George Diamond’s: A Northwest Indiana Classic

            In 1924, Peter Levant’s opened what was one of Whiting’s famous “perch palaces,” a place that served freshly caught perch right from Lake Michigan. They also advertised such menu items as steak, chicken, and, of course, this being The Region, frog legs—mostly likely from nearby Lake George.

            Indeed, frog legs were so in demand that Vogel’s—which was just down the street and totally classy—raised their own frogs for legs in the lake. But that’s a different story.

            Located at 1247 Calumet Avenue, Levent’s became the home of Juster’s Charcoal Broiled Steaks and then later George Diamond’s. Though my mom liked to cook, my parents were totally into eating out as well and though its been years and years, I remember going with them to George Diamond’s. It was the kind of place where everything was overlarge—the steaks, the salads, the charcoal flames, and even the menus.

            That Diamond (yes, there was a George Diamond) even opened a place in Whiting shows the town’s status as a food destination. Indeed, around that time, there were a lot of great restaurants–and I’m sure I’m leaving a lot of places out–Vogel’s, Phil Smidt’s, Margaret’s Geneva House, Al Knapp’s Restaurant and Lounge, and the Roby Café. But Diamond was international. Besides his flagship restaurant at 630 S. Wabash Avenue in Chicago that was said to have cost over $1 million to renovate in a style I call 1950s swank, all red velvet and red upholstery, he had places in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Antioch, Illinois on a golf course, and Acapulco, Mexico.

            What I remember most was the house salad dressing which they bottled and sold on the premises. It was so unique that even now it has a cult-like online following with people  searching for the recipe.  It wasn’t Russian and it certainly wasn’t French or at least not the orangish French dressing we buy in bottles now. Diamond’s dressing was an almost translucent reddish pink. And if the recipe I found online is close to the original, it’s main ingredient was tomato soup.

  There’s nothing left of Diamond’s empire today. Diamond died in 1982 at age 80 and the building housing the Wabash Avenue restaurant went up in flames in 2006.  But people still remember that dressing.

George Diamond’s salad dressing

  • 1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup each: white vinegar, sugar
  • 1 small onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt, ground black pepper

Place undiluted soup, oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, onion and garlic in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cover and blend or process on high speed until pureed, about 2 minutes. Serve chilled. Store covered leftovers in refrigerator.

            I’ll be signing copies of my book Classic Restaurants of The Region at Miles Books. 2819 Jewett Avenue in Highland on Saturday, August 21st from 11:30-3pm. For more information, 219-838-8700.

               Hope to see you there.

Psychological thriller brings chills to the movie set

            Melissa Larsen and I are in total agreement. If a handsome movie director asks you to star in a reality-style movie set on an isolated island with just a crew and cast of five after an odd and awkward one-on-one screen test, there’s only one thing to do.  Just say no.

            Larsen is the author of “Shutter,” a psychological thriller whose central character is Betty Roux, a lost young beauty who has cast her previous life behind following her father’s suicide. She’s severed relationships with her boyfriend and mother, moved to New York with vague ambitions but no experience, of becoming an actress. Now she’s sleeping on the couch of her high school friend, someone she hasn’t seen in years. But in serendipitous connection, her friend’s husband works with Antony Marino whose first—and so far only—film has won accolades. Betty loves the movie, has watched it incessantly and soon finds herself auditioning for the starring role. That she gets it is a surprise as she has no acting experience at all.

            Of course, she doesn’t say no.

            “I don’t think I would have either at that age,” says Larsen.

            If this were a romance novel, then the entrance of Marino, would lead to the inevitable happy ending. But Larsen’s tale is much darker than that. If Betty wasn’t in such a funk of grief, she might see the warning signs which are more like flashing neon lights. The job entails filming on a remote island off the coast of Maine with a cast and crew consistently of a total of five.

Really, what could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, just about everything.

            “Somebody asked me what advice I would give Betty and I said I’d tell her to run,” says Larsen, who previously held high level, high stress jobs working for a talent agency in Los Angeles and then for a New York publisher. But she had started writing a novel in college and wanted to try writing again. “Shutter” is her first novel, and it has already garnered praise with the New York Times Book Review calling it a “chilling debut novel” and making Pop Sugar’s list of most anticipated novels.

            Developing the plot for “Shutter” was like a very fluid brain storm says Larsen detailing her creative process.

            “I’m a very image-based writer, and the first thing I saw was Betty covered in blood asking me for help,” she says recounting how she plotted the book. “So I decided to start writing with that in mind. It was like I was seeing a billboard in the distance,  and I kept walking towards it.”

How to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott

A funeral at a posh island resort isn’t supposed to be fun, but in Lexie Elliott’s new mystery, How to Kill Your Best Friend, it’s more than sad, it’s deadly. And complicated.

         Georgie, Bronwyn, and Lissa are close friends having swam competitively together in college. But there long have been undercurrents in the relationships particularly after Bronwyn had an affair with Lissa’s first husband now deceased.

“Lissa, the strongest swimmer of them all, has somehow drowned off the coast of the fabulous island resort she owned with her husband,” says Elliott, who tells the story through the eyes of Georgie and Bronwyn. The two are among a group of mourners—all with interconnecting ties going back to college. But beyond the grieving are questions—and soon violence. Georgie is attacked and both she and Bron begin receiving threatening messages. Plus, there are so many secrets including whether the posh resort is going bankrupt. But even more so, are questions about what really happened. After all, why would Lissa swim in an area known for its deadly currants and is she really dead? And why did Georgie believe that the only way to stop Lissa from murdering again was to figure out the best way to kill her.

A sudden storm hits the island, cutting them off from the mainland and leaving the friends to figure out whether Lissa is really dead or not and who can they trust as the winds crash through windows and turn glass and roofing into weapons while the rains pelt down. 

Like the characters in her book, Elliott says her life has always been steeped in chlorine.

“I swam competitively through my school years and represented Oxford University in both swimming and water polo,” she says. “I first dabbled in open water swimming whilst at Oxford and won the Scottish Open Water Championships in the year 2000. Post university, I switched across to triathlons, but after I had my first child, I dipped my toe back into the open water swimming scene and ultimately swam solo across the English Channel in 2007. It took me twelve and a half hours and it was very cold and very far; whilst I’m delighted to have done it, I have no intention of ever doing it again.”

Elliott may be the last person one would expect to be writing mystery-thrillers. She holds a doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford and had worked as an investment banker with her husband and two children in London. But when she was downsized during the Global Financial Crisis, she decided to pursue writing—a long time dream. This is her third novel and though now she’s back at work, she is already finishing up the next. She can’t divulge the plot except to say it involves Oxford and the French Alps.

VIRTUAL EVENT: Mary Adkins author of Palm Beach on Zoom

This Tuesday, join Mary Adkins in a free Zoom event at 6 p.m. (CDT) as she is joined in conversation with Lucas Schaefer to discuss her latest book, Palm Beach (Harper 2021).

As described by BookPeople, this thought-provoking page-turner from the author of When You Read This and Privilege is a powerful novel that uniquely captures the painful divide between the haves and have-nots and the seductive lure of the American dream, and is perfect for readers of Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and Emma Straub.

Living in a tiny Queens apartment, Rebecca and her husband Mickey typify struggling, 30-something New Yorkers—he’s an actor, and she’s a freelance journalist. But after the arrival of their baby son, the couple decides to pack up and head for sunny, comfortable Palm Beach, where Mickey’s been offered a sweet deal managing the household of a multimillionaire Democratic donor.

Once there, he quickly doubles his salary by going to work for a billionaire: venture capitalist Cecil Stone. Rebecca, a writer whose beat is economic inequality, is initially horrified: she pillories men like Stone, a ruthless businessman famous for crushing local newspapers. So no one is more surprised than her when she accepts a job working for Cecil’s wife as a ghostwriter, thinking of the excellent pay and the rare, inside look at this famous Forbes-list family. What she doesn’t expect is that she’ll grow close to the Stones, or become a regular at their high-powered dinners. And when a medical crisis hits, it’s the Stones who come to their rescue, using their power, influence, and wealth to avert catastrophe.

As she and Mickey are both pulled deeper into this topsy-turvy household, they become increasingly dependent on their problematic benefactors. Then when she discovers a shocking secret about the Stones, Rebecca will have to decide: how many compromises can one couple make?

EVENT GUIDELINES

  • Digital Doors Open at approx. 5:50PM CDT on August 10, 2021
  • Event Begins at 6:00PM CDT.
  • Cost: Free

NOTE: Because this is a virtual event that will be hosted on Zoom, you will need access to a computer or other device that is capable of accessing and sufficient Internet access. If you have not used Zoom before, you may consider referencing Getting Started with Zoom.

To register, click here.

Reviews

“Mary Adkins’ PALM BEACH is a rare page-turner that gives you all the fun and decadence of a beach read while exploring the relevant issues around wealth inequity. I opened it up and could not stop reading!”
Jessica Anya Blau, author of Mary Jane

“A look inside the world of the ultra-rich, PALM BEACH offers up moral complexity, page-turning plotting, and deep insight into motherhood and family. Delicious, addictive, whip-smart and full of heart.”
Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen

“Delves into the world of Florida’s wealthy excess. . . . it’ll keep readers turning the pages.” -Publishers Weekly

“A smart page-turner.” –
Palm Beach Daily News


ABOUT MARY ADKINS

Mary Adkins is the author of When You Read This and Privilege. A native of the American South and a graduate of Duke University and Yale Law School, her writing has appeared in the New York Times and The Atlantic. She also teaches storytelling for The Moth. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

ABOUT LUCAS SCHAEFER

Lucas Schaefer’s work has appeared in The BafflerSlateOne StoryOff Assignment, and elsewhere. He has been a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, and a writer-in-residence at the Corsicana Artist & Writer Residency, where he was the recipient of a GW Jackson Multicultural Society grant, given to artists invested in exploring race in their work. He lives with his husband in Austin, where he is at work on a novel. Find him on Twitter @LucasESchaefer.


About BookPeople

BookPeople has been the leading independent bookstore in Texas since 1970. Located in the heart of downtown, BookPeople has been voted best bookstore in Austin for over 20 years. BookPeople was voted Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly in 2005. With visits from some of the most interesting and important authors of the past 50 years, as well as by Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, BookPeople is the destination bookstore in Texas.

Location 

BookPeople is located at the corner of 6th & Lamar. We’re right across the street from Waterloo Records and in the same complex as REI & Anthropologie.BookPeople
603 N. Lamar
Austin, TX 78703

512-472-5050

By purchasing a book from BookPeople, you are not only supporting a local, independent business, but you are also showing publishers that they should continue sending authors to BookPeople.

Thank you for supporting Mary Adkins, Lucas Schaefer, and your local independent bookstore!

National Book Lovers Day: Celebrate By Learning to Download Books for Free

August 9 is National Book Lovers Day, a celebration for book worms everywhere. And lucky for us, our public library has its own collection of ebooks and audiobooks that we can download for free.
Libby, the leading library reading app by OverDrive, lets users download ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, comics, and more at no cost. All you need to get started is a library card—and even if you don’t have one, an Instant Digital Card can be yours in 30 seconds with just a phone number. 

Besides being able to borrow digital titles, OverDrive launched a new monthly blog series this July showing June’s top ten most popular books that had been borrowed digitally from the public library on Libby. Now in August, they’re sharing July’s top ten. On the list, you’ll find frequent New York Times bestsellers including Daniel Silva and Danielle Steel. Also among the Top Ten is T.J. Newman with their stunning instant #1 bestselling debut title, Falling.

As a reminder, Professional Book Nerds podcast always previews the upcoming month’s buzziest new books as well, and you can listen to their August episode right here. You can find July’s most popular new releases in the list below.

The top ten new books from July

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Falling by T.J. Newman


The Cellist by Daniel Silva


It’s Better This Way by Debbie Macomber

Nine Lives by Danielle Steel

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory


The Therapist by B. A. Paris

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs


Fallen by Linda Castillo

Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf Blind Pink Puppy and His Family

          Melissa Shapiro could have said no when asked to foster a deaf, blind, and traumatized puppy. After all, Shapiro, a veterinarian with a busy practice already had six rescue dogs, a husband and three college-aged children in her home. She certainly didn’t have the time, energy, or room to take on a highly anxious  puppy who weighed less than two pound and whose pink color has earned him the name of Piglet.

         But Shapiro said yes to the dog. And though it initially wasn’t easy she and her family didn’t give up. She recounts Piglet’s transformation from a fearful and reclusive animal into a happy, confident pooch with his own Facebook page and Instagram account in her just released book, Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf Blind Pink Puppy and His Family.

         “I am a very routine oriented person,” says Shapiro who lives in Connecticut. “My other dogs happily integrate into my daily schedule which makes having so many relatively easy. When Piglet arrived, he literally turned things upside down. He had no idea where he was or what to expect, so he screamed and carried on for hours a day.”

         And so to help Piglet adapt, Shapiro adapted as well, changing her schedule to accommodate Piglet’s needs. It was tough at first and the family, though dedicated to doing what was best for Piglet, worried just how much attention and accommodation he would continue to need as he got older. But like the Beatle song, “All You Need is Love,” the Shapiros  found that Piglet quickly responded  to lots of hugs, a predictable daily schedule, and their friendly pack of rescued canines.

         “The other dogs were very accommodating to Piglet,” says Shapiro. “They learned to play with him  gently, and they brought him into their playtime, being careful to include him when he lost track of where they were.”

         In three months, his screams had subsided as he became more and more comfortable with his new life. Videos on Piglet’s You Tube Channel happily playing with dogs at least twice his size. And his endearing, sweet personality has made Piglet a rock star with a large social media reach including 256,000 Instagram and 181,000 Facebook followers.

         “My initial idea when adopting Piglet was to raise awareness for rescued dogs and specifically disabled dogs and other animals,” says Shapiro. “Piglet’s Facebook page and then Instagram account were effective platforms for increasing exposure and fundraising for rescue organizations. Our Piglet Mindset™ educational program began early on so we had a dual purpose for our social media accounts. As the educational outreach grew and expanded, followers were eager to support our work with donations. Creating our nonprofit organization, Piglet International Inc., was the next step in growing Piglet Mindset and continuing to educate and advocate for dogs with disabilities.”

         Like many stars, Piglet loves having an audience and laps up being the center of attention. Because he needs all that plus almost constant physical affection, the family takes him almost everywhere they go.

Though that can be somewhat limiting, Shapiro says she doesn’t mind.

“He is a happy little dog,” she says. “He brings joy to everything he does, and he has a way of making sure we all join him and pause for a smile. Piglet has turned out to be a sweet, happy, and inspiring little dog for people all around the world. I have absolutely no regrets. It’s a lot of fun to be his mom.”

To learn more about Piglet, Piglet Mindset™ educational outreach, visit PigletMindset.org. Follow Piglet on Facebook at Piglet, the deaf blind pink puppy, and Instagram- @pinkpigletpuppy

Piglet Virtual Events

What: Join Piglet and Melissa Shapiro at upcoming Zoom events. The events are free. To register, visit www.pigletthedog.com and go to the events page.

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