August 2020
by Kim Powers
Blair Publishing
Hardcover, 297 pages

It’s the late 1960s in small-town McKinney, Texas. At the local downtown theater, movies, James Bond, Beach Blanket Bingo, Alfie, and Dr. Zhivago feed the obsessions of ten-year-old Clarke Perkins. But when his beloved mother mysteriously dies, no one will tell him what happened. No one will tell HER either. She’s left to float above trees and drive-in movie screens, trapped between life and death, searching for the truth. Neither mother nor son can rest until they know the final answer about a time and place long gone.

Darkly humorous and incredibly moving, Rules for Being Dead is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, with a touch of Larry McMurtry and Mark Childress.

"This captivating mixture of mystery, coming-of-age and magical realism will be catnip for book clubs--gripping readers from the first page to the last."
-Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Blending late-’60s nostalgia with a supernatural mystery, Powers’s emotionally complex tale gets the job done just right.”
-Publishers Weekly
Dear Readers,

I think we’re going to be friends, so I’m jumping to two questions I usually don’t ask until the 3rd or 4th date. Do you ever wish you could go back “home”? How could I go through life not knowing how my mother died, when I was little? 

Both questions–and answers–are in my new novel, Rules for Being Dead. Don’t let the title scare you off; there are a lot of “Rules for Living” in it too. It’s a book I pretty much ripped out of my heart, this fictionalized story of my childhood and the mysterious death of my mother, a fourth-grade teacher. We’re talking the old days, the mid-60s in small-town Texas. That’s home for me, that’s where my book will take you. 

It will also take you into the world of my mother. She’ll tell you about her marriage (not so happy), she’ll make some confessions grade school teachers aren’t supposed to make, she’ll tell you how nothing will ever separate her from her two young sons–even her death. 

I’ll be not-so-humble for a minute: readers and critics are loving it, as well as other writers I admire so much: Wally Lamb, Adriana Trigiani, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and John Searles. I hope your club will too.

Happy reading! 

Book Club Menu
My mother Creola was a terrible cook. My stepmother Rita was only marginally better, although she made a killer mac ‘n’ cheese (with the cheese really burned and crusty – the way it should be – not runny!), She had two young new sons to win over, so she tempted us with Chef Boyardee pizza (which she’d cut with her pinking shears) or homemade donuts, made from biscuits in a can. Not a lot of homemade stuff going on in 815 Woodleigh Drive, which you’ve read about in Rules for Being Dead.
I, on the other hand, have turned into a pretty good home cook and amateur baker, no doubt after watching every season of The Great British Bake-Off. If you’ve read Rules and remember the Aunt Altha character, who is also my real Aunt Altha, she was terrified when I first moved from Texas to NYC decades ago. She thought I “was gonna starve to death, how will you eat? How will you cook? You can’t cook!! You’ll have to eat out in restaurants all the time and you’ll go broke!” That last part was probably true, but this wonderful old pioneer woman just couldn’t get used to the idea that boys (who became grown men) could cook. I proved her wrong. Among my greatest achievements—and this trumps even the two Emmys I’ve won—is winning first place in the ABC News Cookie Cook-Off—THREE TIMES (out of only 4 years it’s existed!) The celebrity judges for those three years were Rocco DiSpirito, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Michael Symon! The first two years I won a Kitchen Aid Mixmaster; the third year I won a blender and a bunch of kitchen toys— and was prohibited from competing in the future because they were running out of things to give me!   

This year, I made what I called the “Hey, Gurl” Cookie and I think it would be a great sweet nosh while you’re reading my book. It’s got lots of flavors and textures, just like the book; some sweet and salty, and the cinnamon-sugar coating gives it a churro flavor, which is a nice Southwestern touch for a book that takes place in Texas.
According to Mexican folklore, La Llorona was a beautiful yet unstable woman who drowned her children to be with a man who wanted nothing to do with her. In her afterlife, she wandered through the water, wailing in search of her children. Not quite the story in my book, although the mother character Creola certainly does her fair share of weeping, and she’s a little unstable for sure. So toast Creola with La Llorona (Weeping Woman) cocktail! There's a lot of citrus in the drink as well. So a little bit like a margarita (with the intriguing addition of coconut cream), sort of a Mexican influence. It would pair well with churros or the "Hey Gurl" Cookie!
And for a “killer” and appropriate cocktail, try The Corpse Reviver aka “Corpse Reviver #2" (guess they didn’t revive Corpse #1.) It’s a classic cocktail, which dates as far back as 1871. Strong but sippable! And great for reviving you after a long night of drinking—so maybe for the day AFTER book club!

—Kim Powers
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