Saturday, February 29, 2020

Today I'm joining 
Berkley Mystery 
in celebrating the upcoming March 10 release of  
Book 1 in the Tuscan Cooking School Mysteries
by Stephanie Cole

An American chef will have to serve up more than good eats if she wants to establish a successful farm-to-table cooking school in Tuscany, in this charming first installment in a new cozy mystery series set in Italy. 
When Nell Valenti is offered a chance to move to Tuscany to help transform an aging villa into a farm-to-table cooking school, she eagerly accepts. After all, both her job and her love life in America have been feeling stale. Plus, she'll get the chance to work under the acclaimed Italian Chef Claudio Orlandini.
But Nell gets more than she bargained for when she arrives. With only a day to go until the launch dinner for the cooking school, the villa is in shambles, and Chef O is blissfully oblivious of the work that needs to be done before a group of local dignitaries arrive, along with a filmmaker sent to showcase and advertise the new school. The situation only worsens when Nell discovers that the filmmaker is an ex-boyfriend, and he’s found murdered later that night. Even worse, Chef O has disappeared, and accusations of murder could shut the school down for good.
As tensions reach a boiling point at the villa, Nell must throw her chef's hat into the ring, and investigate the murder herself. Because if she fails to solve the case, her career, or even her life, could be next on the chopping block.

What's So Funny About Murder?
by Stephanie Cole

            When I apply for a spot on a panel at a mystery writing convention, there's always a place to give the program planners some ideas. In the last couple of years, among some other topics I float, I've been suggesting panels on Humor in the Murder Mystery. Sometimes I like to give it a title: "What's So Funny About Murder?" If they go for it, and I get a spot on it, I know at least I'm going to enjoy myself. The same principle applies to the writing of my books. If I enjoy myself, readers will enjoy themselves. And for me, that enjoyment has nothing to do with wallowing in a particularly gruesome death scene, or with the CSI gals and guys rolling up their sleeves and digging into blood spatter, or with a villain who is the hyperbolic embodiment of evil and who takes a turn narrating.

            No, for me, enjoyment means laughs. I like wit, I like a humorous narrative voice that comes straight out of my character's nature, I like farce and the occasional -- yes, I admit it -- banana peel. So to what do I attribute this beloved coupling of laughs and violent death? On the last humor-in-the-mystery panel I appeared on, I forget the moderator's question, but  found myself struck by a Big "Aha!" moment, suddenly hearing myself saying to the audience, "When I was young, I wanted to be taken seriously, and I thought to be taken seriously meant I had to Be Serious."

            At the moment I realized that truth, I understood -- much to my relief -- that in my life, and in my writing life, it's humor that makes, paradoxically, a more serious statement than tragedy or drama. As humans who read, and breathe, and look around, and reflect, we recognize tragedy pretty quickly. As an approach to the material of some stories, it is beautiful and important, and we pull closer to each other in its harsh light. But, for me, as a young writer growing up there was always a deep admiration for irreverence. 

            And I had a growing sense of how humor serves a story. At its very least, it is a welcome defense against melancholy. And these are melancholy times. At its very best, it is the Wonkavator, rocketing us to an altogether new atmosphere where fresh perspectives strengthen us. What's so funny about murder? The answer, of course, is nothing. But it's humor that keeps the heroine/sleuth who doesn't quite know her shortcomings and doesn't quite know her talents, in the detecting trench, plugging away at the investigation. Because it's the investigation, the belief that murder won't stand, that murder cuts close to home, that murder blows apart our hobbit holes deep in the beloved shire, that matters.

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  1. Thank you for the heads up on the upcoming release of "AL DENTE'S INFERNO" by Stephanie Cole.

    Enjoyed reading the author's guest post and can't wait for the opportunity to read this book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  2. I can't wait to read this one! I like wit and humor in my books too.