Showing posts with label Dean James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dean James. Show all posts

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Welcome our guest Miranda James!!!!

Welcome, Miranda James!

Dean (aka Miranda) James is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Cat in the Stacks” series featuring Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat Diesel. He lives in Houston, Texas, with his two cats and thousands of books. He’s almost always plotting another murder…

Most Southern women of a certain age have a favorite cookbook, box of recipes, or an index in their heads of easy, tried-and-true recipes for most occasions. For my father’s two sisters, it was caramel cake. For my mother, lemon icebox pie. My paternal grandmother made the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever tasted. One of my mother’s sisters several years ago shared a recipe for cookies that’s fast and easy. There are different types of skillet cookies, but the one constant is that they are cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Some are a single large cookie that fills the skillet, others are smaller, individual cookies like those in my aunt’s recipe. I can attest that they are delicious, and I suspect that it won’t be long before they pop up in my new “Southern Ladies” mystery series. Though the two main characters, Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, rely heavily on the assistance of their long-time housekeeper, Clementine.

Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, two of the most prominent citizens in Athena, Mississippi, had their debut in Out of Circulation. I had so much fun writing them that I couldn’t let go of the characters. They kept talking to me, insisting they should have their own series, and I had to give in. Thus the “Southern Ladies” series was born.

These two fictional characters are based, in large part, on two real sisters who share their names. The real sisters are much younger and are both married with children. I had fun imagining, however, what Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce would be like, though, if they’d never married, were wealthy, and had a knack for running things like charities, committees, and the social activities in a small Southern town. They make their debut as detectives in Bless Her Dead Little Heart.

Skillet cookies

½ cup margarine (or butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped dates
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 tsp vanilla
1 small package of grated coconut (approx. 1 cup)
Melt margarine in skillet (iron, preferably), stir in sugar, egg, dates, and pecans. Cook over low heat until thick – about 12 minutes.

Remove from heat, let cool slightly until it can be handled. Stir in rice cereal and vanilla. Roll cookies in small balls, then roll in coconut.

Yield: about 4 dozen


Today, Miranda/Dean is giving away a copy of BLESS HER DEAD LITTLE HEART to one lucky commenter!  Remember to leave your email address so we can contact you and tell you!

You can find out more about Miranda/Dean 
on his website:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lazy Man’s Vegetable Meatball Soup from Dean (Miranda) James

Our guest author today is Dean James. Many of you know Dean well. He's been kind enough to guest post for us a few times already. To see Dean's past guest posts and recipes, for Country Fried Steak and Lemon Ice Box Pie, click here and here.

As you may have guessed from those recipes, Dean is a Southerner, a seventh-generation Mississippian, long transplanted to Texas. He writes under his own name as well as other pseudonyms, including the New York Times best-selling Miranda James. Please help me welcome Dean back to our Kitchen. ~ Cleo

When the weather turns cold and rainy, I get this craving for soup. Usually vegetable soup. 

When I was in graduate school eons ago, one of my aunts canned vegetable soup mix for me. It was wonderful, with veggies fresh out of the garden: string beans, butter beans, Crowder peas, corn, tomatoes, and sometimes potatoes. (Never okra because I don’t like okra, no how, no way.) I’d take one of these quart jars, get some ground beef and make meatballs of it, then add them and some of the juice from the meatballs to my crockpot along with the soup mix, and I’d have lunch and dinner for a couple of days. 

For a graduate student in the humanities on a limited budget, this was some really fine eatin’, let me tell you.

My aunt no longer has a garden and doesn’t can vegetables, so when I get a craving for vegetable soup now, I do it the lazy man’s way....

Lazy Man’s Vegetable Meatball Soup

Buy a bag of seasoned meatballs out of the freezer section at the grocery store, 15-ounce cans of vegetables from the veggie aisle, and some chicken broth. Dump it all in the two-gallon crockpot, add black pepper, and let it cook on high for about 3 hours. Lots of good eating from that.

In case you’re wondering what veggies I buy, here’s the list:

2 cans of diced tomatoes (usually with spices added, like basil and garlic)

1 can of corn

1 can of Purple Hull peas

1 can of string beans

1 can of diced potatoes

My series character, Charlie Harris, is lucky enough to have a housekeeper who cooks most of his meals. If he wants vegetable soup, then Azalea Berry will make it from fresh veggies, unlike me. Charlie and his sidekick Diesel, the Maine Coon cat, have a new adventure, The Silence of the Library, which came out January 28th.

* * * * * * * * * * 

To learn more about 
Dean/Miranda James and
his NY Times best-selling
Cat in the Stacks mysteries,
drop by his web site

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Food for the Soul

Please welcome guest blogger Dean (Miranda) James to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

In my “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries the amateur sleuth Charlie Harris is fortunate to have a housekeeper, Azalea Berry, who not only keeps his house in great shape but also cooks wonderful Southern food. Azalea intimidates Charlie a bit – she intimidates most people a bit, actually – and she doesn’t seem all that fond of Diesel, Charlie’s Maine Coon cat and constant companion. Despite this one defect, however, Charlie accords Azalea considerable respect.

The only downside to Azalea’s cooking, Charlie discovers, is the tendency for his waistline to expand. Old-fashioned Southern cooking isn’t precisely cholesterol-conscious or “lite” anything. If it were it wouldn’t taste so darn wonderful.

In the latest book in the series, Out of Circulation, Azalea plays a bigger role than she has in previous books. She’s a murder suspect, and that complicates everything, since it’s her own daughter, Kanesha Berry, who is the official homicide investigator in Athena, Mississippi, where the series is set. Once again Kanesha has to accept help from Charlie, because they both know Azalea wouldn’t have committed murder – no matter how much she despised the victim.

Azalea’s Can’t-Fail Country Fried Steak with Gravy

1 tenderized round steak (per person, or cut into smaller portions if desired)
2 beaten eggs
1/8 cup milk (2 tablespoons)
salt/pepper/garlic powder

3 tablespoons flour


Season meat, cut into serving size.  Place a cup or so of flour into one shallow bowl and mix in salt, garlic and pepper to taste.  (Note: for a spicier taste, use a touch of cayenne).  In a second bowl beat the 2 eggs and add milk.  Mix them together.  Dip meat in flour, then in egg mixture, then in flour a second time.  Shake off any excess flour.  Fry in cast iron pan with about 1/4 to 2 inch of  heated oil.  (Note: make sure the pan is hot enough to fry but not too hot to burn the oil.)  Cook until meat is done and coating is a deep golden brown.

Next you make the milk gravy by using 3 tablespoons of the grease used to fry the steak and add 3 tablespoons of flour, mix well and add milk to the consistency of gravy you like.

Add some homemade biscuits, green beans and iced tea, and you have a great Southern meal.


Dean (aka Miranda) James is the New York Times Bestselling author of the "Cat in the Stacks" series. He is a medical librarian by day and kills people for fun and profit in his so-called "spare" time. He has two cats, way too many books, and wishes he could play bridge more often.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger - Dean James!

Dean James is a virtual dean of the mystery field. An Agatha Award winner, he has contributed to anthologies (Delta Blues and the upcoming Lone Star Noir) and co-authored thoughtful non-fiction, including By a Woman's Hand (a guide to mystery fiction by women) and The Robert B. Parker Companion. He has penned 14 mystery novels under his own name and two pseudonyms (Jimmie Ruth Evans and Honor Hartman). A working medical librarian (with a PhD and MSLS), Dean has also served as a manager for Murder by the Book in Houston, Texas, one of the country’s oldest and largest mystery bookstores.

This August, Dean is launching a new mystery series that many people (including me!) are looking forward to reading. MURDER PAST DUE is the first book in Dean’s "Cat in the Stacks" series, which he is writing under the pseudonym Miranda James. To tell you more about it, I am delighted and honored to give you our guest for the day, Dean James.   ~ Cleo Coyle


I blame Nancy Drew for my life of crime. Reading it and writing it.

I was ten when I borrowed The Secret of Shadow Ranch from a cousin. It was the first mystery I ever read, and I was hooked. Then, to my delight, I discovered this was only one of a long series of adventures in which Nancy solved mystery after mystery. Just as exciting, I soon found other amateur mystery-solvers: the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, and many more. By the time I began reading adult mysteries, my love of the amateur detective was completely entrenched.

When I decided I wanted to write a mystery myself, I knew my main character would be an amateur. After all, I’m not a policeman, or a lawyer, or a private detective. But I do have a healthy dose of curiosity about the world around me and the people in it. Charlie Harris, the sleuth in my new “Cat in the Stacks” series, is just like me in that respect. He’s also about my age (fiftyish, if you must know), he’s a librarian, he grew up in Mississippi, and he has a Maine coon cat. That’s as far as it goes, however. (I have two cats, by the way, neither of which is a Maine coon.)

While my life is pretty predictable, Charlie’s is far more interesting. He finds himself involved in the occasional murder in his hometown of Athena, Mississippi. He also lives in a big old Southern house and has enough money so that he really doesn’t have to work in the library for a living; he just does it because he likes to stay busy. Plus he gets to take his cat, Diesel, with him everywhere he goes. (I can imagine how well that would go over if I took one of my cats to work with me. Diesel is so much better behaved than either of my two.)

But all this is part of the fun of having an amateur detective. I know a lot of mystery readers don’t think amateur detective stories are very realistic, but I’ll let you in on a big secret. I’m not writing realism – I’m writing escapism. I don’t know about you, but I read to get away from the “real” world. I have a lot more fun tagging along with an amateur than I would shadowing a homicide cop trailing a grisly serial killer.

I also have a lot of fun writing stories about amateur detectives, and I hope my readers will enjoy themselves as they tag along with Charlie and Diesel in Murder Past Due.

I love books and reading, and as a good Southern boy, I also have a taste for good Southern desserts – and there’s none I like better than a lemon icebox pie like my mother used to make. I thought I’d share her recipe with you, and if you have a chance to make it, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Lemon Icebox Pie(without meringue)

1 can (14 ounces) Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
½ cup lemon juice (about 4 fresh lemons will give you this)
2 eggs, beaten by themselves

Mix the beaten eggs with the sweetened condensed milk, then add the lemon juice and mix well. (If you want to be completely certain the eggs are cooked, pop the mixture in the oven for a few minutes at 350 degrees F. or whisk over low heat in a saucepan.) Then pour the mixture into the graham cracker crust. Set into the icebox until firm.

Note: If you’d like to make the mixture fluffier, add either cream cheese (2 to 4 ounces) or whipped cream (up to 10 ounces). The Lemon Ice Box pie that you see pictured had 1 cup of heavy cream added. With an electric mixer, the cream was first whipped into a thick froth, then the lemon mixture was slowly blended in until a smooth pie filling formed.

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 package graham crackers (about 1-2/3 cups crumbs)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Combine crumbs and sugar first, then add melted butter. Press crumb mixture inside 9-inch pie plate and spread evenly over bottom and sides. (Optional: The crust that you see pictured was also baked in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. The baking is optional. It will harden the crust a bit and add a slightly toasted flavor.)

Thank you, Dean!
And to all our visitors
and followers...

Happy Mother's Day!