Summer Reading: A Refreshing Summer Treat . . . Courtesy of Keith Richards

We’re kicking off a new series called “AMACOM Reads” about what our employees here at AMACOM are reading. We’ll change it up by season from summer reading, to back-to-school, to books that keep you warm, to starting something fresh in the spring. Associate Editor Jim Bessent is going to start us off with what he is reading and cooking this summer.

This post is not specifically about professional books or publishing, but it does originate from an enormously enjoyable reading experience: the Keith Richards autobiography. Life is a book full of surprises, not least of which is that Richards can actually form sentences. It had never occurred to me that he could or would—and yet . . . Not only that, it turns out he is a voracious reader, a family man, by his account a pretty decent bloke.

I was reading the book at the same time as several friends and colleagues, one of whom asked me at one point if I had gotten to the part about the bangers and mash. No. “He actually gives his recipe for bangers and mash.” All right. Being fond of bangers and mash myself, I grew very curious regarding any enhancement Richards might be able to bring to this English mainstay. You figure a British rock star must have very high standards for his pub food.

I fantasized about having Keith over one evening to walk me through his secret recipe. One of his daughters lives nearby. He could just pop in after a visit with her, or he could bring her along. I wouldn’t mind.

I was hoping he would have it down to some adroit wrist action while stirring the onions, or baking it in a fat-saturated clay pot that he’d cooked a few thousand batches in. What I feared was that it might come down to the quality of the ingredients, requiring some special sausage made from some exotic breed of sheep raised at 8000 meters in New Zealand and costing $900 a pound. Sure enough, step one is to find a butcher who makes his own sausage fresh. Would a butcher tell the truth about such a thing?

Well, turns out Keith gives the recipe only in its broad outline, possibly figuring everybody knows the standard formula and he’d just detail where his process departs from the norm. He doesn’t explain how to make the gravy at all. And what is HP? Or it may be that he never intended in the first place to instruct us on how to make delectable bangers and mash, but just to say that he likes it and use that to segue into some digression about somebody stealing his carefully prepared designer spring onions, which revealed a volatile side of his persona, which made me reconsider having him over. Better, perhaps, to continue to appreciate him as a rock icon, but at arm’s length.

I still plan to attempt to make bangers and mash. I think they will turn out to be delicious. If they’re really noteworthy, perhaps I will bring some to work for my colleagues to sample. However it turns out, I want to thank Keith Richards for setting me on this quest. There was a time when we might have made a business advice book out of the Keith Richards story: The Keith Richards Way or Leadership Secrets of The Rolling Stones.

  • Stand up for what you believe in.
  • Don’t compromise on quality.
  • Practice, practice, practice; pay your dues.
  • Watch the company you keep.
  • Keep your eye on the goal.
  • Protect your brand.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  • Be a creative genius.
  • If life hands you a lemon, make bangers and mash.

Unfortunately, that genre seems to have run its course. So you see, it does have to do with publishing after all.

Jim Bessent is an Associate Editor at AMACOM. He works in the production department and sees finished manuscripts through the various stages of production: copyediting, proofing, indexing, all correction cycles, etc. Prior to joining AMACOM, Jim worked as an editorial freelancer and had a small collectibles business. Visit our website for freelance editorial opportunities.


3 responses to “Summer Reading: A Refreshing Summer Treat . . . Courtesy of Keith Richards

  1. Barry Richardson

    I hope the “refreshing summer treat” in this blog’s title refers to Keith’s book and not to bangers & mash. Sausages and mashed potatoes are delicious, of course, but hardly “refreshing.” Jim’s right about this memoir, by the way; it’s a delightful read and reveals that Richards is an intelligent man, well-versed in both music and literature, and full of colorful stories. I sure hope Jim invites me over when his Keith and his daughter drop by.

  2. Great review, Jim! I loved the book, but will pass on the bangers and mash.

  3. I cannot recall ever posting a reply to a blog article, but Jim’s enjoyable observations warrant this exception. In return, I am hoping Jim will let me know when he brings to work his version of “bangers and mash”!

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