Sunday, March 27, 2011

Welcome Guest Blogger - Libby Fischer Hellmann!

A quick note from Julie ~

Chicago mystery authors are a pretty tight bunch and I'm very pleased today to be able to feature my friend Libby Fischer Hellmann here on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. I've known Libby since before my first book came out and I've been constantly amazed by her willingness to volunteer, her tireless promotion on behalf of others, and - of course - her writing talent.

I blame ... er, I mean, thank ... Libby for getting me involved as an officer of the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Seriously, I enjoyed all four years of service as veep and then president. I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.

Libby has a brand new book out, SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE (it's excellent!), but I'll let her tell you more about it.

Take it away, Libby ~

I consider cooking a creative sport, and, unfortunately, one at which I don’t excel. Most of my creative energy goes to writing, but I do envy those of you who can cook, invent recipes, and write mysteries at the same time. I can’t. Now that both my kids have flown the coop, I don’t cook often. In fact, when I had to cook every night, I remember asking my sister for a list of side dishes, beyond an obligatory can of LeSueur peas and salad.

That isn’t to say that over the years I haven’t stolen – er-- developed a few dishes that I cook well and often. I have a very fancy Cornish Hen recipe on a bed of spinach with a cranberry glaze and cous-cous, and if you beg, I’ll give you the recipe. I also have a recipe, allegedly from Bon Appetit, for the best Caponata you’ve ever put in your mouth.

But in the spirit of keeping it real, and, more important, easy, I’d like to share one of my favorite dishes that you can literally throw together in minutes for family or guests.

Chicken Marsala

¼ cup flour for coating

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp oregano

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs olive oil

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

½ cup Marsala wine

¼ cup cooking sherry

Chicken pieces (up to 8)

Combine spices and flour. Coat chicken on both sides.

Melt butter and olive oil in fry pan. Brown chicken on both sides. Add mushrooms, liquids. Simmer on stovetop 15 mins or to taste

Serve with pasta or whatever

Speaking of Chicken…

There just happens to be a significant scene in SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE that involves cooking fried chicken. For those of you who don’t know, STNOF is my 7th novel and first stand-alone thriller. It’s set mostly in the present but the middle section goes back to the late Sixties, when 6 activists lived together in Chicago’s Old Town. One of the young women is from a wealthy family and has never cooked before, so the other young woman is teaching her how to fry chicken, and, at the same time, raise her political consciousness.

Here’s the excerpt…

The chicken crackled, sending a hearty aroma through the apartment. Alix was draining a few pieces on paper towels when Rain said, “Alix, we need to talk.”

“About what?”

Rain turned from the stove. “Have you ever wondered why we’re the ones always cooking and cleaning, and the guys don’t...”

“That’s just the way it is.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve been organizing down at The Seed.”

“Organizing what?”

“A women’s caucus. We do all the grunt work. But men make the decisions and take the credit. That has to change.”

Alix reached for the spatula. “What does a women’s caucus do?”

“It will start to raise consciousness that women are just as oppressed as—the blacks, say—and need to be liberated.”

“Oh, come on, Rain. Black people and women are equally oppressed?”

“Come on, you. Who’s in the kitchen frying chicken? Do you see any of the men helping? We aren’t much more than cooks to them. Or wombs.”

“You can’t change biology.”

“Biology gave us brains as well as vaginas. We are half the population. Have you ever thought what the world would be like if women had an equal voice? We need to create our own power base.”

After a pause Alix said, “I don’t know, Rain. You know I’m not political.”

Rain’s glasses reflected the light, making them sparkle. “This isn’t politics. It’s survival.”

“I just don’t know. Between Billy, and the jewelry, and Dar . . . ”

From the living room, Billy coughed again. Alix stiffened.

Rain turned back to the frying pan. “Oh, never mind. You’re hopeless.”

Btw, that really happened. I hope it resonated with you. And thanks, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen for having me!


Someone is trying to kill Lila Hilliard. During the Christmas holidays she returns from running errands to find her family home in flames, her father and brother trapped inside. Later, she is attacked by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. . . and the threats don't end there. As Lila desperately tries to piece together who is after her and why, she uncovers information about her father's past in Chicago during the volatile days of the late 1960s . . . information he never shared with her, but now threatens to destroy her. Part thriller, part historical novel, and part love story, Set the Night on Fire paints an unforgettable portrait of Chicago during a turbulent time: the riots at the Democratic Convention . . . the struggle for power between the Black Panthers and SDS . . . and a group of young idealists who tried to change the world.


"A tremendous book - sweeping but intimate, elegiac but urgent, subtle but intense. This story really does set the night on fire." --Lee Child

"A brilliantly-paced thriller, transitioning seamlessly from modern-day Chicago to the late '60s. First-rate characterization...Best to start early in the day, as it is easy to stay up all night reading it." --Foreword Magazine

"RT Top Pick for December: "Electric... a marvelous novel."
--RT Book Reviews

Set the Night on Fire is a compelling story of love, truth and redemption. This will be a break-out novel for this talented writer. Highly recommended." --Sheldon Siegel, NYTImes bestselling author of Perfect Alibi

"A top-rate thriller that taps into the antiwar protests of the 1960s... A jazzy fusion of past and present, Hellman's insightful, politically charged whodunit explores a fascinating period in American history."
Publishers Weekly

(There are an additional 20 reviews on Amazon)


Libby Fischer Hellmann is the award-winning author of four Ellie Foreman mysteries and two Georgia Davis mystery-thrillers, as well as the two volume short story collection, Nice Girl Does Noir. She also edited the highly praised crime fiction anthology, Chicago Blues. She has lived in the Chicago area for over thirty years. Set the Night on Fire is her first stand-alone novel. More at


  1. LOL I struggle to write a blog and can cook easy with my eyes closed. Reading is something I am very good at and so we'll make an excellent team... So I can get this book on amazon? I am gathering all my summer reads now - see I am a RV full timer and this summer we'll be in ID with nothing around us and so I need my summer reads..

  2. Thanks for posting today, Libby, and congratulations on your new release! Looks like an exciting read. Thanks also for the recipe for chicken Marsala--can't wait to try it!

  3. Hey, Libby - thanks for joining us here at the Kitchen today and for sharing your Chicken Marsala recipe with us. I love Chicken Marsala, and now I can make it at home. Great excerpt!

  4. Libby, thank you so much for joining us today. This Chicken Marsala recipe is just the ticket. Easy and fast, and good enough for company!

    ~ Krista

  5. Krista, Julie, Elizabeth: It really is so easy it's a crime!

    Evielynne: You bet it's on Amazon. And B&N. And all the other sites. Both as an ebook and print. Thanks for asking!

  6. Libby, welcome to the kitchen! Your book sounds AMAZING ... can't wait to get my hands on it.

  7. Libby,
    Thanks so much for this looks perfect for one evening this week :-) I for one would also love your Cornish Hen recipe...I love cranberries!!


  8. I'll give it to Julie and she can get it to you...

  9. I'm a day late here, Libby! Sorry - life intervened. Chicken Marsala has been a favorite of mine in Italian restaurants. I'll be thrilled to make it myself at home.

    Thanks for coming by Mystery Lovers Kitchen!