Saturday, March 14, 2020

Your Food Sucks: Kieran Shea on Scott Phillips

About an hour ago, I pre-ordered Scott Phillips' forthcoming novel That Left Turn at Albuquerque as a gift to myself. In the unwieldy realm of birthday dramas, it’s been my experience that gifts from loved ones sometimes disappoint, as in, “I made a donation in your name to the Mississippi Hookworm Museum…” or “I got you a lifetime subscription to Possum Enthusiast.

Anyway, as a crime writing aspirant I first met Scott at that bewildering, annual souse-fest that passes itself off as a conference—Bouchercon. This was in Indianapolis, and a rowdy group of agents, authors, and itchy psychopaths were on their way to knock back some schnitzel and brews at Bavarian joint called The Rathskellar. Think basement beer hall haunted by ghosts big on Heinrich Himmler, chesty dirndl couture, and dead elk heads. Scott happened to be leading the charge in a merry Pied Piper fashion, and my first impression upon meeting and talking with him was, “Goddamn, I knew this motherfucker is my kind of fly-in-the-ointment miscreant.”

Of course, I’d read Scott’s work.  Loved it, in fact. His lean prose is without lazy gristle and his attention to character detail and nuance is blindsiding. The one novel of his I try to push on people is Rut - his unnerving, dystopian black comic romp, rumored to have had the working title of Slay Misty For Me. Let me give you just one example of Scott’s blindsiding wordsmithing, the one that, without fail, kills me.

But before we get to this example, people should know that Scott lived in Paris for a while. As you might expect after living in France, he knows a thing or two about good food. At one time (a whole other life for me now) I willingly suffered under the ferocious tutelage of two French chefs and in Rut there’s a cast off reference to one of my favorite traditional French delicacies, something prepared using the a cooking method similar to confit, where food is submerged and cooked in luscious fat at a glacial rate. Scott being Scott, in the novel he added a touch of flair to the dish that hilariously echoed the starving desperation and desolation experienced by the characters. The proletarian dish is commonly known as rillettes, but with Scott’s brilliance it wasn’t made with pork or duck or even venison…it was made with meat identified under the scientific name sciuridae: squirrel rillettes. 

I’m sorry. That sealed it for me. Bloody genius.

Congratulations, Mr. Phillips.

Scott Phillips' latest novel That Left Turn at Albuquerque is available now from Soho Books. Grab a copy at your favorite local bookstore through Indie Bound or from

Subterranean Books (they'll have signed editions)

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Kieran Shea is the author of Off Rock as well as the Koko Marsteller series; Koko Takes a Holiday, Koko the Mighty and Koko Uncaged. He used to have a blog and a Twitter handle and all that fun shit, but you can't find him online any longer because fuck you.

1 comment:

Greg Bardsley said...

I remember that night!! ... Scott is a great writer. Can't wait to read That Left Turn at Albuquerque ... Might be what I need right now.