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Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak

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Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak

Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak
Published by Black Opal Books on May 27, 2016
Source: Pump Up Your Book!
Genres: Thriller
Format: Paperback
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In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano.

The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

First a confession, I watch a lot of the Food Network, so I couldn’t pass up a “culinary thriller.” Friend of the Devil turned out to be a fun thriller full of drugs, sex and food. Not a bad combination.

David is a writer who first meets  Joseph Soderini di Avenzano while doing a story. He is then hired to write the famous chef’s biography and is summoned to the Chateau de la Mer, where the menu is amazing, the chef a brilliant, if often drugged-out, showman, and the hostess irresistible. Actually, that is my one complaint, how quickly David and Alessandra hook up. I guess they have to for the rest of the story, but it just seemed a little quick. Of course, everything at the Chateau is a little intense.

For me, it wasn’t a quick read. I’m not sure why exactly. The pacing was good and there was enough action to keep the story moving. I enjoyed the bits of history that Avenzano mused about. I guess maybe I just didn’t care about the characters. I think I was supposed to like David and be “rooting” for him, but I didn’t understand his obsession. It might just be me, though. It seems like it could be a page-turner for some people. It’s got all the right ingredients and it is a seasonal read. David heads to Florida for the winter, like so many people.

Overall, it’s a good thriller, and the food pushes it up a notch.

Excerpt:

Several years after the opening of Chateau de la Mer, the triumvirate of Avenzano,Walsh, and Ross appeared to be one big happy family, although there were rumors of strains in the relationship.

One night, at the height of the Festival of Champagne, there was an incident. Ross, a notorious womanizer, was sipping Cristal with a redhead at the restaurant’s corner table. His wife slipped through the front door of the mansion, unannounced. Walking slowly through the dining room, past the Medieval memorabilia and dramatic cast-iron griffins,she strolled up to Ross’s table, took a revolver from her evening bag, and calmly shot him through the heart.

The ensuing chaos did more to establish Joseph Soderini di Avenzano in the American imagination than his designer pasta, his Bedouin stuffed poussin, his recipes transposed from Etruscan or Old Genoese, or his library of ten thousand cookbooks.

This was more than a good meal, after all. This was sex and death in Palm Beach. Even more intriguing was the chef’s refusal to comment on Ross after his death, except for informal and effusive eulogies in his famous baritone.

“Watch that Cristal,” David’s friend Bill Grimaldi told him before he left Manhattan to do an assigned story on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Chateau de la Mer. “It’s a killer.”

About Mark Spivak

Mark Spivak is an award-winning author, specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants, and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, andwas honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the Food Editor for Palm Beach Illustrated; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on www.palmbeachillustrated.com. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. From 1999-2011 Spivak hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.

Spivak is the author of two non-fiction books: Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). Friend of the Devil is his first novel. He is currently working on a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Published by Vintage on June 30, 1992 (first published 1962)
Source: Other
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 259
Format: Paperback
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It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war, and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.


This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake.

First off, the obvious question – why did I read The Man in the High Castle. I don’t WW2 books or, in general, sci-fi. A friend made me borrow it and he never suggests books, so I felt like I ought to read it. And then Michelle came up with her Sci-Fi Summer read-a-thon, so it was the prefect excuse. After all, according to the blurb, this is the book that established “Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction.”

On a side note, I never realized alternative history is a sub-genre of sci-fi. I tend to think of it more as fantasy. Wikipedia says, “since the 1950s, this type of fiction has, to a large extent, merged with science fiction tropes involving time travel between alternate histories, psychic awareness of the existence of one universe by the people in another, or time travel that results in history splitting into two or more timelines. Cross-time, time-splitting, and alternate history themes have become so closely interwoven that it is impossible to discuss them fully apart from one another.” I always find genres a bit confusing.

In the novel, President Franklin Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933, leading to the continuation of the Great Depression and U.S. isolationism. The U.S. was unable to stop the Nazis the Japanese. By 1947, the U.S. and the remaining Allies surrendered. By the 1960s, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were the world’s competing superpowers, with Japan establishing the “Pacific States of America” from the former Western United States, with the remaining Rocky Mountain States now a neutral buffer zone between the P.S.A. and the Nazi-occupied former Eastern United States. Martin Bormann has become Chancellor of Germany, with Goebbels, Heydrich, Göring, Seyss-Inquart (who oversees the extermination of the peoples of Africa), and other Nazi leaders soon vying to take his place. The Nazis have drained the Mediterranean to make room for farmland, developed and used the hydrogen bomb, and designed rockets for extremely fast travel across the world as well as space, having colonized the Moon, Venus, and Mars.

By RedFoxJinx - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38080595

By RedFoxJinx – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38080595

Most of the novel takes place in San Francisco, where we meet Americans living under Japanese rule, some Japanese middle management. The story focusses on individuals rather than political maneuvering. It’s about how individuals deal with life, make decisions. Americans aren’t heroes here, there’s little resistance to the Japanese – they are after all, clearly a better alternative then the Nazis. The Japanese are calm and polite – the Nazis are still gassing people.

The concept is excellent. The world is so believable, each little detail just fits.

There’s a novel within the novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, that shows an alternate alternate history where the Allies do win, although not in the way that actually happened. I got to a certain point and said out loud – ah, metafiction, which led me to try to explain to Amber what I meant. Apparently saying a book is aware that it’s fiction is not necessarily the easiest concept, especially when she wasn’t actually reading the book, just hearing my description of it.

It’s definitely a book worth reading. It touches on prejudice and power. Art and culture is also important, how can a conquered people retain their culture, not sell their history as trinkets, how literature and art can affect or reinforce our views of the world.

My problem with The Man in the High Castle was that it had a lot of characters and each had an interesting, a unique outlook on life, but I didn’t get to really know any of them. I almost wish it had been longer, that I could have gotten to know them better, care about their stories. As it was, I never felt connected to the book. It’s one I know is good, one I’ll remember, but not one I loved. It could have been though.

About Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982) was an American writer, whose published works mainly belong to the genre of science fiction. Dick explored philosophical, sociological and political themes in novels with plots dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states of consciousness. In his later works, Dick’s thematic focus tended to reflect his personal interest in metaphysics and theology.

Hinterkind Vol. 1: The Waking World by Ian Edginton, illustrated by Francesco Trifogli

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Hinterkind Vol. 1: The Waking World by Ian Edginton, illustrated by Francesco Trifogli Hinterkind Vol. 1: The Waking World by Ian Edginton
Illustrator: Francesco Trifogli
Published by Vertigo on April 8, 2014
Source: Purchased
Genres: Graphic novel, Post-apocalyptic, Fantasy
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
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The human race didn't get a happily ever after.

After 300,000 years at the top of the food chain, it took only seven months for humanity to become an endangered species.
The Blight killed nearly everyone, and changed everything. As skyscrapers sprouted forests and wild animals took over the deserted streets, the planet's new rulers emerged from their age-old hiding places: elves and trolls, faeries and fauns, centaurs and satyrs--all the forgotten races behind countless myths and legends returned to reclaim the world they had lost to mankind.

Now, in a tiny village tucked away in what was once Manhattan's Central Park, two rebellious teenagers are about to discover the true nature of the world beyond their small island home--as well as the unseen menace that threatens both human and Hinterkind alike.

A couple of days ago I was sitting on the recliner in the basement and David must have been watching hockey or baseball or something on tv. Anyway, I was bored and my phone and current read were both upstairs. I was also feeling rather lazy and The Waking World was sitting on the shelf on the end table, so I picked it up, read half that evening and finished it the next day. To be honest, I’m not sure how I got ahold of this originally. I don’t read many graphic novels, but I must have purchased it at some time.

It’s enjoyable enough, but there’s nothing really exciting about it. It’s just okay. The world is interesting, with all the fairy creatures returning, but they’re nothing unique. There’s a semi-military group too, but they’ve run a bit amok and once again don’t strike me as truly unique. The teenage boy could be more than he seems, but his individual story line kind of got over-ridden by the groups’.

There’s only three volumes in the series, so I may read on to see what happens. There were a couple of characters who I found worth following on their adventures. One was the teenage girl Prosper, who may be teamed up with a bounty hunter. The Sidhe royalty also might have an interesting battle brewing amongst themselves.

The art is fine. I guess that’s my main problem with this one – from the blurb I was hoping for great and got fine.

I’m not sure if it’s target audience is adults or teens. It felt like teens to me. I actually told Amber she might enjoy it, that’s it’s not special but it’s a quick read.

About Ian Edginton

Ian Edginton is a British comic book writer, known for his work on such titles as X-Force, Scarlet Traces, H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and Leviathan.

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