September 30, 1996 12:00 PM

>Diane Mott Davidson

MURDER ON THE MENU

DIANE MOTT DAVIDSON ADMITS IT: Her culinary mysteries can be hazardous to your waistline. All those scenes in which her sleuthing caterer Goldy Bear Schulz whips up fattening favorites like fettuccine Alfredo—and the recipe follows on the next page—why, it’s enough to send anyone to the fridge. “My editor won’t even call me unless she has had lunch,” says the 47-year-old author.

Davidson has been dishing up delicious bestsellers since publishing Catering to Nobody in 1990, and her sixth, The Main Corpse, has just landed in bookstores.

A native of Washington, Davidson, who roomed opposite Hillary Rodham at Wellesley College in the late ’60s, is now settled in Evergreen, Colo., with her husband, Jim, an electrical engineer. Although she had been writing mystery novels for years (with no success at getting them published), it wasn’t until her youngest son started preschool that she found direction. “I would go to this cafe after dropping my children off and write,” says Davidson, the mother of Jeffrey, now 24, J.Z., 18, and Joey, 12. “It was both a cafe and a catering business, and I became fascinated watching the people and the money they would pay for a catered dinner.”

Hoping to spice up her plots, Davidson signed on with the caterer as a volunteer and continues to help set up weddings and parties whenever her schedule allows. “There are so many things that need to be coordinated,” she says, “it’s like putting on a play.” The research helps with her story lines (she’s already boning up on barbecues for her next book, The Grilling Season) but not with her recipes. Those, like Chocoholic Cookies, she thinks up on her own, using family, neighbors and even strangers as guinea pigs. “The UPS man loves it,” she says with a grin.

Still, the total immersion in her writing can sometimes make Davidson a bit paranoid. While helping cater a wedding, she jumped to an immediate—and fortunately incorrect—conclusion when the minister didn’t show up on time. “Right away, I thought, ‘Oh, the minister is dead,’ ” she confesses. “It’s the way I think now.”

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