The Cook

by Harry Kressing | Horror |
ISBN: 0345317211 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 10/29/2002
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
14 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Sinister, savory, unique... "The Cook" is a very odd book indeed, long out of print and seldom heard of, but it's a masterful tale of suspense and cookery (not necessarily in that order). I first read it when I was in school - Dad had found a copy of it somewhere (a proof copy, too - no idea where it came from, just showed up on his end table one night) and of course I read anything that was in the house, so... I loved the thing, which was weird beyond most of my then-current reading, but the family copy disappeared at some point [probably when the folks were packing to move] and it took a while before I found another copy. It was just as intriguing the next time I read it...

Tall, thin Conrad arrives in town one day, seeking a position as chef in the home of a wealthy (and massively dysfunctional) local family. His culinary skills are tested and prove triumphant - magnificently so, pleasing everyone in the household. But Conrad's dishes don't just satisfy the palate, they create a certain dependency... and while the members of the family seem to be changing for the better due to Conrad's subtle influence, are the changes in their interests or in Conrad's?

The book is full of unexpected scenes, some funny, some bizarre, some profoundly disturbing. [I won't attempt to categorize the knife fight between Conrad and a rival cook in the town pub, but it's wonderful.] Is Conrad a devil incarnate or simply a master chef and psychologist? And what would you give for the most perfect meals that have ever been?

OK, enough - it's a great book, if you like 'em disturbing. There's a bit of a mystery about the author, too; the advance-copy that I have says that "Harry Kressing" is a pseudonym, but I've seen at least three different names given as the true author. On the Usenet, a research librarian claimed to have turned up "Hartmut Kress" in a database somewhere; another source says Kressing is really Harry Adam Ruber. Various booksellers that list the book include "sometimes attributed to Nicholas Freeling," and this one actually seems possible - Freeling wrote a number of mysteries (haven't read any so I can't compare the style) and I believe he was also a chef, or at least knew great cooking. But I have no idea which, if any, is the author's real identity.

Of course when BC came along I had to find yet another copy to release... This one's a moderately battered paperback, but is quite readable, and with care should stand a journey or two.

[Update, 9/2006: I just discovered that the film Something for Everyone was loosely based on this novel - though from the plot summary it appears that the "cook" aspect may have been dropped almost entirely. The film sounds interesting anyway, so I thought I'd add it to the book's history.]

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, October 31, 2002
Given to a friend, to see what he thinks of it.

*** (later) ***

He liked it, but doesn't want to get into BC, so this one needs a new home.

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, February 10, 2003
Controlled Release: OK, I mailed this one to BCer RealBookWorm today, on the start of "The Cook's Tour", with humble pleas to the postal deities to let the book make each mail-hop safely.

As per the Wishlist forum discussion, here's the reading order. When you get the book, please journal it so we know it's arrived, and then PM the next person on the list for their address so you're set to go when you've finished it. Thanks!

1. RealBookWorm (Canada)
2. Palomaranch (Texas)
3. greedyreader (NJ)
4. Red (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
5. MozzFan (Chicago)
6. mojosmom (Chicago)
7. Odin (Rantoul, Illinois) [*skipped - didn't respond to PM's*]
8. skcreader (Virginia)
9. bunzrun (Virginia)

Note re postage costs: the book's a small one, and in a lightweight envelope such as a small bubblewrap mailer it could be cheaper to send this by first class than by media mail (within the US, anyway), so it's worth asking the clerk to check both rates. FYI.

Journal Entry 4 by RealBookWorm on Tuesday, February 18, 2003
I just received this today. I'm halfway through The Mark of the Angel which is on my other bookring so as soon as I finish it, I'll read this one and send it on to the next person.

Journal Entry 5 by RealBookWorm on Thursday, February 20, 2003
I finished this book last night. As you can see by the date I received it compared to today's date, it took one not-busy work day and a little evening reading to finish the book. It's not a big book (217 pages) and it's a fun read so this shouldn't stay with anyone very long.

It was an unusual story to say the least, but an enjoyable one at the same time. At times you wish you could find someone like Conrad to cook your meals and at other times you're thinking you wouldn't want him at all!

I'll be sending this out to Palomaranch in Texas today. I hope she enjoys it at least as much as I did.

Journal Entry 6 by palomaranch on Wednesday, March 05, 2003
I received this book in the mail today from fellow BookCrosser RealBookWorm in New Brunswick, Canada. It's in a book ring started by Gory Details. GD's description of the book on the forum captivated me, so I decided it was a 'must read'.

The Cook by Harry Kressing (published in 1965) is a culinary novel about a chef who comes to work for a family. Soon the entire family is involved in meal preparation and the dynamics within the home begin to change. Quite an intriguing read. There is one section where the family is ordering new china and crystal and they are so excited that I actually wanted to go shopping for new china myself!

The book will be mailed to Greedyreader in New Jersey as it continues on its bookring.

Journal Entry 7 by greedyreader from Oakland, New Jersey USA on Friday, March 21, 2003
This just came in the mail, via Fran. Thank you. The book is all old & used looking -- just the way I like 'em. I am just about done with Bloodsucking Fiends, so I will start this book tonight or tomorrow.

Journal Entry 8 by greedyreader from Oakland, New Jersey USA on Tuesday, March 25, 2003
This book was engaging and quite "sinister" (what a great word!). Conrad, the cook, is not likable and I kept wondering what or who he really was. There was no doubt in my mind that he wanted the Prominence as his ultimate goal -- but I wondered if he was some long-lost Cobb, or what! Well, like all good books, this one answered nothing in the end (drat! I have to use my mind and imagination) and now I am left to rethink & rework this book whilst it moves on to Red.

Journal Entry 9 by Red from Arlington Heights, Illinois USA on Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Postmarked 4/2 and arrived today. I'll get to it promptly and send it along to the next person in the book ring. Thanks for sharing it.

Journal Entry 10 by Red from Arlington Heights, Illinois USA on Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Great fun! Ready to send to Mozzfan . . . but don't have address yet.

Journal Entry 11 by Red at -- By Hand or Post, Ray/ring, Meet-up, Rabck in Chicago, Illinois USA on Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Released on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 at Controlled Release in Chicago, Illinois USA.

It's off to MozzFan today! Enjoy!

Journal Entry 12 by mozzfan from Chicago, Illinois USA on Thursday, April 24, 2003
Got it! That was super-fast.
I think I'll finish it and then pass to mojosmom at the May meetup instead of mailing it 100 city blocks.

Journal Entry 13 by mozzfan from Chicago, Illinois USA on Sunday, May 11, 2003
I hope that keeping the book for the meetup doesn't affect my future bc "rating" :-)

Anyhoo, the fact that I read this book just in time to watch Manor House on PBS made me enjoy it all the more. While our man could certainly be seen as a villain, I think that the social change he brought to the house was brilliant! At times I was rooting him on! But of course, then I would feel sad for the poor rich slobs because we never know if it was because of love or fear that they succumbed to Conrad's every whim.
Subtle, stylish, and absolutely ruthless! I loved it. I'm sure mojosmom will love it too - she'll just have to wait until Cheapy MacSkinflint here gives it to her at Mojoe's on Tuesday!

Journal Entry 14 by mojosmom from Chicago, Illinois USA on Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Mozzfan passed this on to me at this evening's Meet-Up. It looks good! But I have to start resisting the temptation to join every interesting looking book ray or ring that comes along!

Journal Entry 15 by mojosmom from Chicago, Illinois USA on Sunday, June 01, 2003
This is a very odd book. Conrad appears from "The City", where he seems to have had a "previous existence". His machinations, and his manipulation of the family he works for, as well as the townspeople and other servants, are subtle, and it's never really clear just what he's after or why. And what, exactly, is he putting in the food? If anything? Why does the same food make one person fat and another thin? And what's in it for Conrad? Even at the end, you're not quite sure what's going on. A mystery, indeed.

Journal Entry 16 by mojosmom from Chicago, Illinois USA on Friday, June 13, 2003
I PM'd odin who is next on the list two weeks ago and have not heard back. So I PM'd again last night. If I don't hear anything in the next few days, I'll move to the next person on the list (skcreader) so as not to hold up the ring any further.

Journal Entry 17 by mojosmom from Chicago, Illinois USA on Tuesday, June 24, 2003
This is on its way to skcreader. Odin, where are you??

Journal Entry 18 by skcreader from Roanoke, Virginia USA on Friday, June 27, 2003
received today - will read while in CA!

Journal Entry 19 by skcreader from Roanoke, Virginia USA on Tuesday, July 01, 2003
read while vacationing....been pondering a number of questions ever since...What was Conrad's past? How did he so skillfully manipulate the family and the townspeople? How did he cook such wonderful food (well for some of the people) and not spend more money? Quirky little book...passing on to bunzrun...

Journal Entry 20 by bunzrun from Wirtz, Virginia USA on Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Was handed this by skcreader, having met at the local Post Office. From the previous remarks, it sounds like an interesting book. Will let you know when I get into it.

Journal Entry 21 by bunzrun from Wirtz, Virginia USA on Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Am going to try to read this soon and then revive the bookray.

Journal Entry 22 by bunzrun from Wirtz, Virginia USA on Thursday, May 06, 2004
I read this a while ago and never journaled. Much of my comments would be like previous remarks. Seems odd and diabolical at times. Somehow Conrad always got what he wanted. And as someone stated, even at the end you don't really know what its happening.

This has been loaned to my BIL, who is traveling in the US during May. He seems to be intrigued with the concept of BookCrossing. Don't know if he will join or not though.

April 19, 2005
The Cook has been sent on another trip.

The new ray consists of:
Lpree-(NB)-has the book now

Journal Entry 23 by Lpree from Omaha, Nebraska USA on Thursday, March 31, 2005
This arrived in yesterday's mail. I have some other bookrings ahead of it but will read it as soon as I can. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Please check my bookshelf to see where I'm at in my reading.

Journal Entry 24 by Lpree from Omaha, Nebraska USA on Tuesday, April 19, 2005
This was a short, but very intriguing story! I'm not really sure why, but I really liked this book. I had expected more physical violence in the story, but it really is more psychological. I too wonder why the same food made one person fat but another thin. I was also a bit confused by the emphasis on Conrad's size in the end.

I'm not sure who is next, so I'll contact bunzrun to find out.

Thanks very much to bunzrun for continuing the ray! I'm very glad I had the chance to read this!

Journal Entry 25 by dancing-dog from Cordova, Tennessee USA on Wednesday, April 27, 2005
just received this in the mail from Lpree - it's a much smaller book than I thought!

Journal Entry 26 by dancing-dog from Cordova, Tennessee USA on Monday, May 09, 2005
I'm not sure what I can say about this book that hasn't already been said - an unusual tale of diabolical manipulation and gluttony. I'm not sure if Conrad's odd influence on people was due to his food, his personality or both. Why was everyone so easily manipulated and why did they not resent it? A thought-provoking read - thanks for sharing it!

Book is in kind of delicate shape - please handle carefully.

Journal Entry 27 by tenneh from Verdon, Nebraska USA on Thursday, May 12, 2005
Received today, thanks. Will get to it as soon as I'm done with the current one.

Not too bad a book but I really didn't like Conrad. Maybe because I've dealt with a manipulative person like that in real life! Still makes me mad to think about!!


going to 1ce-Upon-A-Time

Journal Entry 29 by 1ce-Upon-A-Time from Oakland, California USA on Tuesday, June 07, 2005
I received this last Friday, but have been offline while moving house, so haven't left notes yet. Finally, I am letting you know it has arrived safely, and I am enjoying it immensely! The book itself looks well loved, and I want to note that at page 135, the spine is cracked open and the page is falling out. Be gentle, future readers!

I loved the dark undertone of this story. Part of the mystery of Conrad's character is that even the reader is won over by him, though we can see just as well (more so, in fact) that he is not a nice guy. There is never anything to make us think, "ah, see! He's really not that bad, deep down." We get the message from the beginning, this fellow is trouble. And yet, I loved him. I wanted him to cook for me, and the consequences be damned.

This book carried a very pointed message about people and the ways they can be controlled by appealing to their vanity. There is a big foodie theme, around which the plot is built, but food is not the real focus. It is just a distraction, for us as well as for the Hill family. There are only minor descriptions of the actual food itself, though we are made to understand that all of Conrad's (and later on, Conrad's staff's) food is fantastic. When speaking of his favorite meal, Conrad's dialogue trails off, leaving the reader to imagine what it might be, and in several places, Conrad simply serves broth, or sweet rolls along with the privilege of basking in his presence and in his kitchen.

The compelling aspect of the story is in Conrad's manipulation of every person he comes into contact with. He makes subtle changes to their lives, and for the most part they are positive changes, well received. Each of them begins to feel better, happier, more alive when Conrad's magical food becomes part of their life. His power over them comes from his capacity to increase their pleasure at will, and their willingness to subject themselves to his every 'suggestion' in order to stay on the pleasure ride. Sounds like an addiction, right? Conrad would respond to this with a dark smile and a sweet roll, I suppose.

Journal Entry 30 by indiefunk from Emeryville, California USA on Monday, July 25, 2005
Good fun. It was recommended & provided by another BC member. It reminded me of some fo the dark and morbid movies of the late 60's. The atmosphere was great and I was fascinated by the characters. It reminded a bit of the Grand Guignol style with the gore. Thouroughly enjoyed it & highly recommend it.

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