I read Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories in high school. When I try to recall them now what comes to mind is a strong desire to catch fish and fry them up riverside in some bacon grease that I brought for the purpose or to eat a sandwich wrapped in newspaper that I carried in my pocket. Hemingway’s characters always seem like they had wrapped food in their pockets.
When I think of Steven Brust’s Taltos adventures, I immediately want sausage with peppers and garlic. P.G. Wodehouse? Give me a brandy and some meat pie pilfered from my host’s kitchen at midnight to wash down Anatole’s feast. Rex Stout? Milk and a ham sandwich or anything Fritz so much as considers. Christopher Buckley once had me eating cold roast chicken, crusty bread, and hard, sharp cheese for a week.
I feel like I’m not just in tune with literary descriptions of food, I’m programmable. I am so susceptible to the temptation proffered by a well described gustation that I stopped at Red Dragon.
The reason I bring this up is that I have been reading the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin. He makes we want fish n’ chips, draft ale and stout, and Scotch and the atmosphere of The Oxford Bar. I have also been tempted by warm rolls and bacon, a regular breakfast of the Inspector, and the occasional curry. What I have not wanted is deviled eggs. Apparently that is the craving that Rankin engendered in someone else.
I borrowed the fourth book in the series, A Good Hanging, from the local library. It’s not on every page, but in every chapter, spots of yellow crust adhere to at least one page. I considered curry paste, but it wasn’t brown enough. Mustard? There should be a ring of oil around the stain. Reading a detective novel makes you think you can deduce anything if you follow your hunches. I’m certain the stains are deviled eggs.
The astonishing thing is that the stains persist through every chapter of a 250 page book. Let’s pretend our egg enthusiast is a speed reader. That still has him (I have decided he is a he based on the fact that I have read a detective novel and know about crime stuff) eating eggs for two hours. Believe it or not, that’s better than the alternative scenario: “I’m in the mood for mystery. Where are my eggs?”
I own or have borrowed from friends most of the Rebus books I’ve read thus far, but my shelves are full and my friends have moved on to other series so today I returned to the library for Let It Bleed, the eighth in the series. When I got home I started reading. Chapter one, “Bridges.” Turn the page. Popcorn kernel shavings! What library patron read the series ahead of me? What is wrong with his palate? Why isn’t he drinking Scotch and eating fried food? What am I missing? I hate mysteries.