March 24, 2020
When you’re sorta, oh, staying at home for an extended period as some are at the moment, it’s good to have a big, big book (or many). If you’re looking for a good big, big book, may I suggest what I’m reading, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries? Cause it is very big (700 plus pages in the version I have), and very good (I mean, it features tons of heavy-hitters covering many genres), and very holiday-y, which brings a nice feeling these days. Christmas and winter holidays are mystery-story hotspots, if you didn’t know, probably due to balancing the cheer out with murder. That’s a guess, but I’m just happy there are so many good stories here! Including one by Robert Barnard called Boxing Unclever. I have to admit, I didn’t know Mr. Barnard well before this story (I know, I probably should!), but one of the fun things about a big anthology like this is discovering the writers new to you, alongside your favorites. And this story is an intriguing one, a story within a story, and one with some nice – and murderous! – cocktail-talking, in the form of the below quote:
And so it was time for a second round of drinks. I decided on that as I saw toiling up the drive the figure of my dear old dresser, Jack Roden. My once dear old dresser. I poured out a variety of drinks including some already-mixed cocktails, two kinds of sherry, some gins and tonic, and two glasses of neat whisky. There was only one person in the room with the appalling taste to drink neat whisky before luncheon. Pouring two glasses gave that person a fifty-fifty chance of survival. Depending on how the tray was presented. With my back to the guests I dropped the hyoscine into one of the whisky glasses.
— Robert Barnard, Boxing Unclever
March 4, 2020
I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk from Dan J. Marlowe before – welcome to the site, Mr. Marlowe! A fairly well-known writer of mid-century hardboiled crime fiction (and other things, here and there), Mr. Marlowe had two sort-of series, one with a guy named Drake (I’ve never read any of these) and one with a guy named Johnny Killain – The Fatal Frails stars the latter, and this is my first with him – and then a bunch of books without an on-going lead. My favorite book of his falls in the latter group, though The Fatal Frails with Mr. Killain (a sort-of rough-and-tumble type who is both quite a brawler and quite a lady magnet) was pretty fun, so maybe I’ll try another. The fun thing about Mr. Marlowe outside the books is that he actually hung out with a bank robber, and a murderer, and co-wrote some stories with the former, so lived the life a bit. And, he wrote the below Cocktail Talk, which may be the only French Seventy-five mention I’ve seen in a pulp – with a bonus, throwing itself into one side of a discussion mostly won by the other side these days, meaning Cognac vs. gin in said drink. Nice that it’s harder to say the drink is “much-neglected” these days, too!
His glance that had difficulty in focusing moved over to Johnny speculatively. “Although I don’t know how you knew. I was – disturbed, last evening. Upset, if you like. I am given to moods. I have – treatment for them. Early in the evening I repaired to a little place I know where the bartender is an artist in the preparation of that much-neglected drink, the French Seventy-five.” He smiled at Johnny, not quite vacuously despite the clouded eyes. “You’re familiar with the drink? Champagne over a Cognac base? Terrific morale builder. I had – several, after which I decided a spot of visiting was in order.”
–Dan J. Marlowe, The Fatal Frails
February 25, 2020
Well, as I said recently (as I’m sure you recall), I’ve been reading a book every pulp, detective, mystery, American literature lover should read, The Giant Collection of the Continental Op. By dashing (okay, I’m not the first to say this) Dashiell Hammett, author of, well, if you don’t know I feel for you, cause the list includes some of the best works from last century (including The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and The Glass Key, all seminal works of words), in this giant collection, you’ll find a huge host of stories featuring his un-named, pudgy (but tough), old-ish (but tough), work-a-day detective, and all keep the pace up, and often the body-count. A great read, I must say, so great that I had to have two Cocktail Talks from it. If you missed the first (the Golden Horseshoe Cocktail Talk) then go check it. This second one isn’t quite as drunk-y, and includes a lot of food. But I couldn’t miss it, cause it has the Continental Op drinking crème de menthe, which is both awesome and hard to picture.
Two men servants waited on us. There was a lot of food and all of it was well turned out. We are caviar, some sort of consume, sand dabs, potatoes and cucumber jelly, roast lamb, corn and string beans, asparagus, wild deck and hominy cakes, artichoke-and-tomato salad, and orange ice. We drank white wine, claret, Burgundy, coffee, and crème de menthe.
–Dashiell Hammett, The Farewell Murder
February 18, 2020
We’ve had a small handful of delectable Dashiell Hammett Cocktail Talks here on the Spiked Punch, but probably not near as many as he deserves, being one of the undeniable pulp greats and all that. Perhaps he’s so in the firmament that it’s almost like all the Cocktail Talks of his are already known? Or perhaps I’m just behind on my Hammett-ing? Could be! But I recently read (behind on this, too), the Giant Collection of the Continental Op, which is downright demanded for any pulp-er. Most of the stories were originally printed in the legendary Black Mask magazine, and really show Mr. Hammett figuring out his style, the character, and things like pace and place – just things that would help define the genre, no biggie. The stories take the un-named protagonist hither and yonder, too, including for a spell at least down Tijuana way in the story called “The Golden Horseshoe,” where the Op tracks an English fella, and when he finds him, gets down to some serious drinking and Cocktail Talking:
He brought in a bottle of Black and White, a siphon and some glasses, and we settled down to drinking. When that bottle was empty there was another to take its place. We drank and talked, drank and talked, and each of us pretended to be drunker than he really was – though before long we were both as full as a pair of goats.
It was a drinking contest, pure and simple. He was trying to drink me into a pulp – a pulp that would easily give up all of its secrets – and I was trying the same game on him.
–Dashiell Hammett, The Golden Horseshoe
February 11, 2020
I’m a bit behind in boasting about this, but recently I was lucky enough to be able to visit Highside Distilling on Bainbridge Island out here in the WA, and then even luckier enough to be able to write about said distillery for the beautiful (I’m all about the b’s today) Seattle magazine. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, be sure to check out my Highside Distilling article now (please, hahaha). And while reading is nice, I strongly suggest that if you haven’t had the even more pleasure-filled chance to visit Highside, then you get on out there to try their gin, amari, and other treats. You know (don’t you?) that WA has the finest distillers in the land?
February 4, 2020
Well, I decided I needed a second Cocktail Talk from the Simenon book where Superintendent (at this point) Maigret mingles with the uber rich – don’t miss Part I. In it, I have a quote that’s respectably boozy, but doesn’t actually have our stoic Superintendent himself having a drink. So, here we are, with the below quote from a time when Calvados wasn’t considered the smart thing it seems – hard to believe that now.
There were many people there, and the air was thick with cigar and cigarette smoke; besides the superintendent’s, there was only one other pipe smoker.
“What can I give you?”
“Do you have any Calvados?”
He didn’t see any on the shelves, where every brand of whisky was displayed. The barman unearthed a bottle, however, and filled a huge balloon-shaped glass, as if any other sort of vessel for liquor was unknown here.
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Millionaires
January 28, 2020
A little more Maigret never hurt anyone, right – heck, Maigret is seen as a cure-all in many countries, so more is actually beneficial. It feels like that to me every time I read a Maigret yarn I haven’t read at least (and luckily, I still have a ways to goes, as Mr. Simenon was very prolific). I picked up the latest, for me, in a Florence bookstore, bella-ly enough, and in it Maigret has to enter the world of the super-rich after a murder in Parisan luxury hotel the George V. Said murder happening after two folks had a bit of a do, with numerous sippers, as detailed below.
“Not at this time of night, Madame la Comtesse, but I’ll get in touch with the nurse…”
A little over an hour before, he had brought up to that very suite a bottle of Champagne, a bottle of whiskey, some soda water, and a bucket of ice. The bottles and glasses were still in the sitting room, except for one Champagne glass that had been overturned on the bedside table.
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Millionaires
January 14, 2020
We started our Framed in Guilt Cocktail Talk-ing in Part I earlier this month – if you missed that, go check it out – with a first quote from the Day Keene classic reprinted in one volume along with another fine novel, My Flesh is Sweet. Here, protagonist and Hollywood writer (and murder suspect) Robert Stanton and lady friend are having a few drinks while not going to London, hahaha!
Fortifying himself with a double rye, he made a Tom Collins for Joy and joined them. “And where have you been,” Joy demanded.
Sitting down beside her, Stanton handed her the glass. “It wasn’t to London to see the queen. Scram, will you Bobby? I wouldst talk with my betrothed.”
–Day Keene, Framed in Guilt