“If you read for pleasure, there’s probably more pleasure per inch in Pickard’s work than almost any other current crime novelist.”Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Pickard has evolved into a novelist of substantial literary power.”The Denver Post
Chili Con Carne Murders
The Blue Corn Murders
The Secret Ingredient Murders
How I happened to write the books in this series. . .
The three books I wrote in this series are the result of an amazing sequence of events that began in 1983. In that year, I read a first mystery novel called The Cooking School Murders, by Virginia Rich. I loved it. My own first mystery novel was being published that year, and I felt a desire to write a fan letter to Mrs. Rich, who was, like me, a mystery writer married to a cattle rancher. (I suspected there could not be more than two of us in the world!)
I received a charming note in reply, in which she mentioned that she was already working on the fourth book in her series, a mystery to be called The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders. But when I wrote back, her nurse informed me that Mrs. Rich was to ill to correspond. Soon after that, Virginia Rich died. (The immediate cause had to do with heart problems, but in the last years of her life she had other serious physical ailments, too.) I was shocked and saddened, as were the thousands of readers who had loved her first book as well as the next two, The Baked Bean Supper Murders, and The Nantucket Diet Murders.
After her death, the three books in her series not only remained in print, but grew in popularity. During that time, her husband came across a bittersweet discovery: boxes full of her notes, written on yellow legal pads, and newspaper clippings, all related to books that his wife had hoped to write one day. There were even a few drafts of chapters. He approached his late wife’s editor at Delacorte Press, asking if the series might be continued by other writers. That editor approached my agent, who subsequently asked me, “How would you like to complete a book called, The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders?
It felt like fate to me.
Virginia Rich’s place in mystery history
Photo by Susan Rich Sheridan
VIRGINIA RICH created the culinary mystery genre. Virginia Rich started writing her mysteries when she was in her early sixties; she was first published when she was almost seventy.
- She created a female American sleuth before such heroines were as popular as they are today.
- She wrote about an amateur crime-solver when private eyes were all the rage.
- She set her story in small-town mid-America when that just “wasn’t done.”
- It was she who started the fashion of putting recipes in mysteries.
Working alone at her ranch without the networks of writers to support her that we now have (if we want them), Virginia Rich became a trend setter simply by writing what was closest to her heart. She had been a food editor and was a wonderful cook, so she wrote about food and cooking. She was the wife of an executive and so she created a good hostess. She had lived in many places, and so she set her mysteries in several of them. She was an intelligent and sophisticated woman, and so she created a heroine with a mordant wit to leaven her warmth and charm.
I would like to have met her, to say thank you on behalf of all of the mystery writers who have followed in her path and all of the readers who have reaped the reward of books, by many authors, that might not otherwise ever have been written.
Adapted from the "Forward" to The Blue Corn Murders