November 26, 2010

Cocktail Talk: A Rage in Harlem

Last month, I hit up booze-y quotes from two Chester Himes books, The Crazy Kill and The Heat is On. If you missed those, go on and read them, and then come back. Back? Okay. Today, though, I have a quote from perhaps the best known Himes book containing the two most dangerous police detectives, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones, A Rage in Harlem. It’s a fantastic read, full of the details of Harlem that make all of Mr. Himes detective books come alive, and was also made into a movie that’s well worth tracking down. This quote not only makes me miss some of my local bars (not that any were this rowdy), but also introduced me to a phrase for booze I love: ruckus-juice. If any bartenders are reading this, please have a drink called “ruckus-juice” on your drinks menu next time I come in to your establishment. I will tip big.

There were more bars on his itinerary than on any other comparable distance on earth. In every one the jukeboxes blared, honey suckle blues voices dripped sticky through jungle cries of wailing saxophones, screaming trumpets, and buckdancing piano notes; someone was either fighting or had just stopped fighting, or was just starting to fight, or drinking ruckus-juice and talking about fighting.


A Rage in Harlem, Chester Himes

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