June 19, 2018
Recently got my hands on another one of the superb (if you’re into such things, which I hope you are, so we can be friends and all that, though of course we could maybe still be friends even if you aren’t, but it’s not quite
as easy) Stark House Noir Classics collections. Often these are collections of out-of-print books by a single author, but in this one, there are three authors from the pulp-y period. All are worthy reads – your favorite is up to you – but the one I’m highlighting here is Park Avenue Tramp
, a book by Fletcher Flora (great name, too, and one I hadn’t been acquainted with before) about booze, a dangerous (in a sort-of different way) broad, a piano player, and bleakness in the best way, the way true noir books deliver it. Enough so that I was fairly, oh, downbeat for a moment when finishing this tale. Then I moved on to the next one (which is nice in these collections). A bar plays a central role, too, which is also nice, and where we get the below Cocktail Talk quote from.
She looked at him gravely and decided that he was undoubtedly a superior bartender, which would make him very superior indeed. It might seem unlikely on first thought that a superior bartender would be working in a little unassuming bar that was only trying to get along, but on second thought it didn’t seem unlikely at all, for it was often the little unassuming places that had genuine quality and character and were perfectly what they were supposed to be, which was rare, and it was exactly such a place in which a superior bartender would want to work, even at some material sacrifice. She felt a great deal of respect for this honest and dedicated bartender. She was certain that she could rely on him implicitly.
“Perhaps you can help me,” she said. “In your opinion, what have I been drinking?”
“You look like a Martini to me,” he said.
“Really, a Martini?”
“That’s right. The second you came in I said to myself that you were a Martini.”
–Fletcher Flora, Park Avenue Tramp
June 12, 2018
Picked up another of the Day Keene short story collections recently, this one called The Case of the Bearded Bride
(it’s Volume 4 of the series bringing all his stories from the old detective pulp magazines), and it’s full of the same Day Keene delicious-ness as the earlier volumes. And by that I mean, fast-paced yarns that are sometimes hard-boiled, sometimes mysterious, sometimes noir-ish, and always fun to read. The proofing here as with past volumes leaves a lot to be desired, but hey, it’s just sweet these stories are back in print. There’s a fair amount of bars and booze in them, but I picked a beer quote for this volume’s Cocktail-Talk-ing (check out past Day Keene Cocktail Talks
for more sweetness), because I don’t often beer-it up, and also because I liked this portrayal of a man just out of prison. Oh, the name of this story is a humdinger, too, “It’s Better to Burn.”
Gone were the held-back jewels he had put aside as an umbrella against the day that it might rain. Gone were the luscious blondes and the redheads. Gone was his Cadillac car. All that remained were sixty-six dollars and twenty cents and the belly that even two years in a cell had failed to diminish. He promptly steered it to the nearest bar and spent a dollar and eighty cents of his capital to fill it with beer. It had been two years since he had had a drink. Mellowed by the beer, he considered his prospects. They weren’t bright.
–Day Keene, It’s Better to Burn
June 5, 2018
I talked earlier about this little Signet pocket-sized find and where I found it in The Sunburned Corpse, Part I, post
. There, I also alluded to the rum-talk in the book, even though that
particular quote was about everything (or, some different tipples, at least) but rum. Well, that made me feel sad – this is murder in a tropical paradise after all, and tropical paradises are rum’s bosom buddies. So, a second quote from this little charmer, with rum taking the lead.
Strom went out quietly, stabbing me with his eye. Garel enjoyed the byplay but made no comment. He was content to let me relish my big moment. He brought out some special Puerto Rican rum for me, Battelito, a hot and aromatic drink that did great things for my start of mind.
–Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse
May 1, 2018
Well, my Maigret completism still has a long ways to go, but I made another little dent recently, picking up four volumes which I hadn’t yet read at a book sale. Which probably means more Maigret Cocktail Talk posts
, lucky you, because he does like a drink (or two, even when his doctor friend warns him off the sauce), as he wanders around Paris and France, solving murders and more (though usually there’s a murder). The first of the new batch that I read was Maigret and the Madwoman, and it’s typically great, and with a sad-but-underlying, oh, sweet-worldweary-ness (can that even make sense? It felt right when typing) that Simenon delivers via Maigret like no other. Read it, on a spring day at dusk, and you’ll get what I mean. Also, you’ll get this quote – perhaps the only Tom Collins quote in a Maigret book? I feel I’ve seen another, but can’t recall perfectly.
The butler, in a white jacket, had followed them out and stood, a watchful figure, awaiting orders.
“What would you like to drink? May I suggest a Tom Collins? I know of nothing more refreshing at this time of day.”
Maigret and Marella indicated their approval.
“Two Tom Collinses, Georges, and the usual for me.”
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Madwoman
April 24, 2018
An intriguing read by an author I don’t know, an Italian author, this book’s title was too good to pass up, plus the fact that it takes place in Sicily (where the author, Leonardo Sciascia is from), and that it says on the back “in the very first rank of Italian writers,” and so, well, I had to give it a good look. It falls into the crime genre, which combined with everything else also brought me in. It’s well worth reading, too, though if you only read very straightforward crime novels, it might take you down a slightly different path – which isn’t a bad thing, me thinks. Don’t get me wrong, there is crime, a worthy police Captain, serious pacing, and the Mafia. But there’s also a lovely beauty to the prose that feels different, a way of capturing and condemning the social scene in this place and time, and a more literary lean, if any of that makes sense. Check it out if you can find it for all of the above, and for the below quote (which I think is slightly off-translation actually, but still perhaps the only Averna quote in a crime book that I’ve seen):
Pizzuco, who had invited him to a bitter vermouth at the Cafe Gulino, as so often in the past, was astounded at Parrinieddu’s refusal and abrupt flight; though not particularly bright, he wondered about it for the rest of the day. Parrinieddu, for his part, was so rattled that he spent the day attributing sinister meanings to that offer of a bitter vermouth, bitter betrayal, bitter death, over-looking the well-known fact that Pizzuco suffered from what the doctors call cirrhosis due to his fondness for Averna’s bitter vermouth – a beverage which made him proclaim his faith as a Separatist and ex-soldier of the Volunteer Army for Sicilian Independence.
–Leonardo Sciascia, The Day of the Owl
April 10, 2018
Well, pals, we’re at the end of the Dombey and Son
Cocktail Talking (if you’ve missed any of the fun, then don’t miss the miracles that many are beginning to mention as masterful, by which I mean Part I
, Part II
, Part III
), and as I’ve done I believe just once in the past (wanna find out if my belief is correct, read all the past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts
and see), I’m going to put in a Cocktail Talk post that doesn’t contain any cocktails or spirits or bars, even. Instead, it’s a quote about one of my top all-time Dickens characters, Diogenes. Diogenes, or Di, is a dog that’s not friendly to all the folks, but is extremely loyal (like only
dogs can be) and affectionate to a few key characters, including our heroine (and really, central maypole the whole book turns around), Florence. At one point, she has to head out alone into the streets with a whole barrel of emotion and pain, thinking she’s all alone. And then!
Checking her sobs, and drying her swollen eyes, and endeavoring to calm the agitation of her manner, so as to avoid attracting notice, Florence, resolving to keep to the more quiet streets as long as she could, was going on more quietly herself, when a familiar little shadow darted past upon the sunny pavement, stopped short, wheeled about, came close to her, made off again, bounded round and round her, and Diogenes, panting for breath, and yet making the street ring with his glad bark, was at her feet.
‘Oh, Di! oh, dear, true, faithful Di, how did you come here? How could I ever leave you, Di, who would never leave me?’
Florence bent down on the pavement, and laid his rough, old, loving, foolish head against her breast, and they got up together, and went on together; Di more off the ground than on it, endeavoring to kiss his mistress flying, tumbling over and getting up again without the least concern, dashing at big dogs in a jocose defiance of his species, terrifying with touches of his nose young housemaids who were cleaning doorsteps, and continually stopping, in the midst of a thousand extravagances, to look back at Florence, and bark until all the dogs within hearing answered, and all the dogs who could come out, came out to stare at him.
— Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
April 3, 2018
For our third stop on the Dombey and Son
drinking tour (be sure to read Part I
and Part II
to catch up, and to learn a little more about why you should be reading Dombey and Son
right now, unless you have already, in which case you should be re-reading it! Heck, for that matter, catch the full roll call of Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks
, because there are many, due to the awesome-ness of Dickens, dontcha know), we hit the healthy benefits of sherry one more time. Heck, I want some sherry right now, even though I feel fine – as a preventative, of course!
Even Mrs. Pipchin, agitated by the occasion, rings her bell, and sends down word that she requests to have that little bit of sweet-bread that was left, warmed up for her supper, and sent to her on a tray with about a quarter of a tumbler-full of mulled sherry; for she feels poorly.
— Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son