Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don Does the Dangerous Research

By Elaine Viets

Potato chips orange as a traffic cone. A sandwich that would defeat a slew of Certs. An omelet that looked like an accident scene.

My husband, Don Crinklaw, ate these foods and more. I wrote about these culinary delights in “Half-Price Homicide,” my ninth Dead-End Job mystery.

I do the job research for that mystery series. In “Half-Price,” Helen Hawthorne and I worked at a designer consignment shop. I buttoned shirts, hung up shirts and dusted pricey knickknacks. The only real threat was when my butter fingers handled the breakables. I managed not to drop anything the whole time I was at the store.

Don did the gut-wrenching research. Helen’s future husband, Phil, is based on my Don. Both have blue eyes and silver hair. Both have shadowy backgrounds as spies. Both adore foods blacklisted by the Heart Association.

Phil and Helen have dinner at the Floridian, an old-style diner on Las Olas, in “Half-Price Homicide.” It’s hard to escape many Las Olas restaurants without a bill the size of a mortgage payment. But the Floridian, affectionately known as the Flo by locals, serves generous portions at reasonable prices.

These are meals for “serious grease abusers,” as I wrote. “If you were in the right mood, the Flo was friendly, funky and affordable. If you weren’t, you could turn up your nose and decide the place needed a good scrubbing. In that case, the Flo hoped you’d order braised quail with kumquats somewhere else. It didn’t need your business.”

The Flo is a favorite of Helen and Phil’s. “Phil ordered a beer and a ham-and-cheese omelet with a side of chopped onions.” That dish was a little heavy maybe, but fairly reasonable.

Here’s where the meal crosses into the red zone. “When his omelet arrived, Phil smothered it in ketchup until Helen couldn’t see any egg, then topped it with onions and hot sauce.”

Phil ate the whole thing. So did Don.

One day, Don brought home a giant bag of cheddar-and-sour-cream potato chips. The chips were blaze orange – the color hunters wear to keep from getting shot. A color not found in nature.

"Ew,” I said.

“They’re pretty good once you get past the first bite,” Don said.

I couldn’t. He ate the bag alone. But I felt readers had to know about that death-defying feat. Phil ate the same chips in “Half-Price Homicide.”

Phil doesn’t have to worry about heart attacks in his fictional world, but I worry about Don’s eating habits. I tried to persuade him to eat healthier food. Later I discovered him eating a sandwich. A really smelly sandwich.

“What’s that thing?” I asked.

“Onion with rye bread,” he said.

“What else is on the sandwich besides onion?”

“Irish butter.”

“You’re eating a butter-and-onion sandwich?” I couldn’t hide my horror.

“You’re always telling me to eat healthy,” Don said. “This is a Bermuda onion. It has powerful antioxidants.”

“It has something else powerful, too,” I said, waving my hand. “At least it’s not Limburger.”

“I can’t find that cheese down here.” Don looked innocent as a puppy.

“Good,” I said.

Elaine Viets’ “Half-Price Homicide: A Dead-End Job mystery” received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Its food will never get gourmet stars, but the mystery is meaty. For more information, go to

Elaine and other authors from The Lipstick Chronicles have donated books to the Brenda Novack On-Line Auction to support Diabetes research. Click here to view the collection.


  1. Elaine: Thanks for stopping by the Stiletto Gang. We loved having you. Great post--I'm the healthy eater in the house and I've all but given up on the rest of them, but I do try occasionally to sneak healthy stuff in. They respond as if I've served a hearty plate of arsenic. Maggie

  2. I'm happy you have a taster for that food, I just hope you have a husband cause as you stated it is not heart friendly.

  3. And you're now the #1 suspect if he meets an untimely demise..."We know the truth. You encouraged him to eat these foods in the name of literary research."

  4. Good post, always fun to hear how authors make their husbands suffer in the name of art. For mine, it's schlepping our luggage around when we fly to a convention or conference.

    I met Elaine years ago in the train station in New York waiting for the train to go to DC when we were headed for Malice.

  5. Elaine! It's so good to "see" you, even if it's reading a guest blog. Thanks for stopping by today. I think Ed and I are a lot like you and Don (and Maggie and her hubby). We eat so differently. My mom went grocery shopping with me the other day, and she kept laughing, saying, "It's like you and Ed don't even live on the same planet." I buy organic fruits and veggies, salad-fixings, fish, etc., for me; and for Ed, it's meat lasagna, cheese bread, frozen White Castle Cheeseburgers...well, you get the picture! Fun post! Hope your book tour is going great!


  6. Elaine, I LOVE your sense of humor, and I adore your books. So fun to see you here with the Stilettos.

    I just have to give you a shout out, also, for supporting Brenda's efforts to eradicate diabetes!

  7. Hi, Elaine! You and Don are quite the wonderful couple...can't wait to meet him!

    The husband-of-the-author role is pretty interesting...Jonathan is my driver, most of the time. I call him the tour manager, and keep threatening to get him a satin jacket. He seems to enjoy it, which is so funny to me!

    And he'd eat pizza every day if he could...

    Susan! White Castle! I grew up in Indianapolis ,and they were a staple..

  8. Hank, give a holler if you're ever in St. Louis. I will escort you to the nearest White Castle! I actually like the smell of WCs but I can't stomach them. My hubby LOVES them. I just tell myself that at least they'll clean out his pipes, kind of like Roto Rooter for humans. ;-)