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
October 2, 2018
I have a fair amount of books by Cornell Woolrich
(writer of Rear Window and many other memorable noir-y numbers, though criminally under-read and under-known today, and also a fella who had a not-very-peppy life, for being a big seller, to say the least), and go through phases where he’s a favorite – well, maybe he always is, but I have to be in the right mood, if that makes sense, or ready for the right mood. His books are very edge-of-your-seat in a way that’s all his own. Not the breakneck pace of some, not the catchy lines and characters of others, but his leads are always in a depressing, serious, jam of some sort (I’m underselling with “jam”), and slowly, with the tension every-increasing, trying to find a way out. Take The Black Angel
. The lead lady has a husband, who’s been cheating and who is on death row for the death of his mistress, but our wonderful lead believe he’s innocent and so goes through a serious of super harrowing sort-of undercover escapades to try and find the real murderer – and it gets more nerve-wracking and ultimately depressing from there. But the atmospherics and language are all amazing. And there are some really good bar scenes, too, including the below, about cocktails and dating:
“There’s no good reason for getting stuck, really. It’s the simplest thing in the world. You see the thing through past the cocktails. I meant, a cocktail will get you through practically anything, anyway. If it’s the face that bothers you you’ve got an olive to look at instead. Then with the soup, you step outside a second to buy a pack of cigarettes. You pick some brand you’re dammed sure they won’t be able to bring to your table, in case there happens to be a ciggie girl in the place.”
–Cornell Woolrich, The Black Angel
September 18, 2018
Our re-visit to the Trollope late-period romantic comedy Ayala’s Angel continues (be sure to dip your toes into Part I, as well as our first Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Talk from years ago, so that you get a little more background on the book, as well as adding a few more smiles and cocktail-ing to your day), with a little sherry and bitters and some nice ranting about sherry and bitters.
Sir Thomas went on, with a servant at his heels, chucking about the doors rather violently, till he found Mr. Traffick alone in the drawing-room. Mr. Traffick had had a glass of sherry and bitters brought in for his refreshment, and Sir Thomas saw the glass on the mantelpiece. He never took sherry and bitters himself. One glass of wine, with his two o’clock mutton chop, sufficed him till dinner. It was all very well to be a Member of Parliament, but, after all, Members of Parliament never do anything. Men who work don’t take sherry and bitters! Men who work don’t put their hats in other people’s halls without leave from the master of the house!
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope
September 11, 2018
I recently read the fairly-late-period Trollope novel Ayala’s Angel again – you can tell I’ve read it before, because I have a past Ayala’s Angel Cocktail Post on this very blog! But I tend to read Trollope books more, because no modern books are as good (I kid, I kid – sort-of, hahaha), or just because I like them so much. So, came back to this one again, and loved it again. It doesn’t get as much press as the more serious late-period Trollope works, but it’s a very fun read, a romantic comedy in most ways, with lots of humorous moments, as well as a perfect picture of a certain type of life in the late 1800s, featuring lots of details, the nearly-always-there fox hunt, visuals into the changing economies, all that. But mostly, just really good characters and lots of fun. It’s a long read, but moves quickly and keeps the pages turning. When reading it again, I realized A: how much I liked it, and B: that I gave it short-shrift with just one Cocktail Talk. So, a few more are coming! Starting with this one, where our heroine is being crabby, and takes it out on gin!
“I hate dishes,” said Ayala, petulantly.
“You don’t hate eating?”
“Yes, I do. It is ignoble. Nature should have managed it differently. We ought to have sucked it in from the atmosphere through our fingers and hairs, as the trees do by their leaves. There should have been no butchers, and no grease, and no nasty smells from the kitchen,—and no gin.”
This was worse than all,—this allusion to the mild but unfashionable stimulant to which Mr. Dosett had been reduced by his good nature.
—Ayala’s Angel, Anthony Trollope
September 4, 2018
I love gin. I love things that have been in barrels (booze in barrels, at least). So, it will come as no surprise to you that I am a fan of barrel-aged, or barrel-rested, gins. It will also come as no surprise to you (long time reader) that Washington-state barrel-aged gins are the ones I’m most a fan of – cause I love our local distillers up here. With that preamble, let me introduce you to an article called: Seattle Distillers Make a Spirited Case for Barrel-Aged Gin, which I wrote for Seattle Magazine. Truth moment: it’s not just Seattle distillers – because non-Seattle WA-state distillers are also making mighty barrel-aged gins! Learn all about all of them, then buy a bottle or three because they’re ideal for this time of year, as well as other times.
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