Fun with Friends
Alexander McCall Smith's latest tome takes mystery to heart
Like your favorite hoodie, Alexander McCall Smith's Friends, Lovers, Chocolate: The Sunday Philosophy Club is warm, familiar and comforting. The second entry in Smith's best-selling detective series The Sunday Philosophy Club finds heroine-sleuth Isabel Dalhousie, editor of The Review of Applied Ethics and part-time deli manager, investigating mysteries of the heart, literally and figuratively. One case involves a recent transplant recipient who suffers from freakish flashes from his donor's life -- an apropos subject for medical ethics professor Smith. But there are no CSI-type crime minutiae here: Smith's feel-good, playful mystery romp doesn't require a glossary, just a cozy place to sit and enjoy a guilty pleasure. Smith speaks at the Mystery Author Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, September 23, at the Briar Club, 2603 Timmons. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit www.murderbooks.com. $30. He will also sign Friends, Lovers, Chocolate at 7 p.m. Friday at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-523-0701 or visit www.brazosbookstore.com. Free. -- Mary Templeton
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
My buddy Keith and I are at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival on a sweaty Saturday afternoon, where hundreds of hotheads are perusing the fiery offerings. We're drawn over to Jim Campbell, who drove in from Indiana for the fest and is in full firefighter gear. (His hat even says, "Yes, I'm a Real Firefighter.") His Mild to Wild Pepper Co. sauces include Hot, Very Hot, Stupid Hot and Unbearable, which has won the People's Choice award for Hottest Sauce the last two years. Natch, we head straight for the Unbearable. A couple of hip twentysomethings, Minh and Cary, join us. "Let's do this!" yells Minh as Fireman Jim doles out Unbearable sauce on our chips. We count to three (like we're taking shots), pop the chips in our mouths and wait. A crowd is gathering to watch us"
Then, about 20 seconds later, it hits. Keith and I are shaking. Tears are streaming down our faces. It won't stop. I down my $2 lemonade (note to entrepreneurs: selling drinks at a hot sauce fest is quite the racket) in three gulps. As I look around, everything's distorted. Minh's talking to me, but I can't hear her. I can't move my legs. My earlobes are melting. Keith threatens to eat the dirt on the floor to stave off the burn. My eyes are bulging. It's like a religious experience -- if your religion involves gargling napalm or eating fiery coals. I think I'm seeing God. If I ever make it through this, I'll never touch hot sauce again, I promise myself.
About ten minutes later, we stagger back to Campbell's table. "What did you do to us?" I ask him.
"Your body's under attack," he explains. "So it releases a bunch of endorphins to relieve you."
"Dude," says Keith. "We were high."
"So," I ask Jim, "do you take credit cards?" -- Steven Devadanam
A Real Scream
You scream on roller coasters; you scream at your honey; you scream during, well, you know. So why not scream at a car dealership? Your pipes can get you in the movies. The organizers of the Silver Scream Horror Festival are looking for blood-curdling-horror-movie-type shriekers. Show up and screech Saturday, September 24, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at David Taylor Cadillac (9120 Southwest Freeway); 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Lawrence Marshall Buick (Loop 610 at Kirby); and 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at McGinnis Hummer (12231 Katy Freeway). If judge Edwin Neal, who played the hitchhiker in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, likes your scream, you'll be featured in a flick that will screen at October's Silver Scream Festival. For information, visit www.silverscreams.org. Free. -- Steven Devadanam