April 15, 2014
Once, long ago, in a galaxy far far away (or, in my office barroom), I surfaced a Cocktail Talk quote from the book Lucky at Cards, by master writer Lawrence Block. If you missed, go read it and all the Lawrence Block quotes now, and catch up on what I think and get the full view. Anywho, now that you’re back, I can say that I missed another quote from that book that is perfect for repeating, and which mentions a couple classic Scotches not so in evidence anymore.
The bartender glanced our way. I asked for Cutty Sark on the rocks for both of us. He didn’t have any. I tried him on Vat 69 and Peter Dawson and he didn’t have those fellows either. We settled on Black and White. He brought it over and Joyce and I touched glasses and drank. Most of her Scotch disappeared on the first swallow. She shivered a little, then let out a sigh.
–Lawrence Block, Lucky at Cards
April 1, 2014
I’ve had a few Cocktail Talk quotes from Lawrence Block books before – I tend to like the older ones, some of which have awesomely been reprinted by the awesome Hard Case Crime folks. The Girl with the Long Green Heart falls firmly into the latter category, as it was originally published in 1955, then reprinted in 2005, and as it’s full of cons, dames (one real serious dame, really), back-dealings, and drinks. No foolin’, just check out the below quotes:
The maître d’ beamed his way over to us, and Evvie said something about Mr. Gunderman’s table, and we were passed along to a captain and bowed through a cocktail lounge and a large dining room into something called the Terrace Room. The tables were set far apart, the lighting dim and intimate. We ordered martinis. “You might as well order big,” she told me. “He’ll be unhappy if I don’t give you the full treatment. This is quite a place, isn’t it? You don’t expect it in Olean. But they have people who come from miles to eat here.” The martinis were cold and dry and crisp. We had a second round, then ordered dinner. She touted the chateaubriand for two and I rode along with it.
—The Girl with the Long Green Heart, Lawrence Block
August 13, 2011
There is something about a good con-man noir that keeps me coming back for more (actually, I wish I knew about more con-man noir books–let me know if you know any). Which is why I recently went on a three-day reading jag of Lawrence Block Hard Case Crime reprints. Hard Case not only has sweet covers, but has done a sweet job re-printing hard-to-get books from the mid-last-century, including some fine reads from Lawrence Block that just so happen to fall into the con-man noir area (that’s what I’m calling them at least). They also tend to have main characters who aren’t shy about drinking lots when passing the time between cons-and-or-murders, which is why I’m bringing them up here on the Spiked Punch blog. Cause we like our criminals a bit, or a lot, tipsy. In Grifter’s Game, the con is a gigolo of sorts who gets into trouble over a woman (as you might expect) and who likes both brown liquors (as you might also expect) and clear ones (which isn’t so expected), as evidenced in the following two quotes:
One hotel had a terrace facing on the Boardwalk with umbrella-topped tables and tall drinks. I found an empty table and sat under the shade of the umbrella until a waiter found me, took my order, left me and returned with a tall cool vodka Collins. It came with a colored straw and I sipped it like a kid sipping a malted. I lighted a cigarette and settled back in my chair. I tried to put everything together and make it add up right.
It was a panic, in its own quiet way. I picked her up in a good bar on Sansom Street where the upper crust hobnob. We drank Gibsons together and ate dinner together and caught a show together, and we used her car, which was an expensive one.
In the next Lawrence Block I read, Lucky at Cards, the con is an ex-magician turned card shark, who wanders into a mid-sized Midwestern town just looking to get his teeth fixed, but who runs into trouble thanks to a random card game and a random meeting with a curvy lady (hmm, I sense a trend). Here (as in many other books from the time) they’re not shy about having some serious drinks with lunch, including scotch and sodas and Martinis (it was a better time in some ways, people):
We had Martinis first. Then I ordered a ham steak and he ordered an open turkey sandwich. He told the ancient waiter to bring us another pair of Martinis. The drinks came, then the food. We ate and drank and made small talk. We were working on coffee before he said the first word about business.
The final quote for today (also from Lucky at Cards) isn’t a booze one, but seemed so apropos after three days of con noir that I wanted to end with it (and if it leads you to drink, well . . .):
Life is a hellishly iffy proposition from beginning to end.
April 12, 2011
Lawrence Block is one of those crime/mystery/thriller who I have a strange relationship with, in a way. I’ve read a number of his books, and probably three-quarters of them have left me thinking I probably wouldn’t need to read another. They weren’t bad, but neither were they good, or original, or full of characters bursting with life. However, the other quarter of his books that I’ve read are everything opposite, and quite good. The number of good has been high enough that if I run into one of his books at a sale, or on the shelves of a country home in Italy that I’m staying in, I’ll probably give it a whirl. Which was the case with In the Midst of Death. Sadly, it didn’t rock my reading world. But it was okay, and did feature this nice quote about lunchtime (or shortly thereafter drinking):
I went over to Johnny Joyce’s on Second and sat in a booth. Most of the lunch crowd was gone. The ones who remained were one or two Martinis over the line now, and probably wouldn’t make it back to their offices at all. I had a hamburger and a bottle of Harp, then drank a couple shots of bourbon with my coffee.
–Lawrence Block, In the Midst of Death