February 19, 2019
Well, 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
I’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
I 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
January 8, 2019
When a new year begins, I always think of the below quote (which has been featured on here before, but I was just thinking about it, and it is
such a good quote, that I believe having it on here once more is only doing a service to the world, and, as such, is okay), because it reminds me that my life, while swell, could always be swell-er, and that until I find myself in a situation like the below quote details, I can always aim higher, do better, and keep working to make an even better life, starting this very year. Now if I can just find a monkey.
I remember, for example, being taken to see a neurotic Frenchman who was staying there with his wife, and vividly recall Sunday morning in his suite, the wireless resounding to a clergyman’s voice reading the Lesson, while we drank Pernod, and a Pekinese tried in vain to seduce a monkey.
–Anthony Powell, “A Bottle of Wine at the Cavendish,” from The Compleat Imbiber 6
December 25, 2018
Another choice read and Cocktail Talk from George Simenon and my pal (well, it almost feels like it now – check out the past Maigret Cocktail Talks) Inspector Maigret. This read, Lock 14, that is, takes place as you might expect at a lock, and not only is it a regular atmospheric mighty Maigret mystery, but it’s also an interesting look into how commerce and people operated along the lock series and system at the time (for example, I had no idea how many barges were pulled along by horses that were kept on board, with their “carter” who led them and took care of them), and the bars that sprung up alongside the locks. The below is a good little look into one.
The lockkeeper accompanied his relations as far as the main road to Epernay, which crossed the canal two miles from the lock.
He saw nothing unusual. As he was passing the Café la Marine on his way back, he looked inside and was hailed by a pilot.
“Come and have a drop! You’re soaking wet . . .”
He had a rum, still standing. Two carters got to their feet, sluggish with red wine, their eyes shining, and made for the stable adjoining the café, where they slept on the straw next to their horses.
They were not exactly drunk. But they had had enough wine to send them into a heavy sleep.
–George Simenon, Lock 14
November 20, 2018
Wow, I haven’t had a lot of David Goodis on here (I think just one Goodis post
) – which is a shame, cause I love his work. Maybe it’s just too downbeat? Maybe when they drink it feels almost, oh, the opposite of the jolly drinking I tend to applaud? Maybe it’s just bad timing? – nearly all of his characters have a lot of bad timing. But he (though not as revered here in the U.S. as he should be, or maybe not as well-known
is a better way to put it, as his devotees are devoted, and I say U.S. cause he’s bigger in France, where most of his books have been made into movies, and where the only scant biography of him has been published) is a subtle master of pacing and language, and an obvious master of writing about the down and out and the nowhere to go and the last chance has already faded into the past, the back alleys and longshores and shabby bars that become nearly family for those who inhabit their shady, scruffy, barstools to nowhere. Shoot The Piano Player
may be his best-known book, or at least one with Dark Passage
the other, as it was made into a movie by François Truffaut, and it’s a worthy read unless you’re looking for some sort-of peppy ending. Lots of it centers around a bar, Harriet’s Hut. Not the nicest place, but a popular joint, as the below description tells us.
At the bar the Friday night crowd was jammed three-and-four-deep. Most of the drinkers wore work pants and heavy-soled work shoes. Some were very old, sitting in groups at the tables, their hair white and their faces wrinkled. But their hands didn’t tremble as they lifted beer mugs and shot glasses. They could still lift a drink as well as any Hut regular, and they held their alcohol with a certain straight-seated dignity that gave them the appearance of venerable elders at a town meeting.
—Shoot the Piano Player, David Goodis
November 13, 2018
A little more Cornell Woolrich for all those Woolrich-heads out there (and hopefully that includes all
of you). Be sure to check out our past Cornell Cocktail Talks
, to get a little more background and more cocktail-ing on and with this noir-master – so much so that many of his books have “black” in the title. However, today we’re taking a quote from the book Night & Fear
, which is actually a collection of stories that he published in the pulps back in the day. There’s a whole array of numbers in here, police stories, more noir-y numbers, and out-there-reads, which “Cigarette,” the story we’re pulling from here, fits into, though it also has a gangster angle, and that breathtaking page-turning quality most Woolriches wear like a glove. In the below, we have a bar scene with a younger, let’s call him naïve, chap and some more hardened heavies.
“Eddie grinned sheepishly and said, “Good evening, gents. Uh-uh-uh rye highball, but not too much rye.”
The laugh that went up drowned out the rest of it and he had to repeat himself so the barman could hear him. “And find out what the rest of the gents will have.”
Miller killed his drink, winked, and said, “Uh-uh-uh sarsaparilla for me.” He banged his hand down. “I don’t care if I do get drunk!” Another roar went up.
— Cornell Woolrich, Cigarette, in Night & Fear
October 9, 2018
Be sure to delve into our first Black Angel Cocktail Talk post
, to dig into more about why I like Cornell Woolrich, and what you’ll be in for when you (as you should) read his books and short stories. He doesn’t have a lot of cocktailing always (though I’ve had some past Cornell Cocktail Talks
), but in The Black Angel
, I found one of my favorite bar descriptions – I love a good bar description – as well as the earlier post (which, funny enough, takes place in the bar being described). I want to go to this bar:
“That’s it, then” he said. “Now I’ll tell you where. I know a little room, a midget cocktail bar, just around the corner from the Ritz. Can’t miss it. It’s called the Blues-Chaser. And it’s like that, really. There’s never too much of a crowd there, and that way we won’t have to run too much interference. We have a date now, don’t forget.” “All right, we have a date.”
. . .
The place itself was intimate, confidence-inspiring, made to order for just such a rendezvous as ours. A regular postage stamp of a cocktail lounge; I’d never yet been in one as small. Heavily carpeted and hushed, but hushed in a relaxing, cozy way, not depressingly hushed. It was a little gem of a place, and I wonder now if it’s still there.
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel