Eating Authors: Stephen Cox

No Comments » Written on March 29th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
Stephen Cox

March is winding down, spring has sprung, Passover has indeed passed, and Pepsico has chosen to herald Easter Sunday in this time of worldwide pandemic with a Pepsi-Peep blend of über-sweet marshmallow soda. That last one has me truly horrified.

In less cloying news, I’ve completed my latest novel, Pirates of Marz, and sent it off to the Typo Team for their precision examination. With luck, the book will be available on Amazon the first week of April. Meanwhile, I’ve shifted my focus to writing Ace of Thralls, book three in my Freelance Courier series.

All of which means I’ll have published three books (and one short story) in three months. Not a bad first quarter. And speaking of first quarters, there’s a thread I follow on the online board of the Codexwriters website where novelists check in and encourage one another every quarter. I mention this because it’s where I encountered this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Stephen Cox, who recently finished his own novel and is waiting to hear back from editors (ugh, don’t get me started).

Stephen began writing his first book in 2012 and discovered how addicting it can be. He currently lives in London with his partner and two teenage children. He describes himself as a professional communicator, a science PhD dropout, a recovering poet, a Quaker, and a human. These strike me as more than adequate credentials for a novelist. Don’t call him Steve.

LMS: Welcome, Stephen. Talk to me, please, about your most memorable meal.

SC: I was determined that our last family holiday would be taking my son and daughter to the States. The year he went to university. The plan was not just NYC and DC, which the kids wanted, but small-town USA too. We loved Seneca Falls, and ate salt beef sandwiches in a real American diner, with people we had seen in the shops and the museums popping in for their coffee. Storekeepers chatted. A lovely day.

Then there was the day we visited Corpse, New York, for a chow stop. We chose it on a whim.

Our Child of the Stars

Not its real name, a one street settlement with a diner and a pizza place. Too small to have a strange little museum or a singular local pride — “Third largest earwax collection in the State.” Four bored teens with bikes stood guard at one end of the town.

There was no one else about, unless driving through. It was a late lunchtime, the pizza place did not open till evening, and the diner was empty. Three staff looked at us as if we had crawled out of the black lagoon.

We checked they were open, as the unlocked door, open sign, and staff doing nothing implied they were.

They wiped down a table with something that could have stunned Godzilla, a stink so bad we had to move table. That was a mistake — they wiped that one too, only this time in a worse temper.

We ordered. American service staff can switch on small talk with ease. Nothing. Any colder in atmosphere and I would have looked for a polar bear. I wondered if we had run over their dog and they were too polite to tell us.

We’ve had better burgers from a rusty van by the side of the road. The chef’s salad was water-soaked lettuce with a single sliver of julienned carrot about an inch long.

Maybe it was the burgundy pickup we were driving? The car hire people made a mistake and upgraded us, so we toured rural New York in style.

A Child of Two Worlds

We had seen Confederate flags as we drove. In New York. An election was coming.

And then it struck us. How would you know if you were in a Stephen King novel?

No one driving through stopped here, even for gas. It was summer but no child played or demanded ice cream. The Stars and Stripes flew here but not bright and optimistic like it had been in other places. Everything was resentful, waiting, A film set. A trap.

You may visit Corpse, but you won’t leave.

What’s in the burger, my son asked. Or who?

We started to think of Sweeney Todd. Of green tentacles in cellars… An ancient curse.

We got the giggles, traded jokes in whispers, and that just worsened the mood.

They had run out of ice cream for the pie. This had to be a parallel universe. No smile was cracked, no questions asked. We tipped. We wanted to get out alive.

The teens and the bikes were still there. Waiting for orders.

Leaving, the town shuddered to be rid of us, and the unwritten story played on…

Thanks, Stephen. Speaking only for myself, I have to say, I’d have tossed cash on the table and rushed back to the rental car as soon as the lack of ice cream became apparent. Pie à la mode sans la crème glacée isn’t just unfashionable, it’s demonic!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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