Eat, Drink, and be Literary

MICHELE:     Welcome to By the Book, Miss Demeanors’ style. In the tradition of the New York Times Sunday feature, the question of the week is: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three authors, dead or alive, do you invite, in addition to your fellow Miss Demeanors, of course? Please feel free to share why you chose your guests and what you will be serving them. You may invite them to a restaurant if you are culinarily challenged, but do share which one and what’s on the menu for your guests.


Most writers I know are good story tellers and opinionated, so just about any of them would make good dinner guests. I just read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longing, which is a novel about Jesus’s wife, and I’d love to have her there and ask her how on earth she found the courage to write that. Also, I have a few bones to pick. Then I was also looking at James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. Now he is a story-teller and a very engaging writer. So he’d be fun. For a third guest I’d pick Elly Griffiths because she seems to be a font of creativity and I’d love to know how she writes so many good books in a year. I would ask Tracee to cook the dinner, and any of the meals she posts on Facebook would be fine with me, though I am partial to Indian food. And then I would ask Alexia to make the drinks and Connie to bring some of those cookies that she blogged about.


I’d love to cook dinner and be part of those conversations, with particular anticipation for meeting Elly Griffiths. (I will forever regret that the Edgars were cancelled the year she won for The Stranger Diaries. I had a whole plan in place to corner her at a cocktail party.) If you’re looking for an Indian inspired meal, how about a Curried Chicken Muglai with Persian Jeweled Rice? I’ll drink anything Alexia mixes and look forward to Connie’s cookies.

Now I need to think about dinner guests for the evening I’m hosting…. since I’ll have met Elly Griffiths I can tick her off the list, unless she’s so much fun I want to invite her back.

MICHELE: Here’s the link to the Persian Jeweled Rice Tracee’s presenting.


I’m currently obsessed with all that was written by John LeCarre, Slough House series by Mick Herron, and Line of Duty written by Jed Mercurio, so they would be my guests. Not only have they have each in their own way polished the plotting of secrets and lies, they have built cultures around their characters which in turn supports and enhances their characterizations.

I’d serve them rib-eye steak, medium rare, asparagus in a béarnaise sauce and roasted herbed red potatoes accompanied with multiple bottles of red wine. And for dessert, cheesecake because they would probably decline it and that would be more for me after they’d left.


I love LeCarre and have been rereading Smiley’s People. He’s one of those people you can read over and over again. Every sentence is beautiful.


Indeed! I have The Honourable Schoolboy on my bedside table with a highlighter. What gorgeous sentences and the scenes!


A literary dinner party with three of my favorite authors—fabulous!

Since Elly Griffiths seems to be inundated with invitations, I’ll dip into the past and invite Agatha Christie and Cyril Hare, both of whom wrote during the Golden Age of detective fiction. My third guest would be the very much alive Martin Edwards, author not only of wonderful mysteries but also of The Golden Age of Murder. I’ll sit back and listen for hours as they tell stories of the famous Detection Club (Edwards is now president) and all the fascinating characters and conversations of those days. Food? Well, since I’ve seen photos of Tracee de Hahn’s gourmet meals, and I know what my dinners look like, I’ll pay her to be chef for the evening. She can set the menu—whatever she thinks best, as long as it goes with a fine red claret. We’d end with Pavlova and raspberries, my favorite dessert, sure to impress. And a few of those molasses and shortbread cookies my Scottish grandmother made.

Afterward, I hope Keenan shares stories from her dinner party, because my husband and I are currently binging on Line of Duty.


I’m struggling with this question because I’m not a plan-a-dinner-party type. I’d much rather be on a guest list. I promise I’ll bring you a nice bottle of wine as a hostess gift. Also, I’ve discovered that some authors whose work I like are not necessarily people I’d care to be in the same room with. I’m tempted to fudge my answer and pick fictional characters I’d like to have dinner with–Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, and Jane Marple. Dinner would be at Wolfe’s brownstone, of course, prepared by Fritz. But, since that’s cheating, I’ll choose Kellye Garrett, Shawn (S.A.) Cosby, and Philip (P.J.) Vernon. We’d go for drinks and bar snacks at some cool-but-not-hip, almost-dive bar in NYC where we’d sit in a booth near a window–the one with the neon sign–and talk about people until 3 o’clock in the morning.


Alexia, I’d definitely show up for that meal!


I forgot to add, Chantal Tseng would be the bartender because she specializes in mixing literary cocktails–cocktails inspired by books. She’s created drinks to pair with my Death in D Minor, with Susanna Calkins’s Fate of a Flapper, Ed Aymar’s (E.A. Barres) They’re Gone, and Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone, among others. She also hosts a “Sherry and Miss Marple” book club where she pairs sherry with Agatha Christie novels. In my imaginary bar salon, she’d make a cocktail inspired by one of each attendee’s books. I suspect by 3 am, what we’d be saying about people would not be repeatable in polite company.

Here’s one of the cocktails she created for Death in D Minor. The quote is the line that inspired it.

“Half the county’s McCarthy. Olivia and her late sister were the black sheep of the family on account of their marrying Anglo-Irish landowners.” (P.10)

Chill a Rocks glass.
Add to your mixing glass:

1.5 oz. Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey
.75 oz. Alvear Cream Sherry (or Osborne)
.25 oz. Fernet Branca
2 dashes of Absinthe (St. George or Pernod)

Fill with cracked ice and stir for about 10 seconds. Strain into your chilled glass over 1 large piece of ice.


I would drink that right now, except that all I have is the whiskey. But I guess that’s a start. 🙂


This sounds like a great idea! I was originally thinking Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Anne Rice,
but then I was thinking Margaret Atwood as well because she’s got the sharpest sense of humor.

But I think I’ll stick with Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Anne Rice because they all write exactly the kind of
supernatural, dark, but somehow still really satisfying stuff I love to get lost in. I’d have to have the dinner party in a
beautifully decorated cavern or castle, with faerie lights and lots of candles. The food? Tiny hors d’oeuvres on little silver
platters so that we never have our mouths stuffed with anything too much at a time and can talk. Because who wants to
eat when surrounded by brilliant minds?

I’m a beer fan, so we’d have to have a few microbrews on hand. As for the wine, I’ll let the other Miss Demeanors


For my dream dinner party, since I’ve spent a lovely evening with Elly Griffiths at Susan’s, I’m going to pull together novelists who write epic adventures: Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove), Ken Follett (Pillars of the Earth), and Diana Gabaldon (her series).

In crime fiction we juggle multiple threads, leading readers a merry dance until the big reveal. McMurtry, Follett and Gabaldon don’t write mysteries per se (although there is a specific mystery at the heart of Pillars of the Earth), however, they are masters of multiple plots lines and unexpected endings. For dinner, in order to drag things out for a long evening, we’re going with multiple courses. Endive salad, squash soup, chicken vol-au-vent with braised asparagus, followed by a cheese course and then, for dessert, Chocolate pear tart. You are all invited and hopefully our guests will be in a talkative mood. I’m depending on Alexia for special cocktail suggestions…. but the champagne will also be chilled.


I’ll come and serve. Or do dishes. Anything to get my hands on those left-overs! You are one spectacular cook, Tracee!


Cooking is our household therapy!

Readers and writers, who would you invite to your literary dinner party and what would you serve?

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