In Spivak's first novel, his hero-alter ego and lead characterDavid Fox, a New York newsman and freelance writer, proves himself to be brave, trustworthy, tough and creative. How can any reader resist acharacter with those credentials?
Fox is hired to write a biography about presumably America's most famous chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano. In the process, readersdiscover that one of Fox's favorite dishes becomes the restaurant'shostess or Avenzano's mistress. As the tale unfolds and secrets hiddenfor generations surface, it is revealed that the Palm Beach culinarycenter Chateau de la Mer, its famed chef, and many of the staff haveties then and now to the Italian Mob. Fox flirts with danger, mysteryand indigestion as he winds his way through the mystery of the hallowedchef and what made him grate (sic).
Did the chef make a deal with the devil, perhaps in mob form, sohe could achieve success? Can former newsmen become memorable fictionwriters, à la Hemingway? Those are but two of the intriguing questionsraised as the reader winds through the circuitous and strangelycompelling story.
Spivak, a onetime wine writer for the Palm Beach Post, has written several non-fiction books with culinary or fermented themes.For his first fiction foray, principal character Fox is introduced inthe 1990s, after the yarn jumps locales or entire generations and eras. This split-screen back and forth writing approach is used to advancethe age old conflict between good and evil. Characters have their pastpeeled away, old homicides are revisited decades later--such askidnapping by a mobster on a mission begun ages before-- family secretsrevealed - often over drugs, a dish of good pasta, and a glass of GreyRiesling.
In Friend of the Devil eating during a job interview isnot a distraction, it is encouraged. Scotch scones even appear on theliterary plate at one point--seasoning an otherwise Sicilian crime andfood menu. Fox has a passion for both food and females as he tries toavoid both bodily and psychological pain.
There is magnetism and mystery in this culinary complexity. Even readers who prefer a more bland diet may be drawn to the debates andshadows in Friend of the Devil. There's nothing like a spicy tale to entertain and fulfill.---Jack L. Kennedy, Joplin Independent