Friday, December 1, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation: From Kitchen Confidential to City Under One Roof


The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six books, forming a chain. The common points may be obvious, like a word in the title or a shared theme, or more personal. Every month Kate provides the title of a book as the starting point.

The starting book this month is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.  I was given a copy of this book years ago, the original version, and I kept it on my shelf for a long time, but never read it. I don't know why. The subtitle of this book is "Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" and from what I have read about, that is a good description of the contents.

1st degree:

Another book by Anthony Bourdain is Gone Bamboo (1997), and I still have a copy of that, unread. This is the description at Goodreads: "Henry and his wife, Frances, live an idyllic life as two of the Caribbean's most charming ex-pats (and professional assassins). But when Donnie, a powerful capo, is relocated to the island the scene is set for an Elmore Leonard-style mix of low life and high comedy." Based on that description, I think I should bump it up on my TBR list.

2nd degree:

Using assassins as my next connection, I chose Killers of a Certain Age (2022) by Deanna Raybourn, a story about four older women who have worked for years as assassins. The organization that hired and trained them is called the Museum, and now the Museum has turned against them and ordered their deaths. I read this novel and liked it a lot. The older women protagonists were a plus. It is not exactly spy fiction, but it reads much like a spy thriller, so it was perfect for me.

3rd degree:

Hit Man (1998) by Lawrence Block is not a novel but a series of connected stories about an assassin named Keller. He lives in an apartment in New York City and leads a normal life, except that the way he supports himself is by killing people. The stories take the reader on the road with Keller to his assignments, but they do not focus very much on the actual act itself. The stories are still more about Keller, the people he runs into, and his experiences. This was a confusing book for me because it has a very likable and interesting protagonist who performs acts that are not nice at all. 

4th degree:

Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout is another collection of connected short stories. The 13 short stories are set in a small town in Maine. Olive is mentioned or has a minor role in each story but only a few stories focus on her, her family, and her life specifically. Some of the stories have themes related to old age, life after losing a spouse, and suicide. Many of the stories are depressing and I had to read the book at a rate of about a story a day.

5th degree:

My next book is also set in a fictional small town in MaineUnder the Dome (2009) by Stephen King is set in Chester's Mill. One day the town is separated from the rest of the world by a force field, shaped like a dome. How the town deals with this isolation is very interesting, and since this is a Stephen King book, the story is very tense. The book is over 1000 pages long, and normally that would be a deal breaker for me, but I don't recall that the length bothered me with this one.

6th degree:

My next link is to a novel set in an isolated small town in Alaska. This time the isolation is imposed by natural forces, a major storm that closes the tunnel that provides the only access to the city. I just read City Under One Roof (2023) by Iris Yamashita in November and I enjoyed it very much. The book follows three characters: Amy Lin, a teenage girl who lives with her mother; Cara Kennedy, a detective who has come to the city to investigate some body parts found on a beach, and Lonnie Mercer, an eccentric loner who has a pet moose. The 205 residents in Point Mettier all live in one high-rise building, called the Davidson Condos.

My Six Degrees took me from a nonfiction account of culinary exploits to books about assassins, and ended in an isolated town in Alaska. Have you read any of the books in my chain and what did you think of them? 

If you did this month's Six Degrees, where did your list take you?

The next Six Degrees will be on January 6, 2024 and the starting book will be Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, a novel by Gabrielle Zevin.


Margot Kinberg said...

This is a very clever chain, Tracy, from paid assassins, to food, to small towns, etc. I really like this meme because I enjoy seeing what creative ways people have of linking stories together. Some of these look really interesting, too.

TracyK said...

Margot, I enjoy this meme because I am often reminded of books and authors I have read in the past. Also alerts to books that I have been meaning to read but haven't yet.

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

I really enjoyed that Killers of a Certain age. Nice chain here!

pattinase (abbott) said...

An interesting group of books.

Cath said...

Some interesting books there, Tracy. I've read Kitchen Confidential and found some of his revelations about restaurants slightly unnerving!

The Stephen King has interested me for years and I should make the effort to read it. But the book really attracting me is The City Under One Roof... that sounds very interesting ideed.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Davida. Killers of a Certain Age was the first book I read by Deanna Raybourn. Now I want to check out other books she has written.

TracyK said...

Patti, several of these books were set in small towns, and I never realized how many books I had read set in small towns. I should do a list of mysteries (or not) set in small towns.

TracyK said...

Cath, Once I read that if you read Kitchen Confidential you would not want to eat in a restaurant again. I don't think that is what deterred me from reading the book, though.

Under the Dome was a good read and I don't read much by King or many books that long. I looked back and it did take me a few weeks to finish it so I must have read other books at the same time.

City Under One Roof was a good read. Glen liked it especially because of the bad weather. I liked the three alternating points of view.

Todd Mason said...

So far, only one I've read is HIT MAN, and I was surprised how little I liked it, considering how much I usually like all of LB's work I've read. It didn't convince me, for reasons I don't clearly remember, but the cognitive dissonance that the protag's life would engender (given he's not a typical malignant narcissist) didn't seem to arise, and I didn't feel like it was Dealt With. Maybe it was just a bad time to read it.

I might have to read the Alaska novel. And this is a nice sequence!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Todd. I liked Hit Man a lot, but when I read the 2nd book, Hit List, I had the same reservations you had. So I stopped at that point, although I think I still have the third book somewhere. I think the series develops in a different direction ultimately but still haven't been able to get back into it.

I enjoyed City Under One Roof, although not quite as much as I expected to.

Kathy's Corner said...

Six Degrees of Separation is such a great challenge and I keep putting it off but I want to do it because you never know where you will end up. Been hearing about Olive Kitteridge for years now. I seem to be putting that off too. In 2024 I would like to finally get to the books I have been meaning to read and reread.

TracyK said...

Kathy, that is one of the things I like about Six Degrees also. Sometimes it is hard to find links from one book to the next, but this time it was easy and I had too many choices.

I recommend Olive Kitteridge but some readers did find it an unpleasant read. I felt like it was worth it in the end.

I like your goal for 2024. I would like to be flexible in my reading and read what appeals at the moment. But I definitely have books I want to read in 2024 so we will see if those two goals conflict.

Frewin55 said...

The Stephen King sounds very science fiction - for him and I like the sound of Killers of a Certain Age...

Kay said...

I used to participate in this event on occasion. Will think about doing it again. Liked your chain. I've read KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE - fun book - and CITY UNDER ONE ROOF. Good job, Tracy!

TracyK said...

Frewin, this book by Stephen King was science fiction, and not the usual type of book for him, although I have only read a few books by him. And mostly decades ago. I would try more by him but there are only so many books I can read in a year. Killers of a Certain Age was a great book for me.

I checked out your Six Degrees post and enjoyed visiting other posts at your blog. Thanks for stopping by.

TracyK said...

I do remember that you used to do Six Degrees in the past, Kay. Once I commented that it would be too hard for me and you encouraged me to try it out. It is not as hard as it looks but it does take a while for me to put together.

I know I would enjoy any Six Degrees posts you create and I hope you do.

That reminds me, I don't know if I already told you, but I finally read the first book in the Kate Burkholder series by Linda Castillo. I did enjoy it but it was more gritty and violent than I like. But I have more to read in that series, I got them at the book sale.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, and if you look around on and Luminist Archive (and elsewhere!) you'll find that there were no few (and some very specialized or devoted to unlikely sports) sports pulps...looking for a niche with the hundreds of pulps being published at their height in the '30s (soon, we'll have to write/say the 1930s), and sports stories were among the popular content of general-interest pulps and those which went out of their way to be targeting men. Even in the last decade or so, there were little magazines that were devoted to baseball fiction and poetry (and some nonfiction) (ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY) and wider arrays of sports (ATHELON). Among the last sports pulps published, in the later '50s, were edited by the same Robert Lowndes, for Columbia Publications, who "discovered" Edward Hoch...Robert Silverberg, not a big sports fan, was nonetheless happy to have placed a story in one of the last issues of the Columbia sports pulps (I forget which one and which sport, but could look it up). And some writers were particularly impressive in the sports pulps, such as William Campbell Gault, who, after they all folded not only would sell sports stories to the likes of latter-day ARGOSY and ADAM, as well as short sports novels aimed at teen readers.

Todd Mason said...

Ten Story Sports [v8 #5, April 1956] ed. Robert W. Lowndes (Columbia Publications, Inc., 25¢, 96pp+, pulp)
Details supplied by Richard Fidczuk.
6 · Rookie on the Spot · William F. Schwartz · ss; baseball.
21 · Dope from the Dugout · Wilcey Earle · cl
24 · Last Fight · Richard Brister · ss (presumably boxing)
34 · This Isn’t Last Year · Robert Silverberg · ss; baseball.
45 · Time Out! · Robert A. Madle · cl
47 · Fielder’s Choice · Mark Carrel · ss; baseball.
53 · Farmer Outfit · T. Stephen Campbell · ss [probably baseball--TM]
61 · Will Television Eat Up Sports? · Harold Gluck · ar
65 · Serious Southpaw · Sidney Offit · ss; baseball.
68 · Toreador Tailback · Jim Moore · nv; football.

Todd Mason said...

Ah. And Silverberg also had a story in the very last. Thought that was true...

FictionFan said...

Lots of interesting sounding books there! I didn't know Anthony Bourdain was a fiction writer - I only know him from his TV food shows.

TracyK said...

Todd, I need to read more by William Campbell Gault. I read the first Brock Callahan mystery; Callahan was a private investigator who previously played for the LA Rams. In my post on that I mention that he wrote for the sports pulps in the 1930s, and I had completely forgotten that. Looking at that list of his stories, he wrote a lot of stories over a 30 year period.

Interesting that Robert Silverberg wrote some sports stories. Thanks for the links.

TracyK said...

FictionFan, I was surprised to find out that he wrote his first two fiction books before he wrote Kitchen Confidential. I don't think either one did very well when they were first published. I must have had my copy of Gone Bamboo at least 15 years and I am sure I bought it because of his fame in culinary writing at the time.

I don't think I ever saw one of his TV shows.

Todd Mason said...

Yeah, I started reading Gault as a child, almost all his sports fiction, and perhaps one or two stories in crime-fiction anthologies (his adult sports fiction in an auto-racing anthology or two, and a YA baseball novel and perhaps a basketball novel as well)(my parents were hobbyist auto racers when we lived in Alaska, and remained racing fans throughout their lives till dementia set in).

CLM said...

I enjoyed Killers of a Certain Age although was not a big fan of her historical mysteries (well, I think I only read one so maybe that was an unfair judgment).

It is so sad that Bourdain with so many interests, accomplishments, and people who cared about him would commit suicide. It is so terrible for their families.

TracyK said...

Todd, I have two more novels of Gault's to try, but I would have to search out some short stories.

It must have been hard for your parents to give up racing when they got dementia. My parents both had dementia when they died; my father lived for eight years after his diagnosis, and my mother cared for him the whole time.

TracyK said...

Constance, I want to try one of Raybourn's other series, but I want to find copies at the book sale, which I had no luck with this year.

I agree with you about Bourdain's suicide. I have known two families with members who committed suicide and it does take its toll.

thecuecard said...

Yeah The City Under One Roof ... looks good. I like Alaska set stories -- sounds suspenseful. I will see if the library has it.

TracyK said...

Susan, City Under One Roof was suspenseful, but not too much for me, and it had lots of atmosphere.