August 14, 2018
The memorably-titled, Wichita-based, PI-featuring, crime-and-criminals riddled, mystery and murder-packed pocket-style book Hot Summer, Cold Murder
by Gaylord Dodd had too many Cocktail Talk moments to just have one post from it (if you missed Hot Summer, Cold Murder Part
I, then please read it now, as it’ll give you more background). I actually like this quote even more than the first, though it doesn’t feature muscatel, our hero’s (hero of sorts, that is) favorite summertime tipple. But the below quote is a fabulous one, summing up a certain type of bar at a certain time period perfectly:
Tom Silver’s big red and white face swam in an ocean of bar glasses hanging from a rack above the bar. He was the perfect bartender. He spoke when spoken to and otherwise stood leaning against the counter with his arms folded across the massive pad of his enormous gut. The drinks he made were clean and when you ordered call-booze you got what you called. When some woman you were with ordered a Gin Fizz or a Gold Cadillac, Tom made it quickly, correctly, and without the condescending leer of the bartender whose only desire is to stir a jigger of whiskey into a six-ounce tumbler with Seven-Up.
“Waddle it be, Mr. Roberts?”
“Old Grandad with water back, please Tom.”
— Gaylord Dodd, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
August 7, 2018
Sometimes a book’s title says enough – enough to make me pick it up, at least, as is the case here. I mean, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
is an amazing title. Amazing! Add to the fact that this book was written by Gaylord Dold, who I’ve never read before but who is a pal of a pal of my mom (or something like that), and that my very mom gave me this book, and, well, I was excited to read it. And it was a good, solid read, with a down-on-his-luck, muscatel-swilling P.I., a mystery and (as the title tells us) a murder, a lot of double-dealing and shady-at-best characters and cops, alluring and dangerous ladies, and more, all happening in Wichita! Amazing, as I’ve said. It’s a little in the hard-boiled tradition, but has a 70s-mystery vibe too, while taking place in the 60s I believe, and published in the 80s. Worth tracking down if you’re intrigued (and if the above doesn’t intrigue you, then you should check your pulse) – and I haven’t even mentioned the Cocktail Talk-ing, like the below:
In the same twenty minutes one beat-up Plymouth cruised past on Lincoln Street and no-one went into the barbershop next door. When it was that hot and dead I always drank sweet muscatel, and when it got bad enough I thought about my ex-wife Linda. After five years, the memories never got any better.
— Gaylord Dodd, Hot Summer, Cold Murder
July 24, 2018
Don’t go thinking I decided to have a second Cocktail Talk from George Harmon Coxe’s The Crimson Clue
because of the rhyme between “clue” and “two,” though admittedly that’s a bonus. But this 50s Kent Murdock (news photographer by day, murder solver by night)-starring read had too many Cocktail Talk moments to not highlight another one. Oh, if you missed The Crimson Clue, Part I
, where I talk a bit more about the book, and have another nice quote, then I suggest trotting back in time to catch up. Caught up? Nice. That means you probably need a drink, and if you’re tired of bubbly like our man Kent, then the below will fit you like good shoes.
Elliott tapped the empty glass. “How many of those have you had?”
“You don’t particularly like that stuff, do you?”
“Then how about a real drink? A Scotch?”
“Fine,” Murdock said.
Elliott called to a passing waiter, asking him to bring two Scotch and sodas to the library.” Mostly Scotch,” he added.
–George Harmon Coxe, The Crimson Clue
July 17, 2018
It had been a long, long stretch of days since I’ve had a Cocktail Talk post from a tale by one of our pocket-book specialists (in the 50s, that is), George Harmon Coxe – past hits here have covered his books The Groom Lay Dead
and Murder in Havana
. Those titles, along with the book we’re quoting here, The Crimson Clue
, give you insight into where his reads roll: mysteries and crimes and all that good stuff. In The Crimson Clue
, the hero is one I hadn’t seen before: a news photographer named Kent Murdock. I like the idea of a photographer shooting snaps and then solving crimes, and Kent’s a nice protagonist, and the book moves along at a persistent clip (as most pocketbooks do), has an intriguing cast (jazz musician, ex-cops, good cops, singer, rich folks doing bad things, and more), and a solid story. And, a fair amount of cocktailing and straight sipping, including the below, which asks an eternal question:
She watched him slip off his topcoat and put it on the arm of the divan, her head dipped, glance speculative. “Would you say it was too early for a drink?”
Murdock made an act out of looking at his watch and frowning over the proposition. When he looked at her she laughed.
“Bourbon?” she asked.
“That’ll be fine.”
“On the rocks, huh?”
She started for the kitchen and he asked if he could help and she said no. “On this kind of a drink,” she said, “no-body needs help. Sit down, will you? Park. Make yourself comfortable.”
— George Harmon Coxe, The Crimson Club
June 26, 2018
Just last week, I highlighted a Cocktail Talk quote from an old noir novel called Park Avenue Tramp
, which (as detailed there) was part of a Stark House Noir Classics collection that features three out-of-print noir novels all together. These collections are really worthy reads if you dig the pulps, noirs, and pocketbooks-with-saucy-covers, because they feature books not easily picked up today. In this collection, I liked all three reads, but my favorite might have been The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
, by Charles Runyon. A small town serial killer search, in a way, it moved fast, had a fair amount of twists and turns, tight and creative lingo and well-written prose-ing, and a female lead who showed some gumption. All good stuff! And a good Cocktail Talk quote about a country bar, which you’ll see below.
It was a little gas station and honky-tonk; the kind you see around the country with names like Burntwood Inn and Cozy Dell. This one was called Pine Cover Tavern and was crowded (there was no work in the fields because of the rain) with men in overalls and a couple of women in print dresses. We drew stares as we walked to a booth in the back. I felt wicked and daring, and though it was unlikely that any Shermanites would see me, I found that I didn’t really care if they did. I told Curt to order me a boilermaker: a glass of beer with a shot of bourbon inside it. He ordered the same for himself and drank silently for a few minutes.
–Charles Runyon, The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed
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