Showing posts with label graham cracker crust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graham cracker crust. Show all posts

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!