Park City-based author Zack Matheson cooks up a ‘Recipe for Chaos’
For information about Zack Matheson’s book “Recipe for Chaos,” visit facebook.com/Recipe-for-Chaos-112431306903992.
Park City-based author Zack Matheson, known for his satirical murder mysteries that take place in Park City, had a lot of fun turning his wife Tawanda into a serial killer for his fourth book, “Recipe for Chaos.”
The character, also named Tawanda, is a musician who is losing her mind, and begins to hear a voice in her head, Matheson said.
“The reason why she’s losing her mind is a combination of really bad insomnia and debilitating hot flashes,” he said with a chuckle. “When she has these hot flashes and sees someone doing something stupid, she’s apt to make these really bad decisions like getting into her old Isuzu Rodeo and running that person over.”
The real Tawanda isn’t a musician, nor is she a serial killer, but she wanted to be in one of Matheson’s books, the author said.
“In fact, one of the reasons the book came out is because of her, and she is perfectly fine with the character,” Matheson said of his wife of five years.
Tawanda’s killer instincts is one of three stories that comprise “Recipe for Chaos,” which is available at Dolly’s Bookstore and on Amazon.
The other two stories are about a detective named Lincoln Coulter and the Russian Mafia in Utah.
Coulter is detective who moved to Park City from Louisville, Kentucky, in Matheson’s second book, “Porndance,” which was published in 2015.
In that book, Coulter tried to solve a murder that happened during the Sundance Film Festival, and Matheson said the character has grown since then.
“When you first meet him in he’s very much an outsider,” he said. “He’s new to Park City. He’s not a detective, and he is trying to get used to the area’s slower pace and the cliquishness of the cops who have been here for a long time.”
In “Recipe for Chaos,” Coulter, after coming into his own in Matheson’s third book, “Heatwave,” which hit the bookstores in 2017, is settling into his detective promotion and acclimated to the small-town vibe.
“He is, however, still socially awkward, because I when I created him I didn’t want to make him out to be a tough-guy cop who knows everything and always get the bad guy in a clean, Hollywood way,” Matheson said.
The third storyline in “Recipe for Chaos” is the book’s antagonists — a group of Russian Mafioso — who were inspired by a two incidents Matheson experienced while working at the Utah State Liquor Store a few years ago at Kimball Junction.
“This group of Russian guys would come into the store, and even though they were dressed in tracksuits, they had the full-on, jail-house tattoos and wore all of these gold chains,” he said. “They looked straight out of ‘Eastern Promises,’ and each time they came in, they went directly to the front case, where the high-end booze was kept and they bought everything.”
When Matheson first saw the group, the thought they might have been affiliated with the Russian Olympic team.
“The more he thought about them, that theory didn’t feel right, because I didn’t know any team, Olympic or otherwise, who looked like them,” he said.
A few weeks later, Matheson, who is now the assistant manager of Bangkok Thai on Main Street, caught a newscast about Russian mob ties in Utah, and his brain began to work things out.
“My first thought was how scary that was, but then I began wanting to have a little fun with that idea,” he said.
Matheson began creating a story about the Russian Mafia, who people would call ‘The Track Suits because of how they dressed.
“I thought of how funny it would be if the mafia had a presence in tiny, little Park City, and bought an existing ski resort,” Matheson said. “Then I thought it would be really funny if the resort turned into this absolute eyesore that the locals hated, and the tourists loved. “
Matheson ran with that idea, but wanted to make certain readers knew putting the Russian mob into his book was not a commentary of the alleged ties between Russia and President Donald Trump.
“I just wanted people to read about these guys and know that they are out there and pretty scary,” he said.
Matheson tries to make his characters as “off-the-wall” as possible.
“At the same time, I still make them believable,” he said. “Even as cartoony as I make the Russians, there is still a real element of danger about them.”
“Recipe for Chaos,” like his other books, including his 2014 debut, “Island of Lost Souls,” took about two years to write.
“All my books are meant to be entertaining,” he said. “They aren’t meant to be serious, although I do bring up some real local issues,” he said.
His last book, “Heatwave,” published in 2017, looked at Park City’s housing situation and developers’ environmental impact, which he continues in the new book, he said.
“Even though there is an order to the book, what I like about them is that you don’t really have to read them in order,” he said. “They are written to stand alone.”
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While many environmental issues are too big for one person to tackle, “There is so much that can happen in the mini ecosystems in backyards that include nesting and seeds.”