Food on the road

Hi there, ‘Rati readers!

Please join me in welcoming Rhys Bowen today. Her three series have been nominated for every major mystery award and she’s won quite a few of them. Whether it’s Constable Evans solving crimes in the mountains of Wales or the feisty Molly Murphy sleuthing in turn-of-the-century New York City, Bowen’s protagonists are both memorable and believable. Her newest, The Royal Spyness series, features Lady Georgie — a minor royal in 1930s England. Royal Flush is in bookstores this month. 
See you next week,


Book tours always sounded so glamorous: being whisked across the country, staying at first class hotels with an escort and an expense account. I would fantasize about them back in the days when I drove myself, and a couple of fellow fledgling writers, from town to town, staying at El Cheapo motel and eating at the local sandwich shop.

But the reality is that the hotel breakfast buffet may be extraordinary but the car comes for me at four thirty a.m. and the only breakfast I grab is a bagel after I pass through security. I long for a nice leisurely lunch but my escort reminds me that we have four more stores to hit before my evening event and they are quite a distance apart. (In Dallas last year we put over 200 miles on the clock in one day of signing at chain stores). And as for dinner, forget it. I don’t feel like eating at five, which is before I get ready for my evening event, and I am too wiped out to each much when I return to the hotel at nine-thirty, or, worse still, find myself back at the airport for yet another flight.

And those elegant hotel rooms? They may have antiques and a powder room to die for but I’m only interested in a hot shower and a bed. And quiet outside. I wish they’d rate hotels by noise level. Last year I was a block away from a baseball stadium and they finished up the evening with fireworks. At first I thought that a gang war had erupted but then the whole sky lit up for half an hour.

So I’ve learned to stash power bars and bananas in my suitcase and to seek out sushi when I have a chance to snatch a bite. Sushi tastes clean and refreshing and it slips down easily when I don’t want to eat anything.

And I think back to those days when my signing tours were long car trips. My husband John and I crossed the entire country three times, once returning across the whole of Canada. And each of those trips was chock-full of experiences, including gastronomic ones. Along the way I discovered that lattes vanish at the Nevada border, that food outside of metropolitan areas becomes cholesterol suicide. All that chicken-fried steak and biscuits with red gravy and salad that is iceberg lettuce hidden under glops of thousand island dressing are certainly bad for the arteries. But there are great experiences too—eating fish fry at Alice’s restaurant in Charleston, SC, where we were the only white diners and everyone made us welcome, eating lobster on a rain-soaked dock in Maine, soft shelled crab and a three dollar bucket of clams on another dock in Maryland.

The point is that these trips were always adventures. They always involved meeting people very different from me, seeing sights I would never have sought out—the corn palace in South Dakota, an Amish gathering in Pennsylvania, a lone horseman moving through bleak high country in Wyoming. Or how about the hour-long radio interview I did from a Ford dealership in Fostoria, Ohio, being constantly interrupted by messages on the loudspeaker saying that Mr. Soandso was wanted in the service bay, or the mystery train in Wisconsin, trying to talk to a carriage full of people while I fought to keep my balance as we bounced and rattled along the track?

Too bad I don’t write about the USA, because I’d have plenty of material.

Many thanks to Murderati for letting me visit your blog. This month I’m celebrating the publication of my new Royal Spyness book called Royal Flush. I’m also running a contest for those who read this blog and respond via my website: basket of English teatime goodies and other great prizes. Visit


13 thoughts on “Food on the road

  1. tess gerritsen

    rhys, this was my kind of post. One thing I look forward to during book tour is eating out. I always hope the schedule allows for a few free evenings here and there, just so I can make a beeline for a great restaurant. I’ve eaten ribs in Memphis, wiener schnitzel in Vienna, and like you, lots of sushi, sushi, sushi whenever I can get it. It’s my standby.

  2. Chuck

    Welcome! What a fun blog. While I don’t know anything about book signings, I do travel quite a bit, and there’s not much glamorous about any of it. Are most of your signings well attended? That’s one of my cold-sweat nightmares: sitting in a Barnes & Noble and hearing crickets. Yikes!

    Enjoyed the blog. Thank you.

  3. Louise Ure

    Hi Rhys! As I mentioned to you this weekend, my go-to tour food is a tiny can of V-8 juice. It works for any meal. And if you only get the sound of crickets at a signing, as Chuck asks above, it’s the perfect starter for a poor-pitiful-me Bloody Mary afterwards.

    Best of luck with the newest Georgie. She’s a winner.

  4. pari noskin taichert

    It’s great to have you here today.

    My go-to food on longer trips is Whole Foods turkey jerky — quick, low fat protein. The WF brand is the tastiest I’ve found; it’s light and lasts.

  5. kit

    I have this weird thing…where experiences are more interesting and fun in retrospect…at the time, I’m just trying to get through it.
    good luck to you on your new book, and I hope you take away lots of good memories.kit

  6. Pepper Smith

    As a newer author, I find the idea of a book tour somewhat intimidating. Your post hasn’t changed my mind on that, lol!

    I should have a copy of Royal Flush on Thursday, all things going to plan. Looking forward to reading it!

  7. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rhys

    Lovely to have you here at Murderati! I’m with you and Tess on the sushi. We love it and seek it out constantly when travelling. Oddly, the best sushi we’ve had recently was at Blue in Omaha, NE – about as far away from a coastline as you can get …

    When on the road, I always carry a bag of sultanas and toasted almonds, which is a great snack and has frequently stood in for full-blown meals without my stomach thinking my throat’s been cut.

    Best of luck with the new book. I second Louise – it sounds like another winner ;-]

  8. Rhys

    It’s always scary for newbie authors setting out on bookstore. I can remember signings when only one or two people showed up. One is the worst–either you have to give the complete spiet or you suggest that you, the audience of one and the CRC all repair to the nearest bar for an hour. These days I can usually guarantee a fairly good audience, even on bad weather days. I had nice turnout in both Houston and Scottsdale that were under heat advisories. But one of the reasons to tour with another author when you are just starting out is that you get to drink wine and laugh together after horrible events (like the time we had to kiss a pig)


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