Arthur Wordington-Smythe sat at his desk and stared at the one thing that all writers fear the most—a blank white screen.
In his case, the feeling of horror was compounded by a rapidly looming deadline, accompanied by threats from his England Observer editor that she might not sign off his latest dining receipts should this restaurant review be delayed.
At times like this, a writer has two choices: to knuckle down, or take to drinking. Or possibly both at the same time.
But the problem he was currently facing was not the writing of the review itself. The restaurant in question, the newly opened Fat Canard in North Gloucestershire, was a jewel of a concept—a restaurant purporting to serve only duck-based dishes—and a wondrous train crash of a reality.
As such, it was perfect fodder for his weekly column, where his readers would be delighted in the knowledge that someone in this world, perhaps after too many late night coffee binges, had decided upon a menu featuring such culinary marvels as: duck liver pâté served on crumbly duck-shaped ‘qwackers’; pulled duck burgers with duck-fat chips; a duckweed salad garnished with the house-cured duck pancetta; and a rather good chocolate sponge cake made with duck eggs and decorated with little sugar feathers.
No, it wasn’t that the Fat Canard review was refusing to waddle its way from Arthur’s brain onto the page. The problem was the other story, the one that had sat there for the last few weeks, itching at his mind. A story that had happened right here on his home turf, the little Cotswold village of Beakley, only a few weeks previously.
A real cracker (or quawker?) it was too. It featured all the hallmarks of a tip-top piece of fiction: a country house, a dastardly murder, a valuable collection of fine old wines, and—though this part rather offended Arthur’s literary sensibilities—a large kipper sandwich.
This last item had been the brainchild of Chef Maurice, Arthur’s best friend and owner of Le Cochon Rouge, who had recently taken to the solving of crime like a duck to, well, aerial yoga.
That was to say, enthusiastically, but leaving quite a few ruffled feathers in his wake.
But, thought Arthur, rolling up his sleeves, now was not the time to worry about the finer details. The kipper sandwich could be worked around. All he needed to start were the bare bones of the plot.
Slowly, pecking at his keyboard, he typed the following: The Case of the Locked Wine Cellar. By A. Wordington-Smythe.
All he needed now was a suitable main character. But that was easy enough. He typed on:
Archibald Branston-Pickleton, England’s foremost restaurant critic, sat staring at a plate of pan-fried wild duck breast. His fork hovered in his hand. Because tonight, it was not mallard, but murder, that was currently on his mind. . .
You can read more about Arthur in Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes, the second book in the Chef Maurice” culinary mystery series, published by Purple Panda Press. The first book in the series is Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle.
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About the author
J.A. Lang is a British mystery author. She lives in Oxford, England, with her husband, an excessive number of cookbooks, and a sourdough starter named Bob. To keep up to date with new releases, please hop over to www.jalang.net to sign up for the reader newsletter.