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Monday, February 27, 2017

An Excerpt From Stroud's Newest Novel: Lowdown. Dirty. Shame.

Dear Sir or Madam, enclosed is a teaser for my newest novel, but first…

My second novel, available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon, is offbeat, quirky, and elicited some offbeat and quirky comments, as you might expect from my offbeat and quirky readers.

“Too much sex and violence for me!”  Wait a sec!  You can have too much sex?  An old wives tale.  Very old wives.  Wives with dementia.

“Laugh out loud funny!”  My fervent hope is the reader laughed at the right places.

“I don’t buy books.”  For your vigorous resolve, my poverty stricken family applauds you with hunger-weakened hands.

“The part I liked best was….now I can’t remember.”  What was your name again?

“I thought things like this could never happen, and then my wife found the photos.”  Delete, delete, delete.  Never forget these words.

For those of you, and by that I mean the billions of you around the world that have not had the supreme pleasure of reading my latest scabrous tale of the small town South, I offer this encapsulation:

Jack Hudson is in a pickle. He’s not a private investigator; he’s a small town, small time writer. But, when a well-to-do acquaintance and fraternity brother asks him to check on his wife, Jack is all ears. He has good reasons. The fraternity brother’s wife and Jack are on better than speaking terms, if you know what I mean, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The job sounds simple and there’s money on the table for just one night of slightly perverse snooping. But, simple things aren’t. Now the wife is missing, Jack is accused, Jack’s other girlfriend is again tangled with her ex-husband, the fraternity brother’s first wife may also be missing, and Jack’s simple life is instantly scrambled and scattered across Cassavora County, several other counties, New Orleans and Charleston. Oh yeah, Jack’s brother may be part of a criminal conspiracy, Jack’s mother is on her last legs…Damn, I know your heart is pounding just thinking about it!

Ready for a sample?  Something to whet your curious and slightly deranged appetite for twisted mayhem?  Keep reading!

Extract From: Lowdown. Dirty. Shame.

A white and tan Ford, a row of flashing blue lights on top, tires crunching the gravel, stops behind my dented, aging, but still dependable Honda. A couple of officers step out, adjusting their gun belts and heading for my front door. I hide in the semidarkness of my bedroom and edge the curtain back another inch. Momentary comfort, before somebody pounds my door with a sledgehammer fist.  An edgy feeling, like a kid playing hide-and-seek when the footsteps get closer. 
Normally I’m up and sparking at seven thirty, but the night before had stretched out like a lazy cat.  Make that a semi-guilty, lazy cat.
The knock is not the gentle knock of a frolicsome cutie, followed by an invitation to come in, take off her clothes, and straddle my quivering flesh.
This knock carries visions of chokeholds and handcuffs.
         “Sheriff’s Department.  We need to ask you a few questions.”  A deputy bangs a couple of more times. 
         “Just a second.”  I grab a robe.  Judy, a sixth grade teacher, offered me a pair of pajamas a few years back, but the two of us never used them.  The PJ habit didn’t take.
         “Sir, we’re asking you to open the door!”  The sharply pitched voice wears a cloak of authority and likes the fit.
         “Hang on!” This time I yell a little louder.  Loud, not threatening.  Only a masochist, or someone suicidal threatens cops.  I’m just a mild mannered writer who yearns for finer things than he can afford.  Younger cars.  Faster women.
         Sunlight cuts my eyes and sprays across two officers in Cassavora County brown and tan uniforms. They stand there hatless, with hard eyes, like they’ve just spotted Son of Sam.  The guy in front is shorter and thinner. Behind him, the other deputy makes up the difference, with beef to spare.  The big guy gives me a bully’s thick-lidded stare, and adjusts his uniform shirt, the way fat guys do when they’re trying to keep their pants pulled up over their paunch.
         I hold up a hand for shade.
“Sir, we need to ask you a few questions.” 
“Yeah, you said that.”
The guy in front, the skinny one, rocks back on his heels, his thumbs hooked inside his tooled leather pistol belt with the fingers of his right hand lightly brushing the handle. The big guy doesn’t say anything, just keeps glaring at me like a linebacker determined to spear the passer.
         “What questions?”
         “When did you come in last night, sir?”  Don’t you just love the needless signs of respect that mean they can kick your ass with impunity?
         “What makes you think I went out?”  Aside from some innocent snooping, unarmed and without malice, I hadn’t done anything noteworthy.  I never do much noteworthy, although that seems to be changing by the minute.
         “Sir,” the voice tightens up, “Are you going to answer our questions, or do we need to take you back to the Sheriff’s Office and question you there?”
         “You know, I might be a little bit more forthcoming if you told me what this was about.”  A citizen’s rights are only a thin veneer when armed officers of the law stand on your porch.
         “Forthcoming,” the big guy mutters, twisting his lips like he’s just spit out a fly.
         “We’re conducting a police investigation and we’d like your cooperation,” the thin one continues.  There is no mistaking the tone. Bad cop and worse cop.
I step out onto the porch. The big guy grabs my shoulder, snaps me around and cuffs me.  “My advice is not to try to resist, motherfucker, although that might be a lot of fun for us.”
“Sorry, didn’t know it was your mother.”
“Don’t,” I hear the thin guy whisper.  The big guy tightens his grip anyway. 
Resist?  That’s a laugh.  “Resist?  I haven’t done anything.”  That point floats cloud-like past the guardians of the law.  Your newspaper spouts off about criminals having too many rights, then you’re cuffed and suddenly everything changes.  You’d like all those rights you read about, a few extras, and a hotshot attorney’s number on your speed dial.  This has to be a gigantic mistake.
         “Can I get some clothes?”
The thin deputy leads me back to my bedroom.  He doesn’t take off the cuffs, but grabs a few things as I nod.  He tells me I can change at the jail.  The big guy stays outside, while skinny hustles me through the front door.
Several trailer-court residents have gathered along my driveway, a few hundred yards from their tin abodes. Must have been the flashing lights.  Moths to the flame. Between them they probably own a baker’s dozen unpaid traffic fines, not to mention a file cabinet full of arrest records. Cans of kerosene, waiting for any flicker of judicial flame.  The deputies barely notice.
         “Hey, Dally!”  Moon yelled at me.   Moon is a well-muscled, white tee shirt, baseball cap wearing, never been close to a razor in a week, mountain man.  My pal.
         And just because he writes only as well as a large canine, doesn't mean he's stupid.  His river of expertise just doesn't follow the usual gullies to the sea.  Need a door re-squared?  A lock installed?  Not getting a pure sound out of your speakers?  Moon reads the intricacies of mechanical problems like another man reads a newspaper.  If anyone still reads newspapers.
         I should mention my house, a mansion in comparison to my trailer park pals.  Nice little bungalow with a porch.  Thanks to Moon, I've got speakers in every room and the sound is perfection.  Didn't have to buy a new stove when a heating element went out.
        Trailer park residents walk under modified streetlights, pulling current the electric co-op hasn't missed.  Moon also walks dogs and fixes cars.
        Ever ask to see your mechanic's high school transcript?  We pick people for their strengths.
My name is Jack, John D. Hudson, or for most just Hudson. The D is for Dallas. I hate my middle name as much as I hate a hair in my gravy.  Moon gets to call me anything he wants.  First of all, he’s big enough and mean enough to pound the crap out of Hulk Hogan’s momma, not necessarily in a fair fight.  Secondly, Moon encourages my passion for fresh herbs, and brings me potted versions from time to time.  Sometimes the little green plastic cups say Wal-Mart on one side and K-Mart on the other, so god only knows.
         I’ve done a few things for Moon and his trailer park brethren. Wrote a letter to the County Commissioners that got the trailer park’s road paved.  Also, regular county garbage pickup. 
Months ago, Moon was court-ordered to write a letter of apology to the owner of a local restaurant, after his persistent and loud belches cleared three tables.  Moon explained he’d been waiting a long time for a table and some of the customers had finished, but weren’t moving.  Right and wrong are vague concepts for Moon, carelessly applied.
My letter allowed Moon to bypass the Creating a Public Nuisance charge and climb the social ladder to the infinitely more respectable, “if you see his car at a restaurant, don’t go near the place.”  He got light community service, serving lunch an hour a day at the jail. He’d been bringing me herbs ever since.
         I have a couple of large, rambunctious rosemary bushes in terra cotta pots outside my door.  As I’m shoved into the cruiser, the big deputy walks over, pulls at the leaves and sniffs his fingers.  “This stuff legal?” he asks no one in particular.
         Moon balls his fists and starts toward him.  “It’s ok,” I yell, “He’s just never seen a plant before.”
         Moon stops. 
The thin deputy tells me, “Shut up and watch your head,” and pushes me the rest of the way in, scattering my bundle of clothes over the back seat.  Both deputies climb in the front.  Doors slam.
         “These restraints are too tight,” I say.  The thin plastic started to numb my fingers.
         “Shut up,” the big deputy says.
         I cough, harder than I need to, spraying the back of his neck. 
         He turns around, his eyes on fire, and uses his stick to rap hard against the steel mesh separating the front seat from the back.  In this case, the mesh is for my protection.  “Don’t do that again,” he says, with venom to spare.
         “Hey, my arms are behind my back.  I can’t help it.”  I cough again. This time the spray hits both deputies.
         The little guy slams on the brakes.  My face slams into the mesh, the same time as the big guy swings his stick. My face feels the sting of a thousand bees.  The little guy tells me if I try that again…the rest of the threat drifts.
A few miles later, we pull in front of the station. The big guy jerks me out of the backseat more roughly than he needs to.  An uncomfortable feeling snakes down my spine.  This has to be about last night.

Final words to faithful readers:  William Stroud, Amazon, Lowdown. Dirty. Shame.  Paperback and Kindle.  Be sure to write a brief review on Amazon!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ham and Cauliflower Soup: Simply Delicious

Where I live, it’s still sturdy soup weather.  Mornings and evening send a chill to the bone.  I sport scarves and gloves, along with designer sweaters and Gucci winter jackets.  Baloney, I’m not living in Paris!

But, I do wear all those accruements, minus the labels. Ok, go ahead and call me a whimp.  I’ve been called worse by red-faced men wearing uniforms and carrying weapons.  Fortunately, the fine wasn’t much and now I always remember my driver’s license.

But, what I really want to introduce you to is the result of playtime in my kitchen, with limited ingredients.  Turns out you can do a lot with a little and in this case it turned out more than a little delicious.  Served this soup to a captive audience, but I did untie one hand so she could use a spoon.  ONLY KIDDING!  I untied both hands.  STILL KIDDING! 

This is another of my fave low carb recipes.  Too often low carb translates to very high fat.  Not in this case.  Lean protein, a dash of heavy cream, a bit of butter, and the rest is vegetables.

Here it is: Simply Delicious Ham and Cauliflower Soup

1 Pound sliced lean ham, roughly cut into 1/2 inch squares, more or less
½ Pound freshly sliced mushrooms
1 Stalk of Celery, diced
12 Oz frozen cauliflower
6 Cups of organic chicken broth
Several drops of Liquid Smoke flavoring (Careful!  This stuff is powerful.)
¼ Cup heavy cream (optional, but I had it handy)
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Several sprigs of fresh thyme (I used 6 small sprigs), or 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

Melt a pat or two of butter in a large saucepan, add a dash or two of olive oil, and sauté the diced celery and sliced mushrooms until they are soft.  Add a teaspoon of salt.

Add the chicken broth, sprigs of thyme, and Liquid Smoke.  Bring to a boil.  Add the cauliflower and half the ham.

Now comes the fun part.  When the cauliflower is cooked, pick out and discard the sticks of fresh thyme, then use an immersible blender to blend everything into a thick liquid.  Turns out I don’t have an immersible blender, so I put a couple of cups at a time in a countertop blender and poured the results in a bowl, until everything was liquid. 

There is a drawback to putting scalding soup in a countertop blender.  As I found out.  Stick to blending one or two cups (at most) at a time.  Safer and less scalding.

Put the liquid soup back in the large saucepan, stir in the cream and the rest of the ham.  Add a dash of freshly ground pepper, if you want.

Voilá!  Pour the wine, serve your guests.  Another warning.  You’ll dream about this ham and cauliflower soup and wake up wanting it for breakfast.  So, make enough!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Heavenly Sausage and Eggs Casserole

Heavenly Sausage and Eggs (another sensational low carb recipe)

No, you have not had sausage and eggs like this supremely delicious offering.  Not at Denny’s, not at McWhat’s it, not in Aunt Julie’s Emporium for Holistic Eating and Meditation, although, you will be thinking about this meal for a long time. 

The secret is an unusual ingredient, not in the same sense as pickled Madagascar squirrel, or Chinese wrinkled yeast, just something not normally found in culinary association with sausage and eggs.

This is a dish you’ll want to serve for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  At lunch and dinner, I like to add a cucumber salad.  And afterwards a medicinal brandy or two.

Heavenly Sausage and Eggs

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)

Grease an 8 inch X 8 inch (20 cm X 20 cm) baking pan (glass or metal)

¾ Pound (300 g) loose sausage (I make my own. See below)
6 slices sandwich size Swiss cheese
1 Ball of fresh mozzarella di bufala cheese (about 1/3 pound, 125 g)
5 Eggs
1 Cup unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut juice or cream) Be sure to mix this well before using. Often the top of the can is thick and the bottom watery.
1 Green bell pepper, diced
1 Yellow bell pepper, diced
½ Red onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 Level teaspoon dried marjoram
1 Level teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
½ Teaspoon ground sage
Red pepper flakes

Ready to cook?

If you’re not using a commercial sausage:  Put ¾ pound ground pork, or beef, or a mixture in a bowl.  Add salt, pepper, and the dried herbs.  Toss in 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and mix well. Not trying to make this HOT, just enough red pepper to put a slight tingle on the tongue. 

For either commercial or homemade versions, add a little oil to a frying pan and fry the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula as much as possible. When it has lost it’s color and beginning to brown, take it off the heat and set it aside. You want the sausage cooked, but still juicy.

In another frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and fry the onion and bell peppers, only until wilted.  Set aside. (All you’re trying to do is cook the onion and peppers a little bit and also remove much of the water.)

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the coconut milk. Toss in salt and pepper to taste, along with just a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Mix well.

Putting It All Together in Three Layers:

Put only enough of the egg mixture in the baking pan to cover the bottom.  Sprinkle in 1/3 of the cooked sausage and peppers/onion mix.  Add more of the egg mixture, then more sausage and peppers/onions.  Lay the Swiss cheese slices to cover.  Add the remaining egg mixture.  Put the last of the sausage and peppers/onions on top.

Rip up the ball of mozzarella and scattered it evenly over the top.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until the center is firm and the top is beginning to brown. Hint:  just give the pan a little shake and you'll know if the center is firm.

Let the dish rest about ten minutes before serving.

Serve with Pinot Grigio, you wild man!  Even at breakfast?  Damn straight!