Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crimelandia: Left Coast Crime, Portland

Who says it always rains in Portland?

Left Coast Crime is a mystery/thriller conference of writers and fans, held every year in a town somewhere vaguely around the Left Coast, which tells you something right there. This year it was "Crimelandia" in Portland, a beautiful city rain or shine. And we got both. Even a "rainbow" bridge.

LCC is a community of witty, smart, and generous people. I appeared on an espionage panel, "The Spies Have It," and our conversation ranged from important writers of the genre--John Le Carré, Graham Greene, Alan Furst--to geopolitics and technology. Did I say, smart? Hats off to my stimulating panel-mates, (from right:) Brett Battles, Arthur Kerns, Tim Tigner, and Ryan Quinn. 

I got out of the hotel a few times and walked across the Steel Bridge, built to last in 1906. 

Thanks to author Vinnie Hansen for the photo!

Of course I (re)visited Powell's Books.

And discovered the Chinese Garden, created by a designer from the ancient garden city, Suzhou, which my husband and I visited on our honeymoon. Many thanks to author Michael Sears and artist Barbara Segal for the suggestion!

Portland really is a city of bridges, ships, and trains. (Beer and books too, of course.) Here's Union Station and more bridges.

The last evening, I applauded some friends, Catriona McPherson and Gigi Pandian, who won awards.

And another wonderfully talented nominee, Martha (M.P.) Cooley.

I love this conference for the friends I've made, from acquaintances to lasting friends in the blink of an eye. Being a writer is not the easiest life and there is that shared bond as a subtext to all the laughs at the bar. I deepened some older relationships and connected with others whom I already adore--Stacy Allen, Valentina (V.M.) Giambanco, and Sarah Lovett. I look forward to seeing them next time and until then, reading their books.

As I said, it's a community of readers. We're all quirky and curious. On the way home I flew with a pair of Berkeley academics, Carlo Vennarucci (www.italian-mysteries.com), and Lyn Reese (www.womeninworldhistory.com). These are the kind of people who attend LCC, smart and very cool.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Now For A Little Fun

The Company She Keeps:
Pomegranate Campari Cocktail

(Sneak preview: To appear on Mystery Playground’s Drinks with Authors 3/20/15)

Iran. About as far as you can get from Alert, North Carolina, but life takes you places.

First stop Georgetown, DC, where Evelyn Walker learns from CIA officer Nick Daley that her smart techie boyfriend is a Soviet mole. The daughter of a military man, “E” follows the path of duty, which leads her deep into the realm of espionage with its deceit, glamour, and sexual intrigue. Too deep, she later realizes—too late. Now back from Afghanistan (my novel Stinger), Nick grows to care for his agent. Yet he is forced to send her into a world of danger, from Europe’s grand boulevards to Iran’s Grand Bazaar.

After one betrayal too many, E resigns from “The Company” and moves to Paris where she meets Iranian importer Kari Mansour. When Nick later informs her that Karim is in fact an arms dealer, she defends him hotly and her lover confirms he was set-up. The couple marries and, pursued by US and French intelligence, flee to Tehran, where E must adapt to new ways in the land of the Ayatollahs. Beginning with learning to wear a veil.

Karim’s boyhood nanny, Fatma, teaches E how to make Persian rice (see my recipe in The MWA Cookbook, published by Quirk Books). A devoted gardener and rose-lover, Karim also grows pomegranates, a native Persian fruit that spread along the Silk Road. Having lived twenty years in France, he is not a teetotaler, but the beauty of this drink is that it is equally delicious with or without Campari.

Fatma’s traditional way to extract seeds: Score pomegranate around middle. Gently twist open over a bowl and ease skin from seeds. 

Hold in palm over bowl and tap skin with wooden spoon, rotating in palm. 

To make juice, push seeds through fine-mesh sieve into container. (For me, one pomegranate yielded 6 ounces.)

Pomegranate Campari Cocktail

2 parts chilled pomegranate juice (via sieve, juicer, or store)
3 parts chilled soda
1 part Campari

Add juices and soda to glass. Top with Campari and pomegranate seeds as garnish. (You can also serve it as a tall drink with ice, especially gorgeous if you substitute 1 part fresh orange juice for 1 part soda).