Caramelised Chicken Tuna and Alix Bosco

Written By Lingkar Dunia on Sunday, March 13, 2011 | 8:03 PM

Thanks to book-blogger Graham Beattie, I have a recipe for dinner for four for tomorrow night

Turning, as I usually do over that first mug of coffee, to Beattie's Book Blog for the latest in the New Zealand books scene, I was delighted to find that he had solved a problem -- what to cook for guests tomorrow night. 

The recipe, which sounds absolutely delish, is for Caramelised Chicken Tuna, and is quoted in his rave review of an upcoming cookbook, Home at 7, Dinner at 8, by Sophie Wright.

Not only is it cheap and scrumptious-sounding, but it's easy.  You make a nifty marinade with a list of ingredients that are in any normal pantry (soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, plus a couple of spices), soak the chook legs for a bit, and then throw the lot in a roasting pan with vine tomatoes and chunks of red onion.

So easy, it sounds relaxing.  And because of this relaxation of the mind, I found myself reflecting on the mysterious and pseudonymous thriller writer who won the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for a debut book, Cut and Run.

Yes, I am talking about the mysterious and pseudonymous Alix Bosco.

Not so long ago, I speculated that s/he was actually a he, the he being the wellknown and successful playwright, Greg McGee.  It was a neat theory, or so I thought, but McGee himself blew it out of the water, by admitting he was flattered, but not flattered enough to let my theory live on.  Instead of merely grinning mysteriously, he revealed that he is not, emphatically not, the pseudonymous etc. Alix Bosco.

While I still haven't read Cut and Run, I picked up a copy of the sequel, Slaughter Falls, to keep me company on a couple of flights.

It promised to be riveting reading.  According to the blurb, "When Anna Markunas comes to Brisbane to watch a rugby test, two members of her tour party suffer a sudden, violent death."  Never a truer word, or so I found out -- "violent" is exactly the word I would choose.  To be specific, the first death (of an ex-All Black run very much to seed) is caused by an exceedingly graphic mauling by bull sharks in a Brisbane canal.

By sheer coincidence, I was in Brisbane airport when I read this bit, with lots of local Aussies handy to tell me about bull sharks.  'Unlikely,' most of them snorted, though I did wonder if they were silently wondering if it was really a good idea to go water skiing next weekend.   That discussion over, I read on, to learn more than expected about the state I was flying over.  The book, as promised by the back cover, is a foray "into the dark world of Queensland's corrupt underbelly" (which may be more real than the sharks, or so a lawyer from New South Wales darkly informed me).  As well as crisp writing, it certainly has pace.  I did wonder if the author had spent too many late nights devouring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an imaginative sadistic revenge providing the ending, but the book did its job by passing the monotonous time away very well indeed.

The trouble with mysterious and pseudonymous authors, though, is that the reader is constantly distracted by a search for clues to the writer's true identity -- particularly a reader whose previous theory was sundered so spectacularly by M'sieu McGee.  I became more convinced than ever, for instance, that the writer is a man, simply because of the muscularity of the prose.  Additionally, or so I decided, he is a middle-aged man.  While the novel is sharply pictured in the present, internet and www and all, the events stem from scandals of the 1980s.  As the pages flipped by, I gained the impression, in fact, that this was an old novel, perhaps stowed in the bottom of a drawer until the writer hauled it out and deftly reworked it.

The male writer. The women have beehive hair-dos and wear matador pants.  Believe me, that is the first thing a female writer would have updated.

Additionally, the writer is a foodie.  The mauling of the sharks was memorable indeed, but what impressed me most about the book was the lovingly described food.  There is even a character who is a food writer . . . who is accompanied on his restaurant-test trips by a woman he calls "the Blonde."

So it was really quite logical that printing off a recipe for a marinade mix should remind me of the mystery of Alix Bosco.


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