I recently received the book Miss Darkness: The Great Short Crime Fiction of Fredric Brown. I hadn’t had any experience with Mr. Brown before, which is a shame as he’s pretty darn good – smart, funny, able to write both super short stories and longer pieces, obsessed a bit with chess and Shakespeare and a few other choices things, like drinks. He also made a name for himself as a sci-fi writer (maybe even moreso) and I believe had a few movies made from his work. This collection is a monster of sorts, just in that it’s 726 pages, so hard to read on the bus (but not impossible!). A worthy monster to attack though, as it’s jam-packed with crime-noir-y goodness. And if you like circus sideshows, well, don’t miss it. I’m going to run a couple Cocktail Talk quotes from it, because Mr. Brown also enjoyed the tipples, as I’ve said. This one’s from the story “Good Night, Good Knight,” and has cocktail and bartending and acting and blackmail fun.
He got the haircut, which he needed, and the shave, which he didn’t really need — he’d shaved this morning. He bought a new white shirt and had his shoes shined and his suit pressed. He had his soul lifted with three Manhattans in a respectable bar — three, sipped slowly, and no more. And he ate — the three cherries from the Manhattans.
The back-bar mirror wasn’t smeary. It was blue glass, though, and it made him look sinister. He smiled a sinister smile at his reflection. He thought, Blackmailer. The role; play it to the hilt, throw yourself into it. And someday you’ll play Macbeth.
Should he try it on the bartender? No. He’d tried it on bartenders before.
The blue reflection in the back-bar mirror smiled at him.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness