June 21, 2022
It was recently my anniversary (thank you to my wife for marrying me!), which seemed the perfect time to re-read the 1944 mystery by George Harmon Coxe (a fairly well-known mystery writer from mid-last-century) called The Groom Lay Dead! It’s a nicely-paced (not breath-takingly-paced like Day Keene, but it keeps things moving) mystery around the death of a somewhat asshole-ish rich guy, with our protagonist being a slightly shell-shocked (this the WW II era) play director. So, there’s glamorous folks, an interesting upstate New York Finger Lakes setting, a few potentially shady (or moreso!) potential murderers, as well as a sort-of cult-ish health farm run by a hypnotic man – always a good addition. Worth checking out, especially if you can get the cover pictured here. I had a The Groom Lay Dead Cocktail Talk on here after the first time I read it, many years in the past (do, don’t miss that, ya’hear?), but I’d forgotten about this minor character I liked, and felt he (George Vernon, vaguely trapped up the health farm/cult) and his night out deserved a second Cocktail Talk quote.
Apparently it had been quite a while since George Vernon had been out and he’d made up his mind to enjoy himself. He had four drinks at the bar in addition to the two he’d had at Yager’s house: he had another Scotch and soda with his dinner and called for brandy with his coffee. Parks was doing all right, too. He got a lot of laughs of Vernon, who long ago had insisted that we call him George.
— George Harmon Coxe, The Groom Lay Dead
June 14, 2022
This, friends, is a solemn time here on the Spiked Punch. I’ve just now this moment realized that I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk (unless I’ve lost it over the years, which is possible as my mind is old and there are many posts on there) from the immortal Anthony Trollope novel Phineas Finn. Or, from the also immortal Phineas Redux. What in the world? Y’all know I love me some Anthony Trollope (you know this from reading the many Trollope Cocktail Talks), and of all the Trollopian fictional gems, the two Phineas books – which are the second and fourth I believe in the Palliser series of novels by Trollope, books which revolve around politics, and how those taking part in them acted and talked and such, of his time in the main, while still being fiction – may well be my favorite. Not saying they are the best or making any canonical pronouncements. But they may be my favorites. I’m not even sure I can type out why! But I have a soft spot perhaps for the hero (Phineas), an Irish-born fella who makes his way into the London political world and has adventures and mis-adventures and romances and at least one duel and fox hunts and trials and ups and downs and brandy and all kinds of things. Perhaps I just love the scope and insights into the time period? Or how the characters mingle through the books, some coming and some going until there’s this whole feeling of being a part of the world Trollope is creating, or how the motivations seem to mirror modern ones (with different trapping of course)? Or his “complete appreciation of the usual” as they say? All of that? The one thing I know for sure is that I can’t believe I haven’t had a quote in the form of a Cocktail Talk from either Phineas book! Well, let’s remedy that with the below, shall we? This particular one doesn’t actually feature said hero, but one of the other fairly important, let’s call them sub-main characters, Lord Chiltern.
He told nothing to Captain Clutterbuck of his sorrow, but Captain Clutterbuck could see that he was unhappy.
“Let’s have another bottle of ‘cham,’” said Captain Clutterbuck, when their dinner was nearly over. “‘Cham’ is the only thing to screw one up when one is down a peg.”
“You can have what you like,” said Lord Chiltern; “but I shall have some brandy-and-water.”
“The worst of brandy-and-water is, that one gets tired of it before the night is over,” said Captain Clutterbuck.
–Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn
June 7, 2022
As I was re-reading Can You Forgive Her?, the first in what’s commonly (though there is nothing common about them!) known as the Palliser novels, by long-time Spiked Punch pal Anthony Trollope, I realized that I couldn’t just have one more Cocktail Talk, oh no, I had to have at least two more. This being the second, and you being the reader that (if you haven’t read them) needs to go back and read the Can You Forgive Her? Cocktail Talk Part I (way back for that one) and then Part II (less farther back). That way you’ll be all caught and perfectly ready for the brilliantly named Burgo below, and for a little cherry brandy.
“Burgo, you had better eat your breakfast,” said Sir Cosmo.
“I don’t want any breakfast.” He took, however, a bit of toast, and crumbling it up in his hand as he put a morsel into his mouth, went away to the sideboard and filled for himself a glass of cherry brandy.
“If you don’t eat any breakfast the less of that you take the better,” said Sir Cosmo.
“I’m all right now,” said he.
— Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?
May 31, 2022
Hello Anthony Trollope fans! Which is everyone! Who likes to read, at least (which is also hopefully everyone)! Speaking of reading, long-time readers of this blog (which is everyone!) know that I love reading Trollope novels in the main, and know this due to the many many Trollope Cocktail Talks from years past. A long list that includes one Can You Forgive Her? Cocktail Talk. However! I was re-reading this book – the first in the amazing Palliser series, or series-esque – recently, and realized I needed way more in the way of Cocktail Talks from it. So, another is happening today, with the below quote. First a quick note: the novel is about a lady who goes a bit back-and-forth, not in her affections per se, but in how she decides to deal with them and her life, with a few other stories intertwined (including one which introduces Glencora Palliser, who shows up in most of the other books, and re-introduces Plantagenet Palliser, who shows up even more in them). All good Trollopian stuff! Including the below.
On the night before Christmas Eve two men were sitting together in George Vavasor’s rooms in Cecil Street. It was past twelve o’clock, and they were both smoking; there were square bottles on the table containing spirits, with hot water and cold water in jugs, and one of the two men was using, and had been using, these materials for enjoyment.
–Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?
May 24, 2022
Are you ready to celebrate tomorrow? I certainly hope so! Wait, celebrate what I hear someone in the back asking? Well, The Thin Man release date day of course! That’s right friends, one of the drinky-est movies of all time (and a swell mystery, too, natch), where the Martinis and such flow like rain in a Seattle winter, was released on 5/25, 1934, if memory serves. Based on the Dashiell Hammett book of the same name (which you must read), and kicking off a series of movies, The Thin Man for those whose lives have been sad so far, features drinking-and-joking-and-quipping-and-drinking-and-just-having-a-swell-time private detectives Nick and Nora Charles. And, for my money (what there is of it), the scene where we meet them for the first time is one of the best scenes in any movie, where a camera swerves through a crowded dance floor before you hear Nick telling the bartender the below, right after which Nora shows and orders seven Martinis. Amazing, as is this quote:
The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry Martini you always shake to waltz time.
–The Thin Man
May 16, 2022
Our third and last Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard Cocktail Talk (don’t miss, I tell you, don’t miss Part I and Part II, to learn more about the book and all such) shows the dangers of having Champagne cocktails after going to the movies! Very dangerous. And is also fun in a sort-of overly-dramatic way that reminds me of old motions pictures somewhat! With it, we say goodbye to little Mr. Pinkerton, for now, at least!
She laughed as if it weren’t really funny, but there it was.
“Monty and I had a Champagne cocktail or two at a club after the picture and decided we’d do that to Hugh, and then he’d see he was losing me and he’d say “I can’t let you go, you are mine,” and then it wouldn’t matter so much about his mother. Well, we did. We announced to Auntie and the Ripleys that we’d come to an understanding, and . . . and . . .
Linda Darrell bit her lip and smiled brightly.
–David Frome, Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard
May 10, 2022
Our second Cocktail Talk from David Frome’s fits-in-the-pocket-sized-book (be sure to read Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard Part I to learn more about the books, the murdering, and such) is brandy-based. It’s a little long, but wanted to set the whole scene, because it calls up multiple deficiencies in modern life. First: not enough people have brandy at hand like this for emergencies. Second: people don’t use the word “nip” enough to refer to a small drink. And third, people also don’t use the phrase “stiff peg” enough for a slightly larger strong pour of spirits in a glass. Let’s all work on bring these three things back into daily life, shall we?
“That Ellinger woman says my sister’s dead – is that true?
“Quite true, Mr. Ripley,” Bull said quietly. “Steady on, sir!”
He caught Hugh Ripley round the shoulders as he swayed in the doorway.
Superintendent Miller jumped to his feet and came over.
“Get some brandy,” he said to the maid. He pushed a chair up. Bull helped Ripley into it.
“I’m all right,” the young man said in a second. “Thanks.”
“This is Sir Charles Debenham, the Assistant Commissioner, and this is Superintendent Miller, of Scotland Yard,” Bull said. “They’re taking a hand in the investigation. Ah, here you are. Take a nip of this, sir.”
He took the decanter that Gaskins had fetched from the dining-room and poured out a stiff peg in the glass she held. Hugh Ripley poured it down his throat.
–David Frome, Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard
May 3, 2022
Take a trip with me now, friends, back, back, back in time a few weeks ago when I was talking here on the Spiked Punch (in the Mystery of the Dead Police post) about my love of Pocket Books, both those initial-capped as being from the brand that shares that name, and the general books-sized-to-fit-in-your-pocket that were widely available during the early-and-middle-ish part of last century. More recently than that, I re-read another Pocket Book from way farther back in 1941, one called Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard, by David Frome (there’s at least one more Mr. Pinkerton book, maybe others – if you see it, buy it and send it to me please). In it, there are three murders, a jolly little man named Mr. Pinkerton (not part of the famous detectives, by the by) who somehow gets embroiled in it all, his taciturn bulldoggy pal Inspector Bull, and some Londoning, which I always like. A fun little read! And with some Cocktail Talking too. Longtime (we’re going back farther than the post mentioned, but not so far as 1941) readers will realize I’ve had the below Cocktail Talk on here before, many moon ago – but it’s such a sweet quote, I’m going with it again! I’ll have a few others from the book later, for balance, don’t you worry.
Mr. Paget had brought along with him one of the new-fangled American contraptions for mixing spirits, and he, Linda Darrell, and Hugh Ripley had brought some mint from the garden, sent Gaskins to the fish monger’s for a six pennyworth of ice, and mixed it up with lemon juice. They made what they call a cocktail out of it.
–David Frome, Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard