If you love to eat, if you love to try out new recipes, if you want to give a gift to someone that you cherish, then this is the cookbook to give.
Linda and we worked hard for almost a year to make this cookbook a success. And it worked.
Not only does Linda give you the exact proportions, she has tried out every single recipe in her kitchen, or on her barbecue.
All her recipes come from family and friends and there is nothing more precious than the past, when Sunday dinner, family, and everyone enjoyed the food, the wine, but most of all the conversation and togetherness that families should share.
From Linda’s appetizers to her desserts and everything in-between, it’s a great cookbook put together with love.
“At Christmas all roads lead home.” Marjorie Holmes
I was single, financially secure with a job I loved, owned a downtown Toronto two bedroom condo with access to the PATH, which is a network of underground connections between buildings in Toronto’s downtown core. Over 200,000 people use it daily and is considered the largest Mall in North America. From the PATH you can get to the subways or Go Train, or go from your home to your office, never requiring a winter coat. It has over 1200 stores, restaurants, food courts and connects to museums, hotels, banks and the financial district of Toronto. You can live your entire life just using the PATH. I leave my condo and walk to my office without ever having to brave the cold winter weather or the hot summers and enter my office building, ride the elevator to the 43rd floor and look down on the downtown traffic. It was noon of Christmas Eve, as I hurried along the walkways of the PATH. I took the afternoon off and on my way home, I stopped at the liquor store, at the grocery store, and had my purchases delivered to my building to the concierge. I also asked him to have valet service bring my car around in half an hour. I considered myself lucky and care-free. I didn’t even own a gold fish.
The previous October, I invested my money in real estate. I bought an 80 year old stone country home in an exclusive village north of Toronto. The interior of the house was totally renovated, though preserving all the charm of a gentleman’s week-end country home. The circular drive had plenty of parking for guests, the old barn became my garage and the kitchen windows provided a panoramic view of rolling country with pasture lands and clumps of blue spruce and pine trees not forgetting the babbling brook crisscrossing my twelve acres, one of the smallest acreage in the area.
By 1:30 I was on my way. Fat snowflakes drifted lazily through the air and the city was abuzz with holiday rush and good cheer. I had all my delicacies in the car for the Christmas Day family dinner. On my way, I stopped at the Five Thieves, so nick-named because each tried to outdo each other being more gourmet and more expensive. We all knew it, yet we still shopped there. From the Gourmet Bakery, I picked up the sinfully delicious and equally expensive Black Forest Rum flavored cake that I had ordered and was merrily on my way. I wanted everything to be perfect for Christmas Day.
I arrived at my cozy home away from home and pulled into the plowed circular driveway. Tony, the village handyman, so named because short of delivering babies, we all depended on him for home maintenance, small renovations, landscaping and in the winter snow-plowing, had cleared my driveway, including the extra parking spots to the right of the house, including the gravel drive to the barn where I kept my car.
After I unloaded the grocery bags and the Christmas gifts from the trunk, I stacked up beside the family sliding glass doors enough logs for two days for a comfortable slow burning fire in the huge old-fashioned fireplace, I made up the upstairs beds for my family and the pull-out couch in the family room facing the fireplace for myself. Then I pre-prepared everything for the big feast the next day.
I went to bed early knowing I’d have to be up by 6:30 to have everything perfect by noon the next day when the whole gang was scheduled to arrive. I put two big logs on the fire to keep the embers hot and went to sleep.
By noon the next day, I had the chestnut stuffed turkey breast ready, the pork tenderloin marinated in garlic and white wine, the vegetables ready for stewing, the salad washed just lacking the dressing, the potatoes and rice ready to go, and the shrimp bisque warming in my crock-pot.
The table was festively set, the appetizers ready to be served, the Christmas tree with my presents laid out underneath lit with white miniature bulbs. I plugged in the colorful outside lights, a nice contrast to the white lights indoors, made sure I had fed the logs just for an easy going fire and set the dining-room table.
At 12:20, a caravan of four cars with happy family members pulled into the driveway. Amidst commotion and chatter and hugs and kisses, their presents were all brought in and laid under the tree.
After the hugs and kisses, they all decided to go for a short walk in what was best described as a winter wonderland. An hour and half they were back just as big, fat snowflakes floated through the air.
I served the appetizers and amidst a happy cacophony of shouts and joy, the gifts were opened. All that remained of the carefully, lovingly wrapped presents were torn paper, lots of it and empty boxes, which we all piled into a corner next to the Christmas tree.
My dinner was a great success, and after helping me load the first batch of dirty dishes, they retired around 11 p.m.
I prepared the next morning’s brunch. I was serving egg frittatas with hot rolls, fruits and waffles with a choice of maple or blueberry syrup, toast, cold cuts from the Italian Deli and coffee. I also had three bottles of champagne chilling with plenty of orange juice for the Mimosas.
Finally, with a glass of Chardonnay, I lay back on the sofa bed, enjoying the warmth of the fireplace embers and with a happy sigh of contentment turned on the TV, to watch an old episode of Perry Mason (my favorite show.)
As I lay on the sofa, I thought I had heard a rustle from the pile of discarded Christmas wrappings. I sat up and looked over but all was quiet. I lay back to watch Perry Mason, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement by the stack of wood beside the hearth and it wasn’t Santa Claus stopping by to say Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas. I leaned forward and gasped. What I thought was a field mouse that had on occasion snuck into the house, was a lot bigger. I gasped again and looked closer. It was a big, fat, rat, with a long tail, and beady eyes staring at me, daring me to go and get him. I grabbed the afghan off the sofa and threw it on him. Or, so I thought. I saw this enemy scuttle off along the side of the wall, behind a bookcase, through the kitchen, into the newly added sunroom and disappear. I spent the next hour trying to find this fat rat without any success. It just disappeared. By now, Perry Mason was long over, I was hot and sweaty and frustrated, my wine was warm and so I decided to go and sleep hoping that this creature won’t make an appearance during the next day’s brunch.
The following morning, my 12-cup coffee machine spread a wonderful aroma through-out the house. I had croissants warming in the oven and everyone was in a festive happy Christmas spirit. The blinding sun shone brightly and the whole gang decided to go on a long walk. I was relieved. It gave me an opportunity to hunt for the enemy. I gathered all the discarded wrapping, shook pillows and banged on furniture, but to no avail. By the time they came back all was set for brunch.
Again, it was a happy gathering and most of the food was devoured. Even though I was enjoying myself thoroughly and felt quite relaxed, (blame it on the Mimosas and the white wine) my eyes kept roaming around the room watching for the enemy. Luckily, he/she, whichever, didn’t make an appearance. By five o’clock all were ready to go home. I wouldn’t be seeing them till the 28th when my mom had her Christmas dinner.
I stood in the doorway and smiled and waved and then made a mad dash inside to look for the Rat. It seemed to have disappeared. Since the following day was Boxing Day and everything was closed, I knew I had to wait till the 27th.
The first thing I did that morning was carefully make my way on the slippery, winding country road into the small village and the hardware store. More snow had fallen through-out the night.
Mike was very helpful. He explained to me not to worry. I’m not the only one with this problem. It’s mostly those that have the week-end homes. These rats are like the field mice, they don’t harm anyone. They just want shelter and food.
“That’s fine, “I exclaimed, “as long as it’s not my shelter and my food.”
“Follow me, “Mike said and led me to Aisle three. “This is what you need,” and he showed me this contraption.
“What is that?’ I innocently asked. After all, I was a city person.
“It’s a rat trap,” he exclaimed unceremoniously. “It’ll solve your problem.”
“See here?” I nodded. “This is where you put the food, cheese, maybe some meat and then the rat goes to get it and wham, no more rat.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“Then you get the dead rat, get rid of it and set up the trap again.”
“Oh my Lord. I never had to do anything like this. I live in the City.”
Mike chuckled. “The City has a lot more rats, but you don’t see them. They eat the garbage and live in the sewers. They’re the lower class. These field rats are more sophisticated.”
I stared at Mike, not knowing whether or not to believe him, till I saw the twinkle in his eye.
“Tell you what. If you catch a rat, call me and I’ll come over and get rid of it for you.”
I thanked him profusely and was on my way with the rat contraption.
The following day, I was ready to go back to the City. I carefully laid out the trap, stocked it with fine Brie and Italian cold cuts and drove back to my city condo.
“I wouldn’t mind the rat race-if the rats would lose once in a while.” TOM WILSON
New Year’s came and went and on January 2nd, I went to spend a few days at my country home. Anxiously, I opened the door. No foul smell hit my nose. Dreading what I will find, I stepped into the family room, leaving my boots on, in case I needed to leave the house suddenly.
I peeked around the corner. There was the trap empty and I do mean empty. All the food was eaten, without the trap being set off. I got into my car to see Mike. He was just closing up. I explained what had happened. He took off his cap, scratched his head and remarked.
“Seems like you have one smart rat.”
“What do you mean one smart rat?”
“Smart. He knows how to get the food without setting off the trap.”
“What should I do?”
“Put something in the trap that they have to work on getting. That might catch you a rat. Each time you’re here, set up the trap, but change the menu.”
“What do you mean change the menu? I’m not a restaurant.”
“You want to catch the rat or don’t you?”
“Of course, I do. I don’t want to share my house with a rat. And soon he might introduce a wife and little ones.”
“Yup, that can happen,” Mike grinned.
I groaned. “Okay, I’ll change the menu.”
So, this time, I left Camembert and chicken.
Next week, the same thing happened. The food was gone, but no rat.
This went on for another three weeks. Frustrated, I went to see Mike again.
“Hi Mike. I’ve been changing the rat’s menu each week, and nothing. No food and no rat.” As I said this, I thought, listen to myself, I’m talking about a rat having a menu.
“Okay, this is a cunning rat. To beat him, you have to get a cat.”
“A cat? Like those furry little things with claws? My mom has two of those and they hate me. And now I should get one?”
“Two would be better. You work and they can keep each other company.”
“I don’t even own a gold fish, and now I should get two fur balls?”
“Well, as I see it,” said Mike, “it’s either cats or rats. Your choice.”
“Where am I going to get these vicious little fur balls?”
“Your local animal shelter. Lot of them need to be adopted.”
“You mean I have to adopt a cat or two?”
“Yup. Not only would you solve your problem, but you’d be doing a good deed.”
Huffing and puffing, the following Monday, I found the closest animal shelter in Toronto and off I went to adopt. I couldn’t believe I was doing this.
I was amazed how many fur balls were sitting in cages waiting for a good home. My heart softened, just looking at them. I picked out two, a brother and a sister. Both were long-haired, beautiful eyes, bushy tails and as I picked each one up, and felt their purring, I knew I found two sweet little four legged companions. The female was a soft silver grey and the male was jet black. I named the female Bijoux and the male, I called Midnight.
“The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath.” W.C. FIELDS
The following weekend we headed out to the house. They felt at home right away. In less than a week, we became not only best friends, but we became family.
The next morning as I got out of bed, I saw a dead rat at the foot of my bed. Their gift to me.
This happened ten years ago, but ever since then Bijoux, Midnight and I are family.
“I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not. Mine had me trained in two days.”
There are times when I constantly write and there are times I take a rest to enjoy family, grand-children, culture and of course, the wonders of sailing the Chesapeake. My husband, an avid sailor since 1980 (he owned a glider, but when he crashed it into a farmer’s field who wasn’t too happy about it, he decided sailing was his next best bet.) He still doesn’t quite understand that the roadways are not quite like the skies or the seas. He always has this notion that he’s the only one on the road. That is why I drive, always.
At this time of the year, for our family reunion, all of us living in the United States of America, pack up our cars with the presents, me with two dozen shoes for five days, (I’m a shoe nut) and off we go to Toronto ON Canada.
So, we’re planning to do this again and of course we have a cat-sitter who lives in our house while we’re gone, since twenty two lovely felines are dependent on me serving their two daily meals.
Last year, I had the pleasure of making the five-hundred and forty mile trip with my husband and my ex-husband. I drive my own car and since my husband tore off the front bumper from my Prius more than six years ago, he is not allowed to drive my car. Therefore, now I have a silver Mercedes which is only driven by me. My husband isn’t too thrilled about that. But, I say, “C’est la vie.”
So, to make a long story short…we are driving home to Toronto. My husband in the front passenger seat and my ex-husband in the back seat. (They are friends from way back and my divorce was not because of my present husband. There was another one in-between.
We get to the border, and I pull up to the Customs Officer and he says “Bienvenue au Canada” and I say, “Merci Monsieur, c’est ma plaisir” and me, being the driver, I hand over the three passports. All three passports have different names. So, the customs official asked me, politely, how are you related? What is your relationship to each other? I answer, pointing to my right, “This is my husband, and back there is my ex-husband.” He handed me back the three passports and with a wicked smile, said, “Madame, enjoy the holidays.”
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a bountiful healthy, happy New Year.
A Conversation with Crime Novelist Gary Garth McCann
We are delighted to welcome author Gary Garth McCann to Omnimystery News today.
Gary’s new literary crime novel is The Man Who Asked To Be Killed (A Few Good Books Publishing; September 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with him to talk more about it.
Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the lead character of The Man Who Asked To Be Killed. What is it about him that appeals to you as a writer?
Gary Garth McCann: I wanted a protagonist who innocently gets into trouble, the kind of young hero who rushes into a burning building if he thinks he can save a life. But protagonist Buddy Smith finds himself in a "fire" set by his cousin the governor, a man like an older brother to him. What does a young guy do when strength of body and character, honed through a lifetime of athleticism, can't solve problems off the playing field? How far does he bend? And what does he do if he's in love with two women, one his fiancée? How much of his feelings does he suppress because he wants to have a wife and a baby, like most of his friends have?
I wrote about a protagonist I respect, one I hero-worship for being more "man" than most men. I wanted to enter his mind, live with him, through him, while he suffers traumatic psychological stress at the same time he enjoys daily life, like we sometimes find ourselves at a funeral enjoying a conversation with an old acquaintance. One reader told me that whatever happened in my novel, he felt safe because he was in first-person narrator Buddy's hands. In this sense, I think of The Man Who Asked To Be Killed as a cozy mystery for men (and for women who like men despite male foibles). Meet Buddy for a beer or a glass of wine while he tells you what the fuck is going on.
Writing heroes isn't a habit for me. Buddy is the only one I've written, maybe the only one I will write. My stories and current novel-in-progress feature people more like myself, ones who wouldn't rush into a burning building.
OMN: So that explains the shirtless guy on the cover?
GGM: No exactly. I rejected my publisher's cover — two men in suits, one pointing a gun at the other — because I felt it didn't distinguish my book from the crowd. I wanted my cover to say something about character, to tell readers that in this mystery they would be inside the protagonist's head while he brooded over events. I found a photo of a business-suited man looking ruminative, head bowed, but he was too old to be my protagonist. I typed "men in suits looking ruminative" into another photo licensing site, and the guy you see on the cover popped up. He looks just like Buddy as I've pictured him, so I went with it, even though it violates a convention that says shirtless guys are only on romance covers. I think they're appearing on action covers, too, now. But a few readers have told me they bought the book in spite of the cover, and one said he didn't think my cover did the book justice. Maybe I goofed, maybe I need a gun on the cover. There are lots of shootings in the book.
OMN: It sounds like the book would be hard to put into a single fiction genre.
GGM: The Man Who Asked To Be Killed is difficult to pigeonhole. I like to call it "literary crime." It won the "suspense/mystery/thriller" category of the Maryland Writer's Association novel contest. A recent reviewer dubbed it "noir." A writer colleague says it's a "thriller." I will also apply "cross-over" to it — a cross-over between literary fiction and mystery, in the same way that I see Lehane's Mystic River straddling that line.
Today authors talk about their "brand." My brand is "complex characters in a complicated plot," whether I'm writing crime or comedy (my next novel will be comic) or writing slice-of-life short stories. In a conversation before release of The Man Who Asked To Be Killed, a reader of my story "The Yearbook," in Mobius, commented, "If your novel has the level of detail and complexity of that story, no wonder it's taking you years to write."
OMN: How true are you to the setting of the story?
GGM: The Man Who Asked To Be Killed is set in Maryland's capital, Annapolis, where protagonist Buddy is young cousin and confidant of the governor. The governor's waterfront house and pocket neighborhood, both fictional, are typical of Annapolis where inlets create barriers. A person drives two miles to get to a neighbor's house that he could walk to in five minutes if water didn't intervene.
Other Annapolis settings are real and faithfully rendered, including the Graul's Market plaza on Cape St. Claire and the City Dock coffee shops that Buddy frequents in the historic center. Annapolis, by the way, boasts the largest concentration of 18th century buildings in the US.
Time and place are a problem for authors. An author can know — really know — only places in his own experience, which limits where and when he can set books. Places keep changing. I grew up in LA in the '50s and '60s. Reading Raymond Chandler requires me to imagine LA as he lived it and described it a decade or two before my time. In the years between his and my experience of LA, so much of the city was raised and replaced (much by freeways) that little of what he wrote is recognizable to me.
To write what he knows, an author isn't just limited to writing about places he's been but limited to writing about them when he was there. The Man Who Asked To Be Killed came easily, time and place-wise, because it's set today and I live in Annapolis now. All I had to do was look around.
OMN: How does the title relate to the story?
GGM: The title The Man Who Asked To Be Killed might apply to any of three characters in the novel, but applies most directly to one, as becomes evident in the end — an end that, to date, no reader I've talked with has seen coming. In the book blurb I quote one early reader of the manuscript. "The end is as surprising as it is inevitable." This comment inspired my first venture into filmmaking, the 1-minute humorous video "He Wishes She Wouldn't Read in Bed" in which a young woman reads the end of my novel while her boyfriend believes she's having an orgasm. He asks if she enjoyed the finish, and she says, "I did not see it coming."
OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from your readers?
GGM: Philip K. Jason — a US Naval Academy emeritus professor of English and creative writing — asked to see my book from the hopper of books deemed worthy of review by the Washington Independent Review of Books (WIROB). I'm honored that a literary scholar, a stranger to me, read The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and chose to write the review that appeared in WIROB 11/4/14. Quoting in part: "Small tough-guy delights pierce the brooding atmosphere of The Man Who Asked To Be Killed, establishing McCann as the innovator of what someday might be known as Maryland Noir … As the likelihood of arrest or death by assassination looms larger and larger, the suspense thermometer rises higher and higher … Other aspects of the novel rival this center of interest … the sophisticated handling of the relationships between characters … evocation of setting — including Annapolis …".
I am most heartened by his comment on the relationships between characters. Character is what my writing is all about.
FAMILY MAN?—COLD-BLOODED KILLER?
the depths of solitude,
beyond wilderness and freedom,
lay the trap of madness.” Edward Abbey
The Family Man, Nick Molinaro, well-respected, a sought after labor attorney, the perfect husband, father and son; loving and passionate toward his family, his uncles, aunts, brother. He was everything a woman could ask for and Gia, his wife, loved him unconditionally.
But there was another side to his nature. He was also a cold-blooded murderer who enjoyed watching his victims die. When a friend of Nick’s, Big Jim, kills a rapist who was a threat to Gia, he regretted not being able to do the killing himself and asked Big Jim to do it. After the murder when they met, the first question he asked Big Jim. “Tell me Jim, what did his face look like?”
Was Nick just beyond the realm of madness? Not at all. For Nick Molinaro wasn’t any of these specific traits by themselves. He was a passionate, all-consuming combination of all the traits, none of them dominating the other. And this was what made him so dangerous. He could blend into any situation with ease and his environment dictated which personality had to over-ride the others. He was an expert at it. Only his Uncle Sal knew the evil cold blooded murderer that lurked just below the surface. In fact, he encouraged his nephew in the art of revenge, of rectifying the wrong and usually the price their victims paid, was with their life. Uncle Sal nurtured Nick and saw in his nephew the young Sal that he used to be in Sicily. He believed in revenge and neither men could rest till they completed the act.
And neither man ever had any regrets of what he had done. When a neighbor, an old man, suffering from senility, recognized Nick as the murderer of Frank Miller (Nick’s Dad) and went to their house accusing Nick of the murder, Uncle Sal conveniently and calmly ran over him with his car as the old man was shoveling snow. Then, without remorse, he drove on to complete his errand to buy a loaf of bread. That easily done.
Nick was equally comfortable in killing a man. He was encouraged by Uncle Sal, who saw in him the son he never had. He instilled into Nick his beliefs and strove to make an alter ego of himself.
“Nick’s face showed no emotions. In situations like this that was when he was the most dangerous. He would never forget the way Toby spoke to him. Nick was not some psychopath, but he was vindictive and a bit narcissistic. He loved to read his name in the newspapers, he loved to be in charge, and he bathed in notorieties, just as long it had nothing to do with crime. The things he did were to protect himself and his wife; in fact he would protect any member of his family. With Toby Glassman, Nick took his words personally, as an insult and a direct slur toward his father, his mother, his wife, his son. Now, it was a question of honor.”
He firmly believed it to be so. Thus, it was justified.
The only person intelligent or insightful enough to scrutinize Nick and question him, even twenty years after the Frank Miller killing, was his wife Gia. Being a psychiatrist, and even with her unconditional love for Nick, every so often, something in the deepest valleys of her brilliant mind forced her to one more time ask her husband, if he had anything to do with the killing. And each time, Nick, in spite of his passionate love for and his everlasting loyalty to Gia, could look her straight in the eye and deny any such act. Did Gia believe him and if she did was it because she didn’t want to hear the suspected truth? Or did Nick, with his infinite charm and honest love for her convince her otherwise. Perhaps in these moments of denial, he actually saw himself as the only Nick, the family man, who belonged in their happy life and matrimonial bed. Perhaps the young Nick, the one who pulled the trigger wasn’t allowed to enter the family circle. Like the snake that sheds its skin, Nick left his evil traits behind, in a realm of his mind that neither belonged to his home life nor his professional life. Again, was he beyond “the trap of madness?” But whichever side of Nick dominated, one thing was certain and that was his love for Gia. Family man or cold-blooded murderer, he loved his wife, son and extended family.
However, on reading the book, this enigma of Nick’s character, even though it is the over-riding theme in the book, is enhanced by other aspects that make this third novel in the “Summer Series” an interesting and enjoyable read. The author, Nick Gallicchio, warmly details the Italian intimacy of family life. During the delicious dinners they enjoy together, they discuss various topics, from politics, to history to the Vietnam War, when the first book began. The reader gets a rich description of what life and politics were in the 1980’s. And with Gia and Nick’s second honeymoon to Pompeii, we get a romantic and detailed lesson in history.
Furthermore, we also get a well-educated look at how unions operated in the 80’s: grievances, negotiations, arbitrations are part of Nick’s world at the office and he excelled at his profession.
The characters were vivid and well-developed, and the plot moves on at a fast pace sweeping us toward an unsuspecting and tragic ending.
My only regret was that Uncle Sal hadn’t shared his delicious recipes with us. However, if you want to ask the author, Nick Gallicchio, for some of the recipes in the book, I’m sure he would share.
To buy the book, go to AmazonKindle or Amazon.com and type in Nick Gallicchio, or buy from Barnes and Noble, Bookstore of http://www.afewgoodbookspublishing.com and Kobo.com
Book Review in Fiction, Mystery & Suspense
The Man Who Asked to Be Killed
Gary Garth McCann A Few Good Books Publishing 302 pp.
Reviewed by Philip K. Jason
November 4, 2014
Politics, a legal trust, and a dead governor’s sister intersect in this thriller set in the DC metro area.
Buddy Smith, a 28-year-old Annapolis lawyer, works for his cousin Mac, who just happens to be the governor of Maryland. Buddy doesn’t work a state government job; he serves as legal counsel to the trust that holds Mac’s business interests.
The governor’s older sister, Thea, runs the highly successful corporation GBC, in which Mac remains a silent partner. It had been built by their late father. When Thea is murdered, Mac is not only rocked with grief, but also seems to feel that he and those around him are in danger. Why he feels this way is not made clear until one quarter through the book.
Until then, author Gary Garth McCann, in The Man Who Asked To Be Killed, provides a detailed history of Buddy’s life, including his lifelong crush on Mac’s second wife, the beautiful but emotionally fragile Kat. Hey, but wait a minute. Buddy is engaged to marry Lynn, whose snooty father thinks Buddy is a low-class loser. Then there’s a guy named Randall, Kat’s first husband, a morally marginal fellow with whom Buddy is still somewhat friendly. These high-school relationships die hard.
Buddy’s life is on hold until the house that he and Lynn are planning to occupy is ready. Meanwhile, Buddy lives with Mac. Their proximity is a mixed blessing, exposing each to the best and worst traits of the other and testing their friendship while compromising their privacy.
The investigation of Thea’s death involves the investigation of similar shootings, at first suggesting a serial killer with a more or less random selection of victims. Soon, however, it looks more like the killer is hiding the motive for shooting Thea by creating the appearance of randomness.
Assuming Thea was a carefully selected target, perhaps her management of GBC needs to be explored. Indeed, we learn that the company had long been infected by a money-laundering operation. Perhaps Thea had learned something that threatened the criminal enterprise behind it.
Now, people close to Thea might be close to information that could get them killed. Mac is not only disconsolate over her death, but also fearful for his own life and the lives of others. He has sent Kat and her son (who is not Mac’s child) away. Their safety is one issue; the likely collapse of their marriage is another.
Buddy, positioned as the narrator, serves as Mac’s confidant and counselor. He observes how Mac feels trapped: He will either be a mob victim like his sister or a prisoner because of his knowledge of — and indirect benefit from — the illegal activities within GBC.
Mac decides to resign from the governorship, and Buddy helps frame the timetable for a meeting with federal agents at which Mac might be able to strike a deal. Off and on, Mac shows and expresses suicidal tendencies.
Is he the title character? It seems so for a while, but there’s another candidate who fits the bill more closely.
Buddy, much to his regret, accompanies Mac on a resort vacation. Buddy proves susceptible to ethical misconduct. He cheats on Lynn, though it seems later that the women luring him into betrayal were part of a set-up.
As the likelihood of arrest or death by assassination looms larger and larger, the suspense thermometer rises higher and higher. However, several other aspects of the novel rival this center of interest.
One of these is the sophisticated handling of the relationships between characters. Author McCann does a credible job of probing the moral chemistry of each, the shadings of good and evil, reason and unreason. Buddy’s relationship with his mother is well drawn, as is the portrait of his mysterious missing brother, Henry, who will end up being an important piece of the plot puzzle.
Another area of interest is the portrayal of big-time business and governmental activity as ultimately a family matter.
McCann’s evocation of setting — including Annapolis — is also one of the novel’s strengths. As someone who spent almost 29 years as a professor at the United States Naval Academy, I found the author’s treatment of the Maryland Avenue and City Dock neighborhoods accurate without being overdone. Snapshots of other locations, including sections of DC and Northern Virginia, are handled smoothly and competently.
McCann’s style is both firm and flexible, occasionally dotted with metaphors and similes. “I had been rendered without faith in my own judgment,” remembers narrator Buddy. “Like someone lacking depth perception trying to parallel-park, I figured the best I could do was listen for the sound of crunching metal and be glad if I didn’t hear it.” Here the author conveys much about the moral world of his main character and of the novel.
In one scene, in which Buddy is held at gunpoint, he encounters a gray-haired man “as suave as a fundraiser.” Such small tough-guy delights pierce the brooding atmosphere of The Man Who Asked to Be Killed, establishing McCann as the innovator of what someday might be known as Maryland Noir.
Philip K. Jason is professor emeritus of English at the United States Naval Academy. A former editor of Poet Lore magazine, he is the author or editor of 20 books, including Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture and Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom. His reviews appear in a wide variety of regional and national publications.
Dancing and Flowers:
Other than the fiery, passionate tango, and the traditional red rose that goes with it, usually depicted as the woman clenching the rose between her teeth, few of us have come up with matching other flowers and dances.
I belong to a Garden Club, a very serious one, that is non-profit and with good by-laws. We meet once a month for ten months of the year and we are very active in our community, from our Mayfair Bazaar each year held at our local Yacht Club where we also have our meetings and luncheons each month to participating in the summer and Christmas decorating of our town, the capital of the State of Maryland.
For two years I was on the Board of Directors of our club as Vice-President in charge of programming. It wasn’t easy to come up with twenty exciting programs, but I tried my best and shoving all humility aside, I think that I did a great job. I also had a wonderful Board of women who were always ready to help me.
For one cold February Valentine’s Day, I came up with the following program that I’d like to share.
The two dancers were wonderful and Kathy is like a sister to me. My only regret was that for the tango, I couldn’t talk Ray into holding the rose in his mouth. He absolutely refused; graciously, politely but firmly refused.
But, if you care to read on, here it is; and you have to imagine the two dancers swirling around on the dance floor that the Yacht Club so helpfully provided us with, thanks to a lovely lady from the Yacht Club.
“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.“ William Wordsworth, “Daffodils” (1804)
Cha Cha is becoming more popular for wedding dance music reflecting our society’s current fascination and romance with Latin culture. Originally an offshoot of the Rumba, the Cha Cha was the rage in the 50’s and is probably the most popular social Latin dance in America. It has an infectious rhythm that has been used by many musicians. The rhythmical “split beat” of the Cha Cha and the many open movements add surety, poise and style on the dance floor.
Just like the cha cha, the marigold is a very precise flower and is becoming more and more popular in wedding bouquets. The flower has a lot of history. The Virgin Mary is where the name Mary’s Gold comes from. It grows in clusters and like the Cha cha it requires space to show off its variety of blooms and colours.
originated in the United States from African-Americans in the early 1930s. It was originally presented to the public as ‘Jive’ in 1934 by Cab Calloway. It is a lively and uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug, a form of Swing dance. Characterized by a carefree, relaxed style. It has a light, bouncing quality that makes it look easy, but jive is actually extremely challenging to dance.
And what better flower to associate the jive with than the wildflower…care-free, it comes in all shapes, forms and colors. There is nothing more appealing to the eye than a meadow filled with wildflowers. Like the jive they bounce in the winds happily in a relaxed way not caring who their neighbors are.
originated hundreds of years ago in Bavaria, Europe. In the twentieth century, the waltz took the form of two quite different forms. One being the Slow Waltz which you are about to see and the other being the Viennese Waltz which will come later. The Waltz was imported into America by European immigrants. It was, however, popularized in Boston and New York by the legendary Vernon Castle who introduced a particular version palatable to American society and appropriate to high level social gatherings of the time. This version was known as the Boston, characterized by the slow tempo and the long flowing steps. The Modern Slow Waltz was derived from the Boston and continues to be one of the most romantic and elegant dances of all times. It is also the waltz danced by debutantes at their coming out party. The young ladies don their magnificent white ball gowns and glide around the dance floor. With long sweeping movements constant rotating with stylish poses, the Waltz definitely commands attention on the dance floor.
The flower we have paired with this waltz is the simple and elegant long stemmed daisy. They grow in clusters and gently sway with the early summer breezes. The daisy pretends to be a simple flowers but is far from it. It is actually a composite of several different parts joining to form the flower, just like the waltz with its rotation and stylish poses. Traditionally, a daisy is white with a yellow centre and through-out history has been featured in myth, literary work and legend. The most popular variety is the Shasta and African daisies and in this instance we had the Shasta daisy in mind. The daisy symbolizes sunshine, happiness and innocence.
So, music please and lets’ enjoy the Waltz.
Next, we will see the Tango. It evolved from the Argentine Tango popular in the early 20th century. While the Argentine Tango was and is a very soft private dance, with visual emphasis on the leg movements, this dramatically changed in Paris in the 1930’s where the dance was combined with the proud torso of the other ballroom dances and given a staccato action. This moved the visual emphasis to the torso and head, a characteristic which remains to this day.
Tango is best described as fierce in character, an intensely powerful dance, the dance of Now and Immediately with sharp snaps and twists.
Of course we didn’t have to pair the rose with the tango. Through-out the years others have done it for us. The handing of a rose by the gentleman to the lady, the rose held in the mouth while dancing.
The intensity of the deep red and black rose can easily be matched to the intensity of the Tango, the fierceness of the thorns with the power of the dance.
And like the Argentine Tango is soft and private there are a number of roses like the floribundas that are happy and soft with much less long sharp thorns. Overall there are more than a 100 species all native to the Northern Hemisphere.
The Viennese Waltz:
This is a fast Waltz having originated in Germany and taken from there to France by Napoleon Bonaparte as part of the spoils of war. The English, who were at war with France and not wanting to be outdone, forthwith adopted it and in true Anglo fashion ultimately put it through a process of discriminating analysis.
Finding its way to America, the dance enjoyed a great deal of popularity at the turn of the century. Besides being recognized as the “mother of Social Dance,, it served an important role in the development of theatre dance frequently utilized in theatrical and Hollywood productions.
The word “Waltzen” Derived from the Latin Volvere meaning to revoleve describes the key character of this picturesque dance, particularly when viewed from an elevation. Perhaps one of the most breathtaking spectacles of a Dancesport event is the panorama of 30 or 40 couples , beautifully attired in traditional tails and ball gowns revolving collectively around the ballroom in harmonious effusion.
And now imagine groups of cosmos with their own dance and movements swaying to the breezes. The cosmos is native to Mexico and come in shades of pink, purple and white. Its foliage is finely cut into threadlike segments and when flowering the plant can become top heavy. The cluster solves its problem by interlocking the bipinnate leaves, and the colony supports itself and creating its own dance movements to the gentle guts of a summer wind.
Just imagine the thirty to forty couples revolving in unison around the dance floor and the clusters of colorful cosmos swaying gently in unison.
Foxtrot and orchids. The Foxtrot is reputed to have originated in 1913 when a vaudeville performer by the name of Harry Fox performed a little trot which fired the imagination of the social dance instructors in New York and the foxtrot was born. Since then the dance has undergone considerable evolution. From the speedy erratic expressions of the WW1 era, the Foxtrot has matured to a smooth unhurried embodiment of fluid controlled musicality.
Based on natural movement, it has developed the simple function of walking to a deceptively easy looking action which in reality is one of the most demanding of all dance skills.
Like the Foxtrot, the orchid has evolved greatly over time and continues to evolve. They are slow to grow, some taking 5-7 years to mature and produce flowers. But the reward is great when you admire its magnificent blooms, precise yet carefree. Some orchids grow wild, some underground, some high up in the trees, and some are cultivated in window sills and greenhouses. They are most popular for corsages. But no matter where you see them, the admirer is awarded by their unhurried beauty.
The next time we’re out there ballroom dancing or gardening, think of the flowers and enjoy the beauty of it all.