Murder at the Blue Plate Cafe, Judy Alter

Many thanks to Marilyn for giving me a chance to talk about my new series, Blue Plate Mysteries.
I love being an author, but the truth is that in another life I would be a chef and a restaurant owner—or should I say in my next life, I “will” be. I love to cook, and I’ve always longed to run a small restaurant that serves the kind of food I like—sandwiches with innovative fillings, soups, salads, sort of tea room food with a twist. But I know that owning a restaurant easily leads to disaster and potential financial ruin, so for several years I scratched that itch by helping out once a week at The Star Café, located in Fort Worth’s Stockyards National Historic District and owned by good friends Don and Betty Boles. It’s no tea room. Specialties of the house are steak, chicken-fried steak, and really good hamburgers. The clientele are mostly but not all from the cowboy side of Fort Worth’s culture, including many whom plan to go dancing later in the night and others who come to have supper before the latest show at Billy Bob’s, that extravaganza of a club/dance hall/bar where the best country/western singers perform, including Willie Nelson.
At The Star, I ran the cash register, seated and visited with guests, rolled endless quantities of silverware. Sometimes I served salads and even occasional meals, though I never could arm carry—stack a row of plates on my arm to take to a table. With me, it was strictly one dish in one hand and another in the other. The kitchen was so small it surprised me, but it had several work stations and, depending on the night, seemed to work well. My oldest son, who worked in restaurants since he was fifteen, worked there briefly while finishing up college as a nontraditional (older) student and declared it an efficient work space. In short, I got to see both the fun of restaurant life and its perils. And I learned about kitchens and menus and charming customers and difficult ones.
All that poured into my newest mystery series, The Blue Plate Mysteries. The first book,
Murder at the Blue Plate Café, launched the week of February 11 as an e-book with print copies due soon. The Blue Plate Café series is not based on The Star but on a restaurant in a small East Texas town where my family and I ate frequently while visiting close friends who had a ranch nearby. The Shed in Edom serves much the same kind of food as The Star. I remembered the interior of the café perfectly and tried to recreate it in words. But for the kitchen scenes I was seeing in my mind the kitchen at The Star and the camaraderie in it. Murder at the Blue Plate Café was fun to write because I had all that background in my head. I hope it shows in the book.
            But please don’t mistake the happenings in Wheeler, a fictional town, for those in Edom or its neighbor, Ben Wheeler. I’m sure those two towns have never had murders and scandals such as those in Wheeler.

Murder at the Blue Plate Café Blurb:
When twin sisters Kate and Donna inherit their grandmother’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Cafe, in Wheeler, Texas, there’s immediate conflict. Donna wants to sell and use her money to establish a B&B; Kate wants to keep the cafe. Thirty-two-year-old Kate leaves a Dallas career as a paralegal and a married lover to move back to Wheeler and run the café, while Donna plans her B&B and complicates her life by having an affair with her sole investor.
Kate soon learns that Wheeler is not the idyllic small town she thought it was fourteen years ago. The mayor, a woman, is power-mad and listens to no one, and the chief of the police department, newly come from Dallas, doesn’t understand small-town ways. Worst of all, blunt, outspoken Donna is not well liked by some town folk.
The mayor of Wheeler becomes seriously ill after eating food from the café, delivered by Donna’s husband, and the death of another patron makes Kate even more suspicious of her grandmother’s sudden death.  When Donna’s investor is shot, all fingers point to Donna and she is arrested. Kate must defend her sister and solve the murders to keep her business open, but even Kate begins to wonder about the sister she has a love-hate relationship with. Gram guides Kate through it all, though Kate’s never quite sure she’s hearing Gram—and sometimes Gram’s guidance is really off the wall.

Judy Alter’s Bio:

          An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of three books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, she moves from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.
Before turning her attention to mystery, Judy wrote fiction and nonfiction, mostly about women of the American West, for adults and young-adult readers. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame at the Fort Worth Public Library.


 (From Marilyn, this book sounds delightful. Thanks for visiting Judy and telling us all about it.)


J Q Rose said…
Hey Judy, your book sounds like it's packed full of action and lots of colorful characters. I like reading books about small towns. Needless to say I worked at cafes/restaurants when I was a teen for spending money. My dad's advice was always bring a glass of ice water to the customer and keep it full because I started working in the hot summers in Central IL. Your experience will certainly offer believable settings. Best wishes!

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