April 18, 2017
. It’s always good to go back to Trollope (for me, that is. For you, too, I hope), re-reading books I love. But it’s also
amazing to uncover one of the few Anthony Trollope books I haven’t yet read (there are only a few left, which is amazing – if that isn’t tooting my own horn too much – when you consider the vast assortment of books he managed to write), which happened recently with a novel called Miss Mackenzie
. And, as you’d expect, it’s a fantastic read, a little different in that the heroine is a bit older than the norm, and in an interesting situation (which is the norm). I don’t want to spoil anything, so won’t say anything more, but it’s a dandy book. Not a lot of drinking, really, and, to be completely honest (not a bad thing, most days), the below isn’t even a drinking quote, in a cocktail or spirits or etc. way. But it feels like one! Maybe it is, in a way, too. Hmm. Either way, it is amazing. You’ll agree. I can feel it.
“I have heard a great deal about Mr. Stumfold,” continued Mr. Rubb, not appearing to observe the lady’s altered manner, “not only here and where I have been for the last few days, but up in London also. He is quite a public character, you know.”
“Clergymen in towns, who have large congregations, always must so be, I suppose.”
“Well, yes; more or less. But Mr. Stumfold is decidedly more, and not less. People say he is going in for a bishopric.”
“I had not heard it,” said Miss Mackenzie, who did not quite understand what was meant by going in for a bishopric.
“Oh, yes, and a very likely man he would have been a year or two ago. But they say the prime minister has changed his tap lately.”
“Changed his tap!” said Miss Mackenzie.
“He used to draw his bishops very bitter, but now he draws them mild and creamy. I dare say Stumfold did his best, but he didn’t quite get his hay in while the sun shone.”
–Anthony Trollope, Miss Mackenzie
April 11, 2017
Those long-time readers of this Spiked Punch blog (which is all of you, correct?) know that I love me some Peter Lovesey
. Especially his Peter Diamond series, which is body-packed (lots of murders) with awesomeness. But I like tracking down his other books, too, and recently found one of the few I don’t already have, a super-fun read called Keystone
. It takes place during the early glory days of Hollywood, especially around the studio that made the Keystone cops. There’s a murder or two and some mysteries and a well-researched setting, and the regular tight pacing and prose that Lovesey always delivers. If you can find it, get it. And then drink a whiskey sour while reading it:
We had to go as far as Wilshire Boulevard to find a place that served hot meals in mid-afternoon. By then I was ready to tackle the steak that Murray ordered. I ate, while he drank whiskey sours and talked about Louise, their daughters, his early life and his career in motion pictures, from the San Francisco nickelodeon to the absurdities of Keystone.
— Peter Lovesey, Keystone
March 28, 2017
All right, we’ve made it (sadly) to the final boozy leg of the Cocktail Talk Black Wings Has My Angel trip, with a few choice quote from this Elliott Chaze crime masterpiece (with the criminals being front and center here). If you missed Part I and Part II, then I suggest you start at the beginning for a little more information on the book, which is a dandy of a hellride, and one – if this is the kind of book you like, which I’m hoping – you won’t want to miss. As this is the final quote, I went with a bit from the book where the drinking is sweet. In taste at least.
She said the only thing to do was wait for proper light, goose the trailer along the trench in the dawn hours while the tourists were safe in their rented beds at the Imperial. She said meantime she had something for me. It was Southern Comfort, a sweet syrupy fifth of it, and we sampled and sampled in the moonlight until we were numb as skunks. I took her in and showed her the money and we came out and got even number, although I wouldn’t have thought it possible.
— Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel
March 21, 2017
If you missed Part I of our Cocktail Talk tour through lesser-known (though it should be known) noir classic Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze, then I strongly suggest you go read it now. You back? Cool! Here’s our second quote from that darkish crime tome, where main character Tim Sunblade is at a well-named bar drinking an old whiskey.
I drank a Coke in the Tuscany bar on Fifteenth. It tasted like gasoline. I went out and got a newspaper and came back into the Tuscany and sat in a booth with another Coke and the paper. Waiting. Somehow it got to be three o’clock. I bought myself a double I. W. Harper and water and four o’clock came around faster and then I went outside, walking toward the three-story building on Essex, not fast, but not slow, the whisky glowing just right in me.
— Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel
March 14, 2017
Is there anything better than discovering a very good book you’ve never heard of, by an author you’ve never heard of? Well, okay, I can think of one or two things better, but that might be it! But then, when you find out said author didn’t really write a lot more, well, then you’re sad. But happy. But sad! But happy! It’s a crazy world, and Black Wings Has My Angel, by Elliott Chaze, is a crazy good noir book, dark, full of passion and crime, and right in the Goodis vein (if you know what I mean, and if you don’t, I mean David Goodis). It’s hard sometimes to like the main hero/heroine here, but also impossible to not keep reading at a rapid pace to see what happens. There’s a heist, a murder, lots of action, lots of strange love, and lots of drinking. Which puts this book perfectly in Cocktail Talk continuum here, so much so that I’m going to have three different posts, with three different quotes, in this very month. Though Mr. Chaze is no longer with us, from whatever afterworld bar he’s at, I’ll bet he’d glad to see his book getting some love on the Spiked Punch – and you’ll be glad if you pick Black Wings Has My Angel and give it a read.
She went into the kitchen and mixed a strong drink. It was almost red with bourbon. She brought it back to the couch and sat down and there was the business of the fringes jiggling all over again. Then after a time she began talking: “Tim, don’t ever be a gentleman again. Like you were out in the yard when I turned the hose on you. It made me want to puke to see you standing there dripping and grinning at me as if I’d done you a favor. For God’s sake don’t turn into a gentleman on me.
— Elliott Chaze, Black Wings Has My Angel
February 21, 2017
I recently re-read (for the, oh, let’s say, fourth time) Graham Greene’s classic short post-WW-II Vienna thriller The Third Man. It was written specifically to be made into the (possibly) more classic movie of the same name, and is entirely worthwhile. And a quick read, too, as it both keeps you on the edge of your reading chair or couch – as you, along with the amazingly-named Rollo Martins, unravel the mystery of Harry Lime – and because as mentioned, it’s short. It also has a couple of neat bar scenes. I especially like the description below.
After he left me, Martins went straight off to drink himself silly. He chose the Oriental to do it in, the dreary smoky little night club that stands behind a sham Eastern façade. The same semi-nude photographs on the stairs, the same half-drunk Americans at the bar, the same bad wine and extraordinary gins – he might have been in any third-rate night haunt in any other shabby capital of a shabby Europe.
– Graham Greene, The Third Man
February 14, 2017
You’ll discover, as you spend hours and hours here, that there are a lot of Raymond Chandler Cocktail Talks – go read them all now, to get my views on the great writer, and to read more sweet booze-y quotes. WAIT! Don’t go read them all yet, cause the below quote is actually already in that list of posts. But it seemed so ideal for Valentine’s Day (in a, oh, vaguely sarcastic sense, but it’s all funtimes here!) that I couldn’t resist posting it again. Read it once, below, and then go read all the other swell Chandlerisms on the site.
Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.
— Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
February 7, 2017
Not so long ago in the past (though, admittedly, not yesterday either), wife Nat and I were lucky enough to go with some pals out to Scratch Distillery in Edmonds, WA to take part in one of their Ginology classes, where you end up with a bottle of your very own gin – one you designed! It’s neat, and even neater was that I got to write an article about Scratch Giniology for the Seattle magazine. You should read it! And then go do the class.