September 7, 2021
Don’t miss the weird (!) Owls Don’t Blink Cocktail Talk Part I, or you’ll be sorry (in little ways, maybe, but probably not losing sleep, which would make me sad), which not only has a strange New Orleans-y quote, but more info on this book by Erle Stanley Gardner, though writing as A.A. Fair. And, while being thorough about your research, check out all the Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, to get the skinny of how I feel (hmm, is this too much all about me? You’ll get good cocktail quotes, too) about his famous creation Perry Mason, and private investigators Donald Lam and Betha Cool, who star in this particular mystery yarn. In the below quote, Lam is taking one of the potentially murderous (!) female characters in the book out for a ginormous dinner. I can’t imagine eating this much, but in the 40s, people were heartier.
The waiter brought our daiquiris. We touched glasses, took the first sip.
The waiter stood by our table, exerting a silent pressure for our orders.
“Could you bring some oysters on the half shell with a lot of cocktail sauce, some horseradish and lemon?” I asked. “Then bring us some of those cold, peppered shrimp, some onion soup, a steak about three inches thick, done medium rare, some French-fried onions, shoestring potatoes, cut some French bread, put on lots of butter, sprinkle on just a trace of garlic, put it in the oven, let it get good and hot so the butter melts all through the bread, put some sparkling Burgundy on the ice, and after that bring us a dish of ice cream, a huge pot of coffee, and the check.”
The waiter never batted an eyelash. “I could do that very nicely, sir.”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink
August 31, 2021
This may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.
We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.
“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.
“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.
Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”
I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”
–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink
April 23, 2019
Well, shamus lovers, it was just a few weeks back I think when I had another A.A. Fair Cocktail Talk post from The Knife Slipped
, a recovered-and-printed-for-the-first-time number from the Hard Case crime folks. But I also just finished another A.A. Fair book, You Can Die Laughing
, in old-time-y Pocket Book printing (which I love, too), and it was yet another swell Cool and Lam (Bertha Cool and Donald Lam, that is) yarn, with loads of twists and turns, a murder (or, ?), some fun times, and some smart thinking, and some neat-ness. If you’re scouring the used racks and see it, pick it up. And if you want more on A.A. Fair and his real, even more well-known name, and such, see all the past A.A. Fair posts
. But be sure to read the below B&B beauty before you head off.
There was a juke box in the place and we did a little dancing. She was nice. I held her as close as I dared, and she flashed me a glance from time to time that did things to me. I knew she was still sizing me up, still leading me on.
We had dessert and two B&B’s. I shuddered to think of Bertha’s reaction to the expense account if I didn’t fake it.
We had another B&B, and I decided to fake hell out the expense account.
–A.A. Fair, You Can Die Laughing
March 26, 2019
Way, way, back in the balmy days of 2009, I had a Cocktail Talk post from A.A. Fair, and went through how he was actually a nom de plume
(as they say) of Erle Stanley Gardner, at one time the biggest selling writer around thanks to his books about a certain lawyer named Perry Mason! You can see how I feel about all of that by reading past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks
(short version: oddly enough, I tend to like the show better than the books, though they aren’t bad, and tend to have great covers, and I like the A.A. Fair books better for some reason). Here, though, is the neat thing about The Knife Slipped
. It was a lost manuscript, rejected at one time by Gardner’s publisher, and only recently re-found and published by the happening folks at Hard Case Crime. It’s a good read, too, staring Cool and Lam (Donald Cool and Bertha Lam), a detective team, and the book stands out as an early mystery for this detecting duo, giving more history around them, and just being a swell read on every side. Well worth picking up, whether you sit with me on the Gardner questions or not. And, there are slugs of Scotch.
“Dance,” I said.
Her voice was wistful. “Uh-huh. The floor is build out over the side hill, on an enclosed porch. You dance out from the tables onto this porch and look down over the city lights. They keep it almost dark out there, just a starlight effect.”
“It won’t be starlight tonight,” I said, “but a good shot of Scotch might help. How about it? Do you feel the same way about a slug of Scotch I do?
She hesitated a minute, and said, “I don’t know.”
–A.A. Fair/Erle Stanley Gardner, The Knife Slipped
December 17, 2013
My wishy-washy-ness with Erle Stanley Gardner, and his version of Perry Mason, as well as my love of Perry Mason-as-played-by-Raymond-Burr, have been detailed on this blog in the past. So, I won’t weigh into them here (no need for me to get haunted anyway). But I still can’t stay away from his books when I find them in their pocket-sized printings, cause the covers tend to be so darn swell. And the insides certainly aren’t bad, and usually contain nuggets of joy like the below.
He went to the room, pulled the curtains, ordered four bottles of ginger ale, with plenty of ice, and got a quart of whiskey from the bell boy. Then he sat in the overstuffed chair, with his feet on the bed, and smoked.
— The Case of the Velvet Claws, Erle Stanley Gardner
November 20, 2012
As I mentioned in some past posts, I’m not a giant fan of the Perry Mason books written by Erle Stanley Gardner. I don’t loath them or anything, and I have a decent number (well, the covers are so darn fine, and the books aren’t so darn bad). However, I do positively dig the Perry Mason television show starring the commanding-yet-convivial Raymond Burr. I may have mentioned this in one of those past posts, actually. Shot in beauteous black and white, the Pery Mason series in my mind is one of the highpoints of the whole teevee medium, thanks in large part to Mr. Burr but also thanks in part to the regular supporting cast: the long-suffering DA Hamilton Berger, the jolly Sergant Trask, the suave detective Paul Drake, and the lovely, supportive, and cuddly Della Street as Perry’s confidential secretary (played by William Talman, Ray Collins, William Hopper, and Barbara Hale respectively). All gems. Anywho, this is a bit of pre-amble to the following quote, which is a highlight from an episode called The Case of the Fancy Figures, which is about a cad who gets murdered. It’s truly one of my fav quotes about bars ever, and I like it even better since it comes from one of my favorites shows:
If you have to wait, there’s nothing like a bar. After a few drinks, it becomes a fairyland. People are so kind and considerate.
— The Case of the Fancy Figures
January 11, 2012
As I mentioned once in a Cocktail Talk post over two years ago (amazing that I’ve been writing this blog for so long, now that I mention it), I’m not a huge Perry Mason book fan, meaning those (and there were tons) written by Erle Stanley Gardner. I am a gigantic Perry Mason television show fan, however. Which points I suppose to how wacky I am, or some such. But the books just seem a tad too smart about themselves, while the show seems just the right pitch of genius and atmosphere. However, I do still pick up the occasional Perry Mason book, mostly because many of the original pocket book covers are joys to behold. Take the one pictured here–lovely lady, in negligee, with smoking pistol, on a boat. Gawd, that’s wonderful. And this book I liked more than others, too, as it seemed a little less in hand at times to me, and had the full contingent of Perry Mason favorites: dashing detective Paul Drake, saucy and swell secretary Della Street, and cuddly losers (at least when facing Perry) Lieutenant Tragg and DA Hamilton Burger. And, the following little gem of an exchange:
Drake said, “Here’s a car with three of my operatives now. What do we do first?”
“Put them out the way I said, so they can watch the apartment, the garage, and the windows.”
“Okay, then what?”
“Then,” Della Street interposed with firm determination,“we get a cup of hot coffee and it there’s any brandy in the car, we spike it with brandy. My chattering teeth are chipping off.”
“That,” Mason agreed, “is an idea.”
–Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife
September 25, 2009
A quick break from the Chow tips (check ‘em out below, if’n you haven’t seen them), but only enough so I can slip in a quick quote from a book by A.A. Fair, called Some Women Won’t Wait (amen), with only a quick introductory graph, which I am writing quickly (but lovingly), so I can skedaddle out to the Friends of the Seattle Library Booksale (the most wondrous of events). So, quick (he says): A.A. Fair is, actually, Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote 3 billion Perry Mason mysteries, and who I don’t tend to like (though, oddly, quickly, I love the Perry Mason TV series), but this book I found fun, probably because there’s lots of drinking, and a mysterious woman with eyes the size of orange slices drinking on the cover. I’m not saying I get easily swayed, but . . .. Anyway, check this out, go buy some books, and then make a big boozy punch and slide into the weekend.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel was saturated with an atmosphere of deep, quiet luxury. The royal palms furnished dappled shade; the air was a combination of ocean tang and the scent of flowers.
I wandered through the lobby and a couple of shops before I found Bertha Cool seated at a table out on a lanai overlooking the ocean.
There was a planter’s punch in front of her, and Bertha was just a little flushed, her eyes just a little watery, her lips pressed in a tight line.
I took a good look and decided that Bertha was just a little bit high and very, very mad.
— Some Women Won’t Wait, A.A. Fair