A Recipe Worth The Weight by Lt. Col. Presleigh Sanders 350 pp.

Reviewed by Armen Chakmakjian for mynamemeansflintstone weekly

Clem Mitchell loves fried chicken but his fourth trip that week to the local Dumplingʼs Chicken in Crawfordville proved to be his undoing. Presleigh Saunders presents us with a vivid portrayal of the collision of eastern and western culture in northern Florida. Sanders, a Viet Nam veteran and historian of that era, weaves a great tale with vivid descriptions of both southern hospitality and Chinese sensibility. As his main character races across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, he creates a multitude of fresh characters out of familiar archetypes. The main difficulty with this book is the unbelievable detail in which Sanders presents all his characters, their environment and their actions. In one scene, a Joseph Conrad style mindnumbingly-detailed description of the death of a prostitute who protects Clem in his flight forces one to put the book down and walk away while dealing with the mental trauma. Dumplingʼs was owned by Luc Tan, a recent immigrant from Shenzhen, China who had a secret recipe for skinless deep fried chicken and an entrepreneurial spirit. Sanderʼs story is as much about Luc Tan as Clem. As he develops the backstory you get a sense of the difficulty of aliens assimilating into American culture. What the 350 pound Clem did not know was that Luc, his new friend, had gambling debts he had incurred playing all-night sessions of Mahjongg run by the Everglades Chinese Association. On that day the gourmand, with a bucket of chicken in his left hand and nibbling on a chicken leg in his right hand, would witness the murder of his gourmet in cold blood by a Chinese gang. The Everglades Chinese Association was, prima facie, a community group for new immigrants to learn English and assimilate into the Northern Florida Chinese community, meeting in rented space at Bellamy Hall at FSU. As the author peels away the layers of intrigue, we discover that the ECA was part of a nationwide gambling and money laundering ring and was deeply involved in the trafficking of illegal Chinese immigrants into the US. Clem Mitchell, now a witness to a murder, must get away from the ECA as they try to track him down as the only witness in Luc Tanʼs death. Sanders has a masterful way of dealing with pace. When moving at 100 miles per hour in a Dodge Charger, you feel time dilation as Clemʼs thinks about how to right all the wrongs of his life. In several chapters, we also get the feel of how the FBI agents, frustrated in their attempts to crack into the ECA world, use forensic data from the murder scene to help find Clem. As he speeds away from the murder scene in his ʼ78 Orange and Blue Dodge Charger, little did Clem know that his denouement would be in the Texas Panhandle caught between FBI agents pursuing the ECA members and the ECA members sent to silence him. Sanders, through Clem and Luc, tries to prove that what you eat might be the death of you.

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