My first novel, Friend of the Devil, tells the story of America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, who has cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, in 1990 Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.
The story is told through the eyes of David fox, a freelance journalist who arrives in Florida to do a piece on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the Avenzano’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.
Many people have asked me if this is a story based on life experience. To a large extent it is, although the inspiration came from a chef I worked with in a different city and at another time. Autobiographical material is the hardest to work with, because it cuts in two directions: it provides a vivid story filled with compelling detail, but writers frequently find that they are too close to the material to render it clearly. In this case it was a tale I carried around with me for decades, until I was finally able to spit it out.
Another frequently asked question is whether or not I found the material to be disturbing. The answer is yes: I consider myself to be a spiritual person, so it was difficult to deal with many situations and themes in the book. However, the process of dealing with them, of questioning beliefs I thought I had, actually strengthened those beliefs in many cases.
I hope you enjoy Friend of the Devil, because it was a long time coming. Hopefully it won’t haunt you as badly as it haunted me.
About the Author
Mark Spivak is an award-winning author, specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants, and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, as well as the Food Editor for Palm Beach Illustrated; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on http://www.palmbeachillustrated.com. His work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. From 1999-2011 Spivak hosted Uncorked! Radio, a highly successful wine talk show on the Palm Beach affiliate of National Public Radio.
Spivak is the author of two non-fiction books: Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). Friend of the Devil is his first novel. He is currently working on a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq.
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