Buck Peterson wrote The Roadkill Cookbook in 1985 after hearing from a fish and game regulator in Montana that animals killed by cars and trucks in Big Sky country were usually picked up by opportunists cooks hoping for a free feast long before any officials could reach the body.
Written in four days while staying in a hotel in Monterey, California, The Roadkill Cookbook changed Buck’s life.
"I self-published the book and then hooked up with a distributor and sold some copies at the Vancouver’s Expo fair in 1986 and then a movie called Roadkill used the book as a promotional giveaway," said Buck.
Ten Speed Press - from Berkeley, California - noticed the cookbook and offered him a publishing deal. Launched to a mixture of amusement and horror in 1987, the book is still in print and, according to Buck, has sold "easily 200,000 copies."
"My market is Minnesota to Louisiana – the American Mid-west," he said. "In urban centers, the book tends to be a flip gift while in rural areas it is a practical cookbook. We think more women buy the book than men."
The book spawned various other roadkill-themed books from imitators and helped establish a mini-industry around the imagery of roadkill itself. T-shirts, roadside cafes, wine and all sorts of gifts can be easily found.
Buck wrote the book, which uses cartoon illustrations rather than photographs, as a serious and practical cookbook but wanted tongue-in-cheek humour to be an important part of the recipes.
"Roadkill has become a huge phenomenon," he said. "I’ve been walking through Houston airport and seen my book on display. There are 750,000 so-called ‘deer-car interactions’ each year in the US. America’s Northern states see larger animals on the roads while the southern states see smaller animals. The Fall is the busiest time of the year for roadkill because it’s rutting season and that means automatic car crashes involving deer.
"I have a cult following in Australia and New Zealand," added Buck, who has also penned the International Roadkill Cookbook and nine other books, including the Roadkill Coloring Book. "I haven’t heard of the book selling in other countries."
Buck and his publisher receive "crank" letters from those offended by the book – several of which have been framed by the author, who admits that some recipes, such as the ones concerning domestic pets, are "incendiary."
Other books by Buck Peterson: