May 7, 2024

Cocktail Talk: The Way We Die Now

The Way We Die Now by Charles Willeford

I’ve had a fair number of Charles Williford Cocktail Talks on the ol’ Spiked Punch in the past, and I suggest you go read all of them to learn more about this interesting writer, who became more widely famous when he started a series about a Miami detective named Hoke Mosely (though his other books are well worth tracking down in the main – you’ll catch a few of them and a few Hoke’s in the past Cocktail Talking). Hoke featured in four books, and I sure wish there were more, as he’s quite a character. The Way We Die Now is the last of the four novels featuring him, and was published early in 1988, the same year Williford sadly died. It’s a dark book at times, as a warning, but funny, too, and great, I think, in many ways. One of which is Larry’s Hideaway, featured in the below quote.

Hoke was well pleased by the interrogation. It had gone more smoothly than he had thought it would. Before returning to the station, Hoke stopped at Larry’s Hideaway for a shot of Early Times and a beer. Sergeant Armando Quevedo was sitting at the bar, and staring glumly into a seventeen-ounce strawberry Margarita. A large strawberry floated on top of the drink. Hoke sat on the stool next to him and ordered a shot of Early Times and a Michelob draft.

“When did you start drinking that shit, Armando?” Hoke said.

Quevedo turned and grimaced. “It’s pretty awful, but the doc said I’d have to give up boilermakers. So I figured if I stuck to this belly wash, I wouldn’t overdo it. It’s sweeter than hell. Are you off today?”

“No, I’m working. I just stopped off for a quickie.”

–Charles Willeford, The Way We Die Now

March 12, 2024

Cocktail Talk: Death of a Dutchman

Death of a Dutchman

I’ve had only one other Magdalen Nabb Cocktail Talk, even though I’ve now read four of her books starring Marshal Guarnaccia, a persistent marshal in the Carabinieri (the second police force in Italy, one that grew out of the military and has a sometimes helpful, sometimes less relationship with the Polizia di Stato). The books take place in Florence, a city I’ve visited and loved lots, so I should really have a few more of Cocktail Talks from said books – here’s hoping the future leads to that very occurrence, especially as I find myself very fond of the Marshal, whose steady, non-flashy, neighborhood cop-y sense and regular Italian sensibility are very enticing in a way. Not to mention that he interacts with barmen serving Campari, which I always like to read about.

“Let’s hope not. I don’t want any shoot-outs with terrorists taking place in my bar, thanks.”

And he, too, began to scan the innocent-looking tourists.

“Rubbish! That sort of thing only happens in Rome . . .”

But both them touched the metal edge of the counter to ward off evil, and the barman, dropping ice-cubes into three Camparis for an outside table, kept an eye on the Marshal’s broad back.

–Magdalen Nabb, Death of a Dutchman

November 21, 2023

Cocktail Talk: Barnaby Rudge, Part V

Barnaby Rudge

Have we had enough Cocktail Talking from the Dickens’ classic Barnaby Rudge? I doubt it! But we are going to turn the last page – or have the last quote – for now, calling last call with the below (be sure to learn more about the book, as well as enjoy more Barnaby Rudge Cocktail Talks by reading Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV! And why not read all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks? There is no good answer to that question). This snippet takes us back to the Maypole, the bar parts of the book revolve around, and is such a dandy description of the place, I wish I could dive right into the page and be there (the bar, that is, not the page). What a spot! And, what a book.

Old John would have it that they must sit in the bar, and nobody objecting, into the bar they went. All bars are snug places, but the Maypole’s was the very snuggest, cosiest, and completest bar, that ever the wit of man devised. Such amazing bottles in old oaken pigeon-holes; such gleaming tankards dangling from pegs at about the same inclination as thirsty men would hold them to their lips; such sturdy little Dutch kegs ranged in rows on shelves; so many lemons hanging in separate nets, and forming the fragrant grove already mentioned in this chronicle, suggestive, with goodly loaves of snowy sugar stowed away hard by, of punch, idealised beyond all mortal knowledge; such closets, such presses, such drawers full of pipes, such places for putting things away in hollow window-seats, all crammed to the throat with eatables, drinkables, or savoury condiments; lastly, and to crown all, as typical of the immense resources of the establishment, and its defiances to all visitors to cut and come again, such a stupendous cheese!

–Charles Dickes, Barnaby Rudge

October 10, 2023

Cocktail Talk: Barnaby Rudge Part I

Barnaby Rudge

I’ve had a goodly amount of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts here on the Spiked Punch blog (started in the 1800s in honor of Dickens naturally), but never one from the underrated and underread book Barnaby Rudge, a situation which I’m going to remedy over the next few weeks, as I’ve recently re-read it, and so am primed for Cocktail Talks from it. You can learn more about the book from scholars more learned than I, but I will give you this: it has one of the finest, or most well-imagined, fictional pubs ever, The Maypole, in which some of the action centers. Also, it’s a book (like so much of Dickens) that while taking place in the past is finely attuned to the present, in this case as the sort-of second part of the book takes place around the actual London anti-Catholic (in theory, at least) riots, driven by Lord George Gordon, and the “politics” and demagoguery and players around such mirror a lot of what we see today. Sad, in a way. But the Maypole is nice! Until the . . . well, I won’t give too much more away. But I will start out at the Maypole, when one of the book’s main characters (out of a full and varied cast, as Dickens does), locksmith Gabriel Vaden, arrives at the pub on a stormy night.

When he got to the Maypole, however, and Joe, responding to his well-known hail, came running out to the horse’s head, leaving the door open behind him, and disclosing a delicious perspective of warmth and brightness – when the ruddy gleam of the fire, streaming through the old red curtains of the common room, seemed to bring with it, as part of itself, a pleasant hum of voices, and a fragrant odour of steaming grog and rare tobacco, all steeped as it were in the cheerful glow – when the shadows, flitting across the curtain, showed that those inside had risen from their snug seats, and were making room in the snuggest corner (how well he knew that corner!) for the honest locksmith, and a broad glare, suddenly streaming up, bespoke the goodness of the crackling log from which a brilliant train of sparks was doubtless at that moment whirling up the chimney in honour of his coming – when, superadded to these enticements, there stole upon him from the distant kitchen a gentle sound of frying, with a musical clatter of plates and dishes, and a savoury smell that made even the boisterous wind a perfume – Gabriel felt his firmness oozing rapidly away. He tried to look stoically at the tavern, but his features would relax into a look of fondness. He turned his head the other way, and the cold black country seemed to frown him off, and drive him for a refuge into its hospitable arms.

‘The merciful man, Joe,’ said the locksmith, ‘is merciful to his beast. I’ll get out for a little while.’

And how natural it was to get out! And how unnatural it seemed for a sober man to be plodding wearily along through miry roads, encountering the rude buffets of the wind and pelting of the rain, when there was a clean floor covered with crisp white sand, a well swept hearth, a blazing fire, a table decorated with white cloth, bright pewter flagons, and other tempting preparations for a well-cooked meal – when there were these things, and company disposed to make the most of them, all ready to his hand, and entreating him to enjoyment!

–Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge

August 1, 2023

Cocktail Talk: Nightfall, Part II

Nightfall by David Goodis

Back a few years now (not a century’s worth, but a few, which over the last decade can feel nearly like a century at time – at other times, barely a second. Time? It’s a strange one), I had a Nightfall Cocktail Talk, and it was peachy! But I just took a re-read into this noir-ish book by David Goodis (nearly the noirish-est). It’s a dandy read, by the way. A twisty-ish, nearly character study in a way. I mean, there’s a murder that’s happened, and a crime (in Seattle! Of all spots. Though the action as it is takes place in NYC). And a beating. And some hidden? Lost? Spent? money around somewhere. And love, too! And maybe camaraderie. It’s interesting, in that (as mentioned in the early Nightfall Cocktail Talking), you feel there is no way it’s gonna work out happily for anyone, I felt that multiple times. but . . . well, I’m not giving it away. Read the book yourself! I will give away the below Cocktail Talk quote, however.

In this particular Village place there wasn’t much doing. Four men at the far end of the bar were having a quiet discussion concerning horses. A young man and a young woman were taking their time with long, cool drinks and smiling at each other. A short, fat man was sullenly gazing into a glass of beer.

Vanning turned back to his Gin Rickey. A peculiar sense of loneliness came upon him, and he knew it was just that and nothing more. He wanted to talk to somebody. About anything.

–David Goodis, Nightfall

November 15, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Passing Strange

passing-strange-airdIt’s strange and not strange that I haven’t had any Cocktail Talks from Catherine Aird, a master in the British small town mystery genre (though really, that qualification probably does her a disservice, as she’s just pretty masterful). I read a short story of hers not but a few years back in some anthology or other which escapes me, after which I picked up the first book she wrote (A Religious Body), which I loved, and since then have been slowly filling out my Aird library, and liking all the books. Featuring Detective Inspector C.D. Sloan, who operates in the made-up (but very familiar in a way) English region of Calleshire, working with the slightly bumbling, but funny, Detective Constable Crosby, they solve many well-crafted small English village murders. But, while pubs always show up, there haven’t been many/any Cocktail Talking moments in the books I’ve read, until the below quote from Passing Strange (where a murder happens at a flower show!), a quote which I found delightful, and relatable, too!

By closing time he had been fortified by an unusual quantity of beer. He had had to concentrate quite hard when the time came to leave the King’s Head. The little flight of steps which had presented no problem at all when he had arrived demanded careful negotiation when he left.

— Catherine Arid, Passing Strange

March 8, 2022

Cocktail Talk: The Deadly Pick-Up

deadly-pick-up-killer-take-allI recently picked up (hahaha) a type of book I dig, and one you don’t see as much anymore (though maybe they’re making a small comeback? Here’s hoping): the double book book. The two-complete-novels-under-one-spine book, the a-cover-on-each-side book, the take-the-awesome-and-twice-it (in the best circumstances) book! I love the idea of having two books at once, so was stoked to get the Armchair Fiction (a publisher it seems I need to look out for) double book book that combines a pulsating pulp twosome: The Deadly Pick-up, by Milton K. Ozaki, and Killer Take All, by James O. Causey. Were these two noir-sters put together cause they both utilize that middle initial so well? Maybe? But I think it’s mainly cause both of these books hit that pulpy, noiry, sweet spot of fast pace, seemingly inescapable problems for our narrators, some swell and shady characters (and often trouble deciding which is which), some trouble, some dark nights, and some booze-y boozing. Today’s Cocktail Talk is from The Deadly Pick-up, which is about as straightforward a title as you could imagine: recent Chicago transplant Gordon Banner offers a ride to a blond beauty, who then is murdered in her apartment while salesman Mr. Banner is waiting in his car downstairs, leading to him being the prime suspect, gangsters, other ladies and gentlemen who help, hinder, and harass him, and stops at many bars, including the one below.

It was 8:30 when I entered the Flask Club and wormed my way past a long crowded bar where four white jacketed bartenders were performing feats of alcoholic interest. At the rear was a huge room littered with closely spaced tables and chairs. The walls looked as though a whirlwind had flung huge gusts of newspapers against it and plastered them there, permanently imbedding their headlines in the calcimine. A dark-haired red-mouthed girl in black slacks and tight white blouse swung toward me and lead the way to a tiny table against a wall. She leaned against my shoulder, giving me a whiff of her body odor and glimpse of the dep V between her breasts while she lit a stub of candle, which projected from a wax-dappled Ehrlenmeyer flask set between the salt and pepper shakers. That rite duly performed to her satisfaction, she straightened and asked, “What’ll ya have?”

“Something to eat,” I told her.

“Okay. I’ll get a menu. Drink?”

“You might bring me an Old Fashioned.”

“Sure thing.”

 

— Milton K. Ozaki, The Deadly Pick-up

 

December 21, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Some Slips Don’t Show, Part III

some-slips-don't-showAs we wind our way into the final Some Slips Don’t Show Cocktail Talk (by the way: love the book cover here!), we find ourselves back at a situation touched on briefly in the book’s Cocktail Talk Part I (don’t miss Part II, either), where the real star of the series, detective Donald Lam (don’t tell his partner Bertha Cool I said he was the star, though), is getting cuddlier with one of the murder suspects in this here tale. And, as happens in the books (written by Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair), this cuddling, or prelude to cuddling, happens over drinks. Doubles, even.

A waiter came over and she ordered a double Manhattan.

“Single for me,” I said.

“Bring him a double, she said, smiling at the waiter. “I don’t want to get ahead of him.”

The waiter nodded and withdrew.

We nibbled pretzels and did a little verbal sparring until the waiter came back with the Manhattans. They were both doubles.

 

–A.A. Fair, Some Slips Don’t Show

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