The dining room at the Banker’s Club was large and ornate, its linens crisp, and there was enough geography between table to prevent eavesdropping. Although I arrived on the dot, Lambert S. Denton was already seated and tinkering with a dry Martini. So dry, I found when he ordered one for me, it seemed as if the vermouth had been applied with an atomizer.
Harold Q. Masur (also pubbed as Harold Masur, Hal Masur, Hal Q. Masur, and perhaps some other variations on his name) has made a fair number of appearances on the old Spiked Punch. Heck, just check out the past Harold Masur Cocktail Talks for evidence. Funny to mention evidence, as his protagonist (his only one as far as I’ve read) is a lawyer named Scott Jordan, who is on the straight and narrow when it comes to lawyering in court, but isn’t opposed to a little breaking and entering if needed, and especially isn’t opposed to the drinks and nightlife and ladies. And he solves murders and stuff, too. In The Mourning After, the affairs are around art, which adds a nice cultured touch – how many mysteries mention or revolve around lesser-known (at least in relation to Matisse) fauve-ist artist Maurice de Vlaminck? Not too many! It’s not all art, however, as Jordan finds times for drinks, too. And one of them is Campari! Seeing that in a mystery makes my day. And near the word “agog,” a word I love and one not used as much modernly? Amazing.
At the Carlyle, seated at a small table, sipping a Campari and soda, Angela was still agog at the thought of a one-man show at the Maxim Gallery for Carl Baum.
“Never heard of the chap,” I said. “Tell me about him.”
The Hal Masur Cocktail Talking continues! Or Harold Q. Masur if you prefer (my guess is he wouldn’t have cared a whit). But either way – hard talking, hard drinking, hard lawyering, hardly ever skipping a chance to flirt lawyer Scott Jordan (Mr. Masur’s regular protagonist) is at it again here on the Spiked Punch, this time with a quote from the deadly-named Bury Me Deep. We had a swell Dubonnet and brandy-fueled quote in our Bury Me Deep, Part I Cocktail Talk many courtrooms ago, but I just re-read the book, along with other Jordan escapades, and had to put a second quote up here. And it’s right down below, and is one that reminded me of all the wonderful distillers I’ve known.
“Quite a coincidence,” I said. “I have a present for you.”
She pressed my arm lightly. “You’re a psychic. I love presents. Let’s have a drink on it.”
She poured some bourbon into a pair of thin jiggers and we touched glasses. It was fine bourbon. The distiller hadn’t become impatient. It was smooth as a hummingbird’s wing. She turned to me with a shine in her eyes.
Okay, I have had a far-reaching trio of Cocktail Talks featuring Hal Masur’s lawyering-drinking-scrapping-cuddling 50’s lawyer Scott Jordan, as the first of the three quotes from the book was years ago. The second was just last week, and I’d suggest reading both to get your bearings in the case. This quote is a shorty, too, but does contain some words of wisdom for any burgeoning young business folks:
It was the kind of practice that needed plenty of front and Edward St. John Avery had it. A corner office, immense and square, sumptuous but dignified, with a sedate unit against the wall that he could magically transform into a glittering bar. Important clients are often weaned on spirituous liquids.
My Scott-Jordan-ing re-reading continues (see the Tall, Dark and Deadly post below for more on this lawyer-ing hero from the 1950s pockets-and-pulps) in nearly as fast a manner as Jordan gets in scraps, woos the ladies, sips the drinks, slings the punches and the smart remarks, and solves the murders. In this one, he’s about to provide some lawyer-ing help to a rather wealthy young lady/heiress, one with an artistic bent and a penchant for headlines and bad marriages, when she turns up murdered. Oops! The tag here is “How the other half dies” dontcha know. It’s a swell read (so much so that I’ve had a So Rich, So Lovely, and So Dead Cocktail Talk already), moves quicks, turns and twists, and stop for drinks at the right spots, and, perhaps the only time I’ve seen this in an American book from the 50s, likes grappa. You can see why these books are worth re-reading.
We were in the mood for Italian food and I knew just the right place on Thompson Street in the Village. It was unpretentious and seldom crowded, but the cooking was superlative and the house wine fair. Between courses we read the paper.
“Anything special we’re looking for?” Susan wanted to know.
“Just keep your eyes peeled for news about any of the principals in the case.”
We kept at it after espresso and a shot of grappa.
You know those days when you wake up and think, “you know, I really want to get into an adventure in NYC with a 1950s lawyer who likes his drinks, knows the best bars, also knows the law quite well, is a bit pugnacious while also flirty, and seems to be surrounded by murders,” those kinds of days? You know them? I had one recently, and so of course set myself up with a big dose of books by Hal Masur (aka Harold Q Masur), starring Scott Jordan, the pocket-book-y-est lawyer in the land! I’ve had a fair amount of Hal M. Cocktail Talks, including one from Tall, Dark and Deadly, a sort-of mid-career Jordan rollicker, with a divorce, double talk, drinks, and the tagline “Divorce is messy. Murder is messier.” Indeed! And the below quote, perhaps the only book with the Saratoga cocktail – though a version different then some I’ve seen. Sounds intriguing? Check it out:
String instruments only in the orchestra, no brass, Hazel created a mild stir from the male contingent as we followed the major dee to a corner table. He hovered solicitously, pad ready in his hand.
See, I told you (in Part I) that I’d probably have a second quote from Hal Masur’s (aka Harold Q. Masur) lawyer-y pulp-y book from last century, You Can’t Live Forever. And here we are! Check out the below, and know that I can predict the future.
It was a nice quiet bar on a side street off Park Avenue, cool and dim and silken, a high-class oasis with retiring waiters and a hushed atmosphere. The chairs were softly pliant to make you comfortable and the pretzels crisp and dry to keep you thirsty. Enclosed booths ringed the room and smoke wove a gauze-like web that hung motionless in the still air.
We were on our third pair of Martinis and were calling each other by our first names. Conversation so far had been limited to that polite badinage used between two people on mutual fishing expeditions. I was in rare form.
It’s been too long since I’ve had any quotes from the lawyer-y pulp-y writer Hal Masur (also known as Harold Q. Masur), who writes about one Scott Jordan – a lawyer (you might have guessed that), who also likes a good drink, dames, bars, and isn’t afraid to roughhouse it up. Just what you’d want in a 1940s and 50s pocket-y book leading man. I recently re-read the Masur classic (well, in its way) You Can’t Live Forever, which has a great cover, and which is a rollicking read. Heck, I may need to have two Cocktail Talk posts from it! But let’s start with the below, which has Scotch and cigars.
He hung a humidor of long Havana fillers under my nose. He let me see the label on a bottle of Macnish.He poured generously and put a brief squirt from a syphon of bubble water on top. Ice cubes dropped and a swizzle stick clinked. He put the glass into my hand and a silver lighter broke into flame at the end of my cigar.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More