Crazy Ladies – Michael Lee West

I bought this book after tripping over “She Flew the Coop” in a random store in Madrid. I absolutely needed to read her first book, and then while I was looking for a link to insert into this post, found the following on Mrs. West‘s website. It says it all.

A few summers ago, I began searching for the perfect recipe for Red Velvet Cake. I measured, baked, and consumed until I couldn’t fit into my clothes and my fingers were permanently stained by food coloring. But the recipe eluded me.

I was born into a family of dedicated Southern foodies, people who think nothing of driving hours for spiced Alabama sausage, shrimp etouffée in New Orleans, or Carolina barbecue.

My oldest son is a professional chef, and he was lucky to attend Johnson & Wales when the school was still in Charleston. Trey advised me to visit the Low Country. I was just about to start a novel about wacky Tennessee sisters, and normally I like to stay home and eat Twizzlers while thinking about my characters-to-be. But off we went to Charleston.  

That night, tucked into my rented bed by the sea, a character named Teeny Templeton wandered into my dreams. She was a sassy, brown-eyed blonde with a penchant for throwing fruit at wayward boyfriends. 

The whole time I was in the Low Country, Teeny talked non-stop. “Let me tell you about my bulldog,” she said. Then she wanted to exchange recipes. When she promised to help me with my quest for Red Velvet Cake, I gave in. 

“Okay,” I told her. “You can stay. But I won’t write about you.”

“Thank goodness,” she said. “I’m a backsliding Baptist. And I can eat my way through more bags of Twizzlers than you. Plus, I don’t have a drop of regret.”

My first novel, Crazy Ladies, came to me in a dream. Ever since, I’d been waiting for a character to pay me a nocturnal visit. Writers pay attention to their dreams because the subconscious is a collaborator. We wait for the moment when a dialogue begins with the book—because that means a dialogue with the main character can’t be far behind. 

I thought Teeny would tell me a story about her quirky aunts or offer a Red Velvet recipe that somehow incorporated peaches, but she had other plans. Her boyfriend had turned up dead and all fingers pointed at Teeny. Plus, the body count was rising.

“You’ve got to get me out of this,” she said. “And you’ll need more than red food coloring.”

I brought Teeny home, then I made her aunt’s Red Velvet cake. I cut a huge slice, then opened a notebook and wrote Gone With a Handsomer Man on the first page. I held on for dear life while she whirled through adventures and unusual recipes. I hope you will join Teeny as she cooks her way through love, death, and Red Velvet cakes.

Sweet dreams,

Michael Lee West

I read it and loved it, just like her first. Another soft-toned mystery, love stories folding into love stories, a few recipes (I could have had more, to tell you the truth), a romantic leap and a peek into a hippy’s lifestyle in those days. Quarrelling sisters, mothers that love those they hate, a fantastic, comforting Mrs. Gussie and ..well, a bunch of Crazy Ladies. Just like the title suggests.

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