September 26, 2017
Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock was the tops. Movies, television, and being an overall memorable figure, today, we sometimes forget that he also edited a host of anthology horror and mystery books. How much did he actually have to do with them? Heck, I’m saying a lot, but he was a famous figure, and you know how that goes. Doesn’t matter one way or another to me though – I have a couple of these little pocket-sized collections, and keep my eyes open for more. Recently, I grabbed another one called Bar the Doors, which contains “thirteen superlative tales” selected, as it says, by Alfred himself. One of those is a sea-going yarn called “The Upper Berth,” by F. Marion Crawford – more a ghost or creature feature, it mostly takes place on a ship you wouldn’t want to voyage upon. It was a favorite of mine in the book, as well as having a whisky cocktail and a sherry scene with a great name in it.
“One hundred and five, lower berth,” said I, in the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a whisky cocktail at downtown Delmonico’s.
The steward took my portmanteau and greatcoat. I shall never forget the expression of his face. Not that he turned pale. It is maintained by the most eminent divines that some miracles cannot change the course of nature. I have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to drop my portmanteau. As the latter contained two bottled of particularly fine old sherry presented to me for my voyage by my old friend Snigginson van Pickyns, I felt extremely nervous.
—The Upper Berth, F. Marion Crawford
January 6, 2015
I’m not always in the mood for an anthology, but sometimes it’s fun to bounce from author to author fairly rapidly instead of settling in with one person. While I don’t know (though I haven’t checked this assertion) that there are less anthology type books today, it feels like there are, and the difference between last century and now seems almost completely to come from the lack of Alfred Hitchcock collections. There used to be tons of these, all fairly reliable, and all with fun names and covers. The below sherry quote comes from one called Stories My Mother Never Told Me, specifically from a story by Gerald Kersh, who must have enjoyed sherry quite a bit.
‘Hold hard, my friend,’ I said in Spanish. But he only bowed low and made a graceful gesture toward the glass. I believe that that sherry was in the hogshead before Napoleon came to handgrips with the Duke of Willington at Badajoz. Sherry is the worst thing in the world for rheumatism, and I meant to take no more than one sip. But that one sip filled me so full of sunlight that I felt myself responding to it as if to Spanish music, and my appetite came roaring back.
–Gerald Kersh, The Secret of the Bottle
February 5, 2013
You may not know it, but today is the anniversary of something Alfred Hitchcock did. I’m not sure exactly what it was, be he was a busy big guy, so it was probably something cool. So, he deserves a toast. But maybe not with the sloe gin cocktail detailed below (though it’s from an anthology he edited called 14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By). To figure out why that’s a bad idea, read the below.
‘Hurry up with that liqueur!’ said her husband. Mrs. Watkins went into the pantry and took out a liqueur glass. She poured a little sloe gin into it, and then she put down the bottle and left the pantry. She went into the children’s darkroom – they were allowed that for their photography. She still had the glass in her hand. There was a bottle on the highest shelf. She took it down and measured it carefully with her eye. The children’s manual of photography and the medical dictionary in Henry’s dressing room had been a great help. She poured out into the deep red of the sloe gin some of the contents of the bottle; it looked very white and harmless and hardly smelt at all. She wondered it if was enough, and she tipped up the bottle a little to make sure. She used a good deal more than the medical dictionary said was neccessary, but the medical dictionary might have underestimate Henry’s constitutions. She put the bottle back where she found it, and returned to the pantry. There she filled up the liqueur glass with more sloe gin.
–The Liqueur Glass, Phyllis Bottome
PS: He deserved it.