April 16, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Maigret and the Minister

Image result for maigret and the ministerMy love of, and diving into, the George Simenon Maigret canon has been well documented here on the Spiked Punch, with loads of Simenon Cocktail Talks that you should go back and read and love. This one here, the newest as I write this at least, cause I’m sure they’ll be more, sees our man Maigret drawn into the wacky world of Parisian (and France, in general) politics, which he doesn’t always enjoy, but which it’s fun to see him navigate and he tried to unravel a corruption case. As usual, he and his team have an assortment of drinks along the way, starting with some sloe gin, but leaning heaviest I believe into Pernod.

And Maigret felt slightly guilty vis-à-vis his two colleagues. Lapointe too must have realized by now what it was all about.
“A beer?” suggested Maigret.
“No. A Pernod.”
And that too was out of character for Lucas. They waited for the drinks to be served, and then continued in hushed tones.

–George Simenon, Maigret and the Minister

March 26, 2019

Cocktail Talk: The Knife Slipped

Image result for the knife slippedWay, way, back in the balmy days of 2009, I had a Cocktail Talk post from A.A. Fair, and went through how he was actually a nom de plume (as they say) of Erle Stanley Gardner, at one time the biggest selling writer around thanks to his books about a certain lawyer named Perry Mason! You can see how I feel about all of that by reading past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks (short version: oddly enough, I tend to like the show better than the books, though they aren’t bad, and tend to have great covers, and I like the A.A. Fair books better for some reason). Here, though, is the neat thing about The Knife Slipped. It was a lost manuscript, rejected at one time by Gardner’s publisher, and only recently re-found and published by the happening folks at Hard Case Crime. It’s a good read, too, staring Cool and Lam (Donald Cool and Bertha Lam), a detective team, and the book stands out as an early mystery for this detecting duo, giving more history around them, and just being a swell read on every side. Well worth picking up, whether you sit with me on the Gardner questions or not. And, there are slugs of Scotch.

“Dance,” I said.
Her voice was wistful. “Uh-huh. The floor is build out over the side hill, on an enclosed porch. You dance out from the tables onto this porch and look down over the city lights. They keep it almost dark out there, just a starlight effect.”
“It won’t be starlight tonight,” I said, “but a good shot of Scotch might help. How about it? Do you feel the same way about a slug of Scotch I do?
She hesitated a minute, and said, “I don’t know.”

–A.A. Fair/Erle Stanley Gardner, The Knife Slipped

March 19, 2019

Cocktail Talk: When the Wind Blows

Image result for Cyril Hare, When the Wind BlowsI recently discovered Cyril Hare, the English mystery author and judge (his real name was Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark, too, which is quite a mouthful), and have now read a couple of his books, and (like many of the best English authors of his time) they tend to be well-plotted, not-overwrought in any kind of distracting way, and full of characters written perfectly, as well as providing an insight into English small towns and such. When the Wind Blows (which some consider the highest Hare) is a good place to start if the above entices you, or if you like orchestras, as it takes place around an orchestra in a mid-sized English town. Also, there’s whiskey (as the below shows us), and a few folks happy to take a tipple even if this takes place in the lean post-WW II years.

“I have never been able to understand,” said MacWilliam, looking meditatively at the glass in his hand, “why, in these days of shortages and rationing, it should be considered perfectly proper for guests to bring with them morsels of tea and sugar and disgusting little packets of margarine for the benefit of their hosts, while it is taken for granted that they should be supplied ad libitum with substances far more precious – if you will forgive my mentioning it – a great deal more expensive. Now I don’t much care for tea and hardly take any sugar, but I do – as you may conceivably have observed – drink an appreciable quantity of whisky of an evening. I repeat, therefore, I have left two bottles for you in the hall.”

–Cyril Hare, When the Wind Blows

March 5, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Take Me Home

Image result for leave her to hellLet’s have one more from the fine three-novels-in-one-book Fletcher Flora collection from Stark House. We’ve had quotes from the first two books in there (check out all of the Fletcher Flora Cocktail Talks to see those – and more!), and to bring things all full circle and such, wanted to have one from the last book, Take Me Home. While it was probably my least favorite of the three, it, like the others especially when taken all together, shows the versatility and reach of Flora. Take Me Home is definitely still a good read, just leaning more towards noir-ish slice of life of a few characters in, if not desperate, awfully close, states. As opposed to the more mystery-side, or crime side, of the first two books. And the below quote about port is one no-one wants to miss.

“Dark port would be nice,” she said. “It’s not so dry as some of the others, and besides, it’s stronger than most of them.”
“You mean it has more alcohol?”
“Yes. Port has around twenty per cent and most of the dry wines have only twelve or fourteen.”
“That’s a good thing to know. I’ll remember that.”
“Oh yes. Port is six or eight percent stronger.”
“A bottle of dark port, please” Henry said to the clerk.

–Fletcher Flora, Take Me Home

February 26, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Let Me Kill You, Sweetheart

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51hBWbuC5pL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAs I chatted with you about in our previous Fletcher Flora Cocktail Talk posts that were up here recently, I’ve been reading a three-pack book (meaning, it contains three novels) from this sadly lesser-known pulp/pocketbook star, and in the second book, Let Me Kill You, Sweetheart, you can really see what set him apart, as it has a level of creativity in how it approaches what should be a straightforward murder, with multiple narrators (including the killer, though we don’t know who it is until the last sentence, and the murder victim) and backstories. It’s pretty neat. And, it has a nice hotel bar where a fair amount of action – or in-action – takes place, including the drinking of Miller High Life! Now, way before the MHLife renaissance, my pals and I were big, big fans of the American beer, because it’s nice on a hot day, because it was a sort-of outsiders beer (and we were sort-of outsiders), because it didn’t cost a ton of $$ (and we didn’t have a ton of $$), and, well once we started, why stop? So, seeing a MHLife quote in a book from Fletcher Flora from 1958 was neat. And love that they call it Miller’s High Life. Read it, and you’ll agree:

An hour later, at eleven-thirty, the taproom of the Division Hotel was almost deserted. The only persons present were Bernie Juggins, the bartender, and Purvy Stubbs. Purvy sat on a stool and stared moodily into half a glass of Miller’s High Life that was going flat. He hadn’t drunk from the glass for quite a long time, and it looked like he sure as hell was never going to drink from it again, and for all Bernie could tell from looking at him, the fat bastard might be dead.

–Fletcher Flora, Let Me Kill You, Sweetheart

February 19, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Leave Her to Hell, Part II

Image result for leave her to hellWell, when I posted an earlier Leave Her to Hell Cocktail Talk, I should have mentioned (or at least alluded to) that there might be more, but I wasn’t sure. However, in hindsight, why would I only want one, when there are multiple swell drinking scene in this book (which, as you learned when you read the earlier post, which you did read, right? but whichin you learned I’m reading via a you-should-own-it collection of three Fletcher Flora novels, said collection put out by Stark House). Heck, I’m guessing now that I’ll have even more from Kansas-born Mr. Fletcher (sadly gone from us a few years now), so you have that to look forward to (and if you need even more, see past Fletcher Flora Cocktail Talks, too). However, with that said, and with my admiration for said writer, I can’t completely agree with his final assertion in the below quote, which has three classic drinks in it. Three! Though, with novelists, you never know that the protagonist’s point of view is the authors, so really, maybe Mr. Flora loves an Alexander, and is having one right now at whatever afterworld bar he’s hanging at. Here’s hoping!

I looked right. A cocktail lounge was over that way, beyond a wide entrance and down a step. A number of people were drinking cocktails. There was no music. I recognized a Martini, which was all right, a Manhattan, which was better, and an Alexander, which you can have. Everything was very elegant, very sedate. Maybe someone saw me, maybe not.

–Fletcher Flora, Leave Her to Hell

February 12, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Leave Her to Hell

Image result for leave her to hellI’ve only had one Cocktail Talk from the wonderfully-named Fletcher Flora, which makes some sense as until recently I had only read one of his books, Park Avenue Tramp (don’t miss the Park Avenue Tramp Cocktail Talk, by the by). Now, I’m diving into a three-pack of his novels, put out by the smashing Stark House, starting with the also wonderfully-named Leave Her to Hell. So, there may be more from this Kansas-born author, who is lesser-known than he should be, due to his more character-driven, a bit literary-minded at times, often a little different from the standard pulp-and-pocket-book style, and also (I found out in the book’s intro), due to a bad agent who sold his books to unreliable published. Agents are important, kids! Leave Her to Hell is a worthy read, too, with a neat detective lead (Percival Hand – wish there were more books with him), and a good story with quick dialogue. However, really, I picked this particular quote cause they’re about to be drinking gin-and-tonics, a normally fair-weather spring and summer sipper, and it’s really cold here, and snowy, and I like thinking about sunshine drinks when it’s cold!

“I like you, Mr. Hand,” she said. “I like your looks.”
“Thanks, I like yours, too.”
“Would you care for a drink?”
“Why not? It’s a warm day.”
“I had a gin and tonic before you came. Do you drink gin and tonic?”
“When it’s offered. A gin and tonic would be fine.”

–Fletcher Flora, Leave Her to Hell

January 22, 2019

Cocktail Talk: Lovers of Their Time and Other Stories

Image result for Lovers of Their Time and Other StoriesI am often running late, and here I am again, running late. That’s a fairly awkward sentence, one you probably wouldn’t have found in a book by the legendary Irish writer William Trevor, who died two years ago last November 20. He’s been feature on the ol’ Spiked Punch blog a few times (read past William Trevor Cocktail Talk posts for more about the man), and probably I should have found a way to feature him more, because he was a champ, and I’ve read many of his stories and novels – though, and for this I’m happy, not nearly all of them yet. While his novels, usually on the short-ish side, are renowned, he may be even better at the short story, a master of summoning a mood and a narrative umph in a few pages, even while seemingly writing about the day-to-day, often. This quote is from one of his short story collections you should own, and spotlights bianco vermouth, of all things! Thanks again Mr. Trevor, wherever you are currently sipping, for all the words.

Further rounds of drinks were bought and consumed. The Arrowsmith boys declared to each other that they were drunk and made further sotto voce observations about the forming bodies of the Wiltshire twins. Mrs. Wiltshire felt the occasion becoming easier as Cinzano Bianco coursed through her bloodstream.

–William Trevor, Lovers of Their Time and Other Stories

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