mary in Diet of Death is based on my late mother-in-law, Mary. She was also a feisty force of nature and an excellent cook. She loved making cooking videos that received thousands of views while in her mid-nineties. And she loved to solve little mysteries!
If anyone would like to compare her to the Mary in Diet of Death, here is a link to her Pasta Fagioli video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np7yfWh_4TQ
Readers: Do you enjoy reading about older characters? Writers, have you ever based a character on a relative? Leave a comment to win a free copy of Diet of Death. U.S. only, please.
About Ang Pompano
Ang Pompano’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including the Anthony Winning, Malice Domestic: Mystery Most Edible. His first novel When It’s Time for Leaving, was nominated for an Agatha Best First Novel Award. His second novel, Diet of Death was published in June, 2021. A member of Mystery Writers of America, he was a awarded a Helen McCloy/MWA scholarship for a novel in progress. He served for many years as a board member of Sisters in Crime New England and has been on the New England Crime Bake Committee for fifteen years. He is the co-founder and editor of Crime Spell Books. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Annette, and their two rescue dogs.
Sounds good. Love the title.
Thank you, Anxious58. I’m glad you like the title. I find them so difficult to write. Yet they are so important. I mean, would THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA have done as well if Hemingway called it THE BIG FISH? Okay, bad example. But you know what I mean.
SO many congratulations, Ang! In the Local Foods Mysteries, I based a character on my mom, except I gave her a cell phone and the occasional glass of wine. All my books have older important continuing characters. It’s fun to write them.
Edith, as you well know it’s important to know a character’s background even if it isn’t used in the book. Not only is it fun to base characters on relatives or someone you know, but you know exactly how they would react in a situation. I have one relative who thought I wrote about her in the last book. She was so flattered that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t. But then again, maybe she was in the back of my mind. I’m sure your mom would have appreciated your loving tribute to her, and probably the glass of wine too!
Pick me, pick me! haha If you like kids books, I’m hosting a kids book giveaway thanks to Worthy Kids… come visit me!
Erin, I do like kids books. I was a teacher for 35 years. One of the best dogs we ever had was named Mr. Wagner, after the book ANDY AND MR. WAGNER. Good luck with your giveaway!
I read the book last week and enjoyed it. I like older characters because you get a history and they have a lot to say.
Thank you, Dru. And thanks for all you do for writers. Yes, older people have such a rich history that we can learn from. It’s too bad that sometimes we don’t appreciate that when we are young. It’s that history that makes them such interesting characters in books.
I like books with older characters in them, too, especially good cooks that have recipes handed down to them. Sounds like a fun read! Will you be making it into a series?
Thanks, Kathy. My wife has a whole file of handwritten recipes by both her mother and mine. They’re good recipes but the nostalgia makes them even more delicious. Yes, this will be a series. The second book has the working title of INGREDIENTS OF DEATH.
Working in a nursing home for 16 years, I have way too many stories about the residents there, the things they say and do. You’ve got to have some older book characters to bring the wisdom, experience, and laughs.
Alicia, I can imagine the stories you have from working at the nursing home. Some must be hilarious and others heartbreaking. Thank you for the important work you do!
I like reading characters of all ages, but I’ve yet to base a character on a relative. Although Betty, in my Homefront series, is inspired by my grandmother and the sayings from her grandparents are often things my own grandparents said.
Hi, Liz. Those old sayings relatives used are not only fun to put our books but they make the characters come alive. I’ll bet you think of your grandmother every time you read those passages.
I like knowing that Mary is based on a real woman. Aunt Ibby, in my Witch City mysteries is a combination of my Aunt Carrie Russell and my ex-mother-in-law, Ibby Hill–two strong, beautiful, red-haired, feisty women I loved!
Carol, I think most characters we write are a combination of people we know or have come across over the years. It’s so nice that you were able to pay tribute to two people you loved with your wonderful Aunt Ibby character.
Ha! Even characters that are completely fictional have my family members thinking they’re the source material.
Book sounds great, Ang. Looking forward to reading!
Robin, it would be hilarious if you did base a character on one of those relatives and they didn’t recognize themselves! Thanks for the kind words.
Love seeing older people as characters in books, or even the main character. Maybe it’s because I am now a senior citizen myself, but I prefer to think that I love diversity in books. Hey life in general isn’t made up of all young people. Plus it’s like Ang stated, they have a lot of experience and learning to add to a situation.
Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Diet of Death”. The title alone would have me putting this one on my TBR list. Being one that’s struggled with “diets” my entire life, it’s a wonderful title.
Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a copy! Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Kay, remember this old joke? “It’s amazing how much my father learned between the time I was a teenager until the time I had kids.” Older people have a lot to offer and I love to read about them. It wasn’t that long ago that my agent told me to “make the characters younger.” Now senior mysteries are a thing.
I do like books with older characters. They like don’t care what any one thinks of them and say what they think and some of them are a hoot and quite clever. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway! pgenest57 at aol dot com
Thanks for your comment. Truer words have never been spoken. I think that as we get older, we find the confidence in ourselves to speak up and say “Hey, I’ve been through this. Give a listen.”
I love Ang’s new book, Diet of Death. My Mom was definitely a force to be reckoned with. She worked in her garden, which she loved, until she was in her 90s. She cut her own lawn till she was in her late 80s, my sister and I had to finally tell her that she had to get someone to do that, the neighbors were talking. The memories of my Mom and the recounting of some of the things she would do, as Ang uses in his book, give me a lot of comfort.
Yes, your Mom was always the center of attention when she entered a room. And she told great stories. She sure is missed. I’d bet she would get a kick out of seeing some of her sayings in the book. Your comment came through as Anonymous, but we all know it’s you, Annette. Sorry, but wives can’t win a book. I’ll lend you my copy though. LOL
That scene made me laugh! What a fabulous concept for a book! I love characters of all ages and am glad to see a trend toward older people!
Thanks, Sherry. That means so much coming from you. As I said, a few years ago everyone wanted younger characters. Now “Geezer Lit” has come into its own. Although, I’d much rather call it “Senior Lit” or “Wisdom Lit.”
Perfect, I loved that scene. Mary’s logic was spot on!
My favorite older character in the series I read is Georgie’s grandfather in Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness Mysteries. He is a retired policeman and a constant source of love and support for Georgie. Rhys just told her JRW blog followers that Granddad is based on Rhys’s own father. I just think that is lovely.
Hi, Judy. Thanks for passing on that story from Rhys. I know writers draw upon life. Now I’m realizing how many of us insert these little tributes to loved ones in our stories. I’m so glad that you like Mary’s logic! My mother often used similar logic.
How fun!! I love older (wiser) characters like Jane Darrowfield when reading mysteries. You have now provided me with a new sleuth friend, and I will enjoy reading it, and help him solve the crime 🙂 Thank you for sharing your stories with us readers, and please continue to share them with us.
Thanks for your comment. I agree with you. Barb’s Jane Darrowfield is such a great character! And thank you for reading. If we didn’t have readers, there would be no point in writing!
Ang, congratulations and welcome to the blog! I love the premise of this book. I also love older protagonists, both reading them and writing them.
Thanks, Julie. I love being back. All of the Wickeds have been so kind to me over the years. And I worked with you, Barbara, and Edith, when each of you was president of Sisters in Crime New England and I, was the Treasurer. I know you and I share the love senior protagonists, which you write so well.
Such fun! Glad to see this in print … a lot to enjoy here.
Hi, Beth. Thanks for the kind words. It was fun to write. I wanted to write something that made my readers smile this time around. I hope I succeeded.
Yes, I do enjoy reading books with older and wiser characters in them. Those can actually be the best books to read! Thank you for the chance!
Thanks, B. I’m glad we agree about older characters. I try to show younger and older characters learning from each other. Each has something to offer the other. I believe that’s how it is in the real world.
Ah, your MIL Mary is delightful. I’ll be looking for this book. I do love the spunky elders, like Susan McBride’s HELEN and Lucy Burdette’s Miss Gloria . . . and and Mrs. Pollifax, “of a certain age” but full of adventure.
The topic of dieting has me remembering parent volunteers at our jr. high, excited about a new all-natural tea that gave them energy and helped them lose weight, which was later banned as being a form of amphetamine. Yikes!
Thank you for the kind words, Mary. Spunky elders are the best. I can just imagine the goings-on in a few years as Baby Boomers start populating what used to be called “rest” homes. I don’t think there will be much rest. I remember reading Mrs. Pollifaz long ago. I think Susan McBride has a great sense of humor. And don’t get me started on how much I love Miss Gloria! Lucy Burdette and I have been in the same writing group for twenty years. I’ve watched Miss Gloria’s character grow over the years in the Key West Food Critic series. She’s so much fun!
Mary, thank you for the kind words. Spunky elders are the best. I can just imagine the goings-on in a few years as Baby Boomers start populating what used to be called “rest” homes. I don’t think there will be much rest. I remember liking Mrs. Pollifaz long ago. And I think Susan McBride has a great sense of humor. But, don’t get me started on how much I love Miss Gloria! Lucy Burdette and I have been in the same writing group for twenty years. I’ve watched Miss Gloria’s character grow over the years in the Key West Food Critic series. She’s so much fun!
Lately I’ve been reading almost exclusively novels with older characters. Must be my upcoming 50th birthday!
Tahlia42 I hope you have a very Happy Birthday! Enjoy your special day when it comes. Remember, 50 is the new 25, so live it up!
I enjoy characters of all ages. Mary sounds like a hoot. (I already have a copy of the book, so please don’t enter me.)
Hi, Mark. I enjoy characters of all ages too. As I said above I like to show younger and older characters learning from each other.
I love reading about older characters. They can be so funny when talking to the younger whippersnapper.
Laurie, thanks for your comment. It’s spot on. Mary can get a bit frustrated with some of the things Quincy does. While she comes across as abrupt at times, deep down she worries about him as if he were her son.
Older characters bring a varied perspective and that can make younger people think. Not just in terms of what is right or wrong but in what lies behind their views. That can be a challenge to experience and as a result, I would imagine, a challenge to write. This book sounds like an awesome read.
That’s so true, Emilie. I can’t remember at what point I realized that some of the views that I rejected of the previous generation were based on the baggage they came with. For example, I have no idea of what it felt like to live during The Depression. But I realized it shaped the attitude of those who did. That said, I always respected the knowledge of older people. I was a teacher, not a carpenter, so when my wife and I built our own house, I picked the brains of my father and relatives who were in construction. I could see in their faces that they were proud that we valued their opinions.
I like older characters- they have more life experience
That’s very true, Sandy. Older people have life experience which can save us a lot of trouble if we listen. At the same time, I think it’s important to blend that with fresh ideas from younger people.
I do like older characters, especially those like one of my favorite characters…Miss Marple! Reading about your “Betty” made me think of Betty Crocker. And, Mary sounds like my idea of a great neighbor!
Judy, what I love about Miss Marple is the way she can make accurate deductions based on everyday incidents involving the villagers of St. Mary Mead. It’s so funny that you mentioned Betty Crocker. I don’t want to give anything away to those who don’t know, but she and Betty Ann Green, the author of the “Cooking With Betty” column have something very much in common.
Since I’m old, I can relate to the older protagonists better than the mother of two little kids or a swinging single. Those days are long past. I’m no wise old owl, but I do feel that I have gained a certain amount of wisdom through the years. Love it when the old lady puts the smart aleck “kid” in her place. Don’t mess around with old folks. We know all the tricks.
I love this blog because I’m always learning of authors I wasn’t familiar with. Sure glad I found you!
Hi ginnyjc, Thank you so much for saying that. Yes, The Wickeds are not only great writers but good friends to other writers. So true that we gain a good amount of wisdom over the years. Or, as my wife says, we’ve earned the right to say how we feel. LOL
I like older characters in books, they usually add some humor and a different way of thinking to a story.
“Diet of Death” sounds like a great read. Adding to my TBR list.
Opps posted that in the wrong place. Sorry. Hi, Dianne. The way I look at it, older folks aren’t funny because they are silly. They’re funny because they are truthful. We laugh when we hear a joke that points out a truth about ourselves. Thanks for your kind words!
While I like all types of characters, I certainly relate better to older ones like me. Old age does give perspective, When I read complaints about soap operas or other shows, I think that’s not the worst plot or character I’ve seen! Looking forward to reading your book.
Thank you, Sally. Yes, old age does give perspective. They say there are only seven plots (or 37 depending upon who you listen to). At any rate, the trick is to keep it fresh. I also relate to older characters like me, but it’s interesting to see an older character contrasted with a younger one. Happy reading!
Hi, Dianne. The way I look at it, older folks aren’t funny because they are silly. They’re funny because they are truthful. We laugh when we hear a joke that points out a truth about ourselves. Thanks for your kind words!
Excellent post, Ang, and yes, as an older person myself, I enjoy reading about older characters, but for some reason the older I get the younger my main characters are. Will have to do something about that some day before too long. And yes also to the question about basing characters on relatives, which I have often done. My father was the oldest of six in a contentious family, several of whom became lawyers who sued their siblings later in life, and from them I learned many lessons about how to handle conflict in fiction. Your new book sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Best of luck!
Thanks for stopping by, Leslie. You did an excellent job of writing young characters in SHUNTOLL ROAD. I find getting the dialogue correct is key. I’m always listening for the phrases younger people use as well as their speech patterns. By the way, relatives can be a great source of material, but you might want to avoid writing about those uncles.
Yes. As I get older, it is nice to read about characters in my age bracket instead of 20-30 year olds. Thank you for the opportunity.
I agree. While we can learn a lot from reading about 20-30 year-olds too, I don’t always relate to some of the situations.
I prefer older main characters!
Thanks for the comment, Linda. Our generations will be going quietly into the night! LOL
Your series sounds charming. I look forward to reading it. Loved the video of your mother-in-law. It reminds me of growing up a Marchetti and the meals my mother made.
Thanks, Grace. My mother-in-law was a real firecracker. She made that video and others at 95. We treasure them because our grandkids will have something to remember “Old Nonnie” by. I’ll bet my memories or childhood meals are similar to yours. I can almost taste them now.
I’m happy to announce that the winner of DIET OF DEATH is Tahlia42! Please send me your address and I’ll get the book right out to you. Thank you, everyone, for taking part. I had a great time! — Ang
Older characters are now closer to my age. The story sounds delightful, except for the death. Anything to do with food has my vote as a good story. Some cozy mysteries include recipes.
I love reading about vital older characters. Perhaps being a few months short of 75 has something to do with that. But oh no! These have been among my favorite reads for years. And if it’s culinary story or one involving books AND contain recipes, better yet! Your book and Mary sound heavenly, Ang, and just my sort of read. Would have loved to have shared a recipe or two over some tea with your late mother-in-law!
I’m 72 and I LOVE reading about more mature characters. There are days when I just shake my head at yet another teenager/twenty-something acting their age, And, sorry, but if I get one more squealing newsletter from a younger author, I might start mass unsubscribing. Back to the, still, 9,875 unread emails…
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