Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Please Welcome Back Mystery Author Leslie Karst

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Leslie Karst

We are delighted to welcome back author Leslie Karst to Omnimystery News.

Yesterday we spoke with Leslie and talked about her new mystery, Death al Fresco (Crooked Lane Books; March 2018 hardcover and ebook formats), and today Leslie shares with us a conversation she had with her series character, restaurateur Sally Solari.

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Leslie Karst
Photo provided courtesy of
Leslie Karst

[This interview was conducted over a lunch of fried calamari and spinach salad at Solari’s, on a rainy afternoon in late February.]

Leslie Karst: Okay, Sally, since this is a rare opportunity for me to ask questions of you, I want you to be honest: How do you feel about my portrayal of you in the books? Anything in particular you think I got wrong?

Sally Solari: Well, dang, Leslie. It’s hard to be completely candid about that when you’re the one who’s going to continue to write my story.

LK: [Laughs.] Don’t worry. I promise not to turn you into the murderer in the next one, no matter how you answer.

SS: Deal. Okay, here’s something: I’m well aware that years ago you waited tables for a couple of years and then worked at the college restaurant during your stint as a culinary arts student, but I have to say your portrayal of me as a restaurateur is not one hundred percent accurate. The real-life grind of running a restaurant is far less glamorous than you make it out to be in the book. Yes, we do occasionally have fun testing out new recipes and yes, working the hot line can be an amazing rush when all the cooks are in sync and the kitchen is sending out perfectly plated entrées at a whirlwind rate. But the work I’ve done at Solari’s (my dad’s restaurant, where I used to run the front of the house) and Gauguin (the restaurant I inherited from my aunt) is more often a drudgery than it is a thrill.

In your defense, however, an honest, true-to-life book about the inner workings of a restaurant would be pretty darn boring and tedious. After all, who wants to read about someone standing all night long over a hot stove flipping salmon fillets and stirring sauce pots? Or chopping up cases of onions and chicken parts? So I guess it’s for the best that you spiced up my life a tad and cherry-picked the more interesting events that have happened of late at Solari’s and Gauguin—and there have indeed been quite a few!

LK: There certainly have. Makes my life as an author all the much easier, though. So, to follow up on that last question, do you feel I did a good job capturing your personality and if not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

SS: Part of me would like to pretend that I’m not nearly as sarcastic as portrayed in the book, but the realist in me is well aware of my affinity for snark. So on the whole, I guess I’m okay with my portrayal.

LK: What do you believe is your strongest trait?

SS: Perseverance.

LK: And the worst one?

SS: Stubbornness (which, of course, is really just another way of saying perseverance).

LK: What’s your favorite color?

SS: Yellow.

LK: Wow, that’s mine, too!

SS: What a surprise (not). That must be why you gave me that creamy yellow T-Bird to drive and have me wear so many yellow shirts. Good thing I like the color. Oh, wait...

LK: [Ignoring Sally’s smirk.] If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

SS: I’d vanquish those damn early-onset hot flashes from my life. Oh, and there’s another. Can I name two things?

LK: Sure, why not.

SS: So the second thing would be not to constantly keep stumbling over dead bodies. It’s exhausting, and really gets in the way of my work at Gauguin. Anything you can do about that?

LK: Ummm... I think not. Favorite food?

SS: That’s easy: Nonna’s Sunday gravy. It’s the ultimate in comfort food.

LK: Can you describe it for those who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting this delectable dish?

SS: Absolutely. It’s a combination of beef, pork, and sweet Italian sausages, braised with red wine, tomato, onion, garlic, and herbs for about four hours till the meat is so tender it falls apart at the touch of a fork. My nonna serves the gravy (i.e., the red sauce) over pasta as a primo, or first course, and then the braised meat with sautéed vegetables and a green salad for the secondo. For anyone out there who’d like to recreate it, there’s a recipe for Nonna’s Sunday Gravy in the first book Leslie wrote about me, Dying for a Taste.

LK: Okay, last question: What advice would you like to give me before I start on the next book in the series?

SS: Well, one thing that I’ve been thinking about of late is that you’ve been writing this series in the first person, even though we are, of course, completely different people. So it’s always a little strange for me to read the books, especially the parts where you purport to understand my innermost thoughts. But I have to admit you do tend to get me right. It’s almost as if you’ve got some kind of secret key to my soul. Weird, that.

So I guess my primary words of wisdom would be these: Keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t stress too much about what I may think of the book, trying to ensure that every tiny piece of the story is absolutely accurate. I get that you have to take a certain amount if artistic liberty in depicting me and my life. As long as the essence rings true, that’s truly all that matters.

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The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder, Death al Fresco), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California.

An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. She now spends her time cooking, singing alto in her local community chorus, gardening, cycling, and of course writing. Leslie and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai’i.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst

Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst

A Sally Solari Culinary Mystery

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books Print/Kindle Format(s)

It’s Indian summer in Santa Cruz and restaurateur Sally Solari decides an open-air painting class is the perfect way for her to learn more about Paul Gaugin, the inspiration for her family’s newest restaurant. But the beauty of the Monterey Bay coastline is shattered when Sally’s dog Buster sniffs out a corpse tangled up in kelp.

The body is identified as Gino, a local fisherman and a regular at the Solaris’ restaurant until he disappeared after dining there a few nights before. Witnesses claim he left reeling drunk, but his waitress swears Gino only had two beers with his dinner. And then the fingers begin to point at Sally’s dad for negligently allowing an inebriated customer to walk home alone at night.

From a long menu of suspects that includes Anastasia, the mysterious woman who dined with Gino that fateful night, Gino’s deckhand Bobby, and bocce player Frank who accused Gino of cheating, Sally must serve up the tall order to clear her father’s name.

Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst


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