Please welcome guest blogger Leslie Budewitz. Leslie is a fellow Montanan who lives in Big Fork and is the author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime, 2013). She’s also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction
The other day, I pulled a seed catalog off the shelf and realized that the reasons for its presence in a mystery writer’s study weren’t immediately obvious.
But everything has its purpose.
Erin Murphy, protagonist of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (the first, Death al Dente, debuted from Berkley Prime Crime in August 2013), runs a specialty local foods market called The Merc in Jewel Bay, Montana, in her family’s 100-year-old building, site of the town’s first grocery. Along with locally made pasta and sauces, jams, wines, meat and cheese, she sells produce grown at Rainbow Lake Garden, and she’s got to know her Roma tomatoes from her Early Girls and her Genovese basil from her Spicy Globe and lemon varieties.
And Pepper Reece, protagonist of my Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries (Spiced to Death, Berkley Prime Crime, March 2015), shops with the farmers and growers of the city’s famous Public Market. Like Erin, Pepper’s a foodie through and through, and it’s not enough to her to tell you she bought squash. She wants you to know she’s cooking a mini Hubbard with a deep orange skin. She wants you to see that squash, and to taste the smoked Aleppo pepper and Puget Sound sea salt she uses to season it. That’s why there’s a stack of spice catalogs and the latest edition of Ian Hemphill’s Spice and Herb Bible on my floor.
To populate my fictional Montana town, I’ve had to create blocks full of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Some are modeled on actual places, but even those need their own touches. Kitchenalia, the destination kitchen shop in Jewel Bay, has a real-life counterpart, but I still pour over the catalogs from Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table (the original store is Pepper’s neighbor in my Seattle series). A basket in one corner overflows with Montana maps, magazines, and clippings featuring intriguing places and personalities. In another corner, another basket holds maps of the Market, downtown Seattle, and the metropolitan area, along with postcards, brochures advertising the Great Wheel, the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center, and other attractions.
On my office shelves are more books on food and the locations I write about: Dearie, the biography of Julia Child; Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War, by Annia Ciedzadlo; and Montana Place Names, a new book from the Montana Historical Society. A copy of Market Sketchbook by Victor Steinbrueck, the architect who led the fight to save the Market in the early 1970s; the official history of the Market; and a book of Seattle ghost stories.
I’m a Montana native, and like most Big Sky Snobs, pleased with my good fortune in choosing parents who lived here. Work by local artists fills my walls. So does an image board, because, I have to admit, not all good ideas come from this amazing valley, and they don’t all stick in my memory. But like a lot of Montanans—including Erin Murphy of the Food Lovers’ Village series—I left the state after high school to attend college in Seattle, and later, law school at Notre Dame. So I also rely on my own photos, memories, and memorabilia. The Seattle series requires more research than the Montana mysteries, so I started a sketchbook for notes, drawings, and photos I’ve pasted in. It never leaves my desk.
I’ve got other reference books, too, some standard, some not: Modern American Usage by Bryan Garner; books on forensics, psychology, investigation, poisons, handwriting analysis. And the one I wrote myself: Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, 2011), winner of the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. (My Agatha teapot lives downstairs, in our entryway library.)
Pens in black, red, purple (for editing), and blue (for signing). Bullets—.22, .380, and .45. A Dead Fred notepad. A timer, for those days when I have a hard time keeping my bottom in the chair. A weekly planner for notes on weather and wild animal sightings. Cards from friends who’ve enjoyed my books. A photograph of the scarecrow chalkboard at the Glacier County Library, welcoming me.
Some days, my office features a cat.
And there’s always a comfy red leather chair, just for you. Come on by.
Leslie Budewitz is the author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime, 2013). She’s also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Leslie’s second series, The Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, will debut in 2015. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a doctor of natural medicine and singer-songwriter, and their cat Ruff, an avid birdwatcher. Visit her online at www.LeslieBudewitz.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LeslieBudewitz/Author