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
May 1, 2018
Well, my Maigret completism still has a long ways to go, but I made another little dent recently, picking up four volumes which I hadn’t yet read at a book sale. Which probably means more Maigret Cocktail Talk posts
, lucky you, because he does like a drink (or two, even when his doctor friend warns him off the sauce), as he wanders around Paris and France, solving murders and more (though usually there’s a murder). The first of the new batch that I read was Maigret and the Madwoman, and it’s typically great, and with a sad-but-underlying, oh, sweet-worldweary-ness (can that even make sense? It felt right when typing) that Simenon delivers via Maigret like no other. Read it, on a spring day at dusk, and you’ll get what I mean. Also, you’ll get this quote – perhaps the only Tom Collins quote in a Maigret book? I feel I’ve seen another, but can’t recall perfectly.
The butler, in a white jacket, had followed them out and stood, a watchful figure, awaiting orders.
“What would you like to drink? May I suggest a Tom Collins? I know of nothing more refreshing at this time of day.”
Maigret and Marella indicated their approval.
“Two Tom Collinses, Georges, and the usual for me.”
–George Simenon, Maigret and the Madwoman
August 1, 2017
Not too long ago (and only the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things), I had a Cocktail Talk post up from the very first Inspector Maigret book by George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian. I’ve had a number of Maigret Cocktail Talks, btw. Foolish as I was way back in those days, I thought I’d only need one post from the book. But, now that I am older and wiser, I realize that two are needed, no demanded. Really, this second Cocktail Talk from our (if we read the books in order, which I did not, but for the sake of things, let’s pretend) first sampling of the stoic French Inspector, is an ideal companion to the first, so it’d be a shame not to quote it here:
Maigret had ordered a vermouth. He looked even taller and wider than ever in the confined space of the bar. He didn’t take his eyes off the Latvian.
He was having something like double vision. Just as had happened to him in the hotel lobby, he could see one image superimposed on another: Behind the current scene, he had a vision of the squalid bar in Fecamp. Pietr was going double. Maigret could see him in his cinnamon suite and in his worn-out raincoat at the same time.
“I’m telling you I’d rather do that than get beaten up!” one of the builders exclaimed, banging his glass down on the counter.
Pietr was now on his third glass of green liquid. Maigret could smell the aniseed in it.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
July 11, 2017
Hey, it’s time for another Cocktail Talk featuring George Simenon’s legendary French detective Maigret, the stoic, large, over-coated, café-visiting crime solver. If you haven’t yet, check out past Maigret Cocktail Talks. This particular one, though, is from the very first of his books, which I was super excited to find in a little bookstore in Edmunds, WA. Sometimes the world lines up in great ways. And sometimes you have to drink an absinthe substitute with guttersnips in a dive bar.
Overall the man fitted a type that Maigret knew well: the migrant low-lifer of Eastern European origin who slept in squalid lodging houses and sometimes in railway stations. A type not often seen outside Paris, but accustomed to travelling in third-class carriages when not riding the footboards or hopping freight trains.
He got proof of his insight a few minutes later. Fécamp doesn’t have any genuine low dives, but behind the harbour there are two or three squalid bars favoured by dockhands and seamen. Ten metres before these places there’s a regular café kept clean and bright. The man in the trench coat walked right past it and straight into the least prepossessing of the bars where he put his elbow on the counter in a way that Maigret saw right through.
It was the straightforwardly vulgar body-language of a guttersnipe. Even if he’d tried, Maigret couldn’t have imitated it. The inspector followed the man into the bar. He’d ordered an absinthe substitute and was just standing there, wordless, with a blank stare on his face. He didn’t register Maigret’s presence, though the inspector was now right next to him.
–George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
May 23, 2017
Welcome to the final entry strolling through Paris drinks had in this particular Maigret story (be sure to read Part I and Part II so as not to miss anything, and for that matter, don’t miss all the Maigret Cocktail Talks, and if you want to know even more about his drinking, check out this study of Maigret drinks). This takes place near the end of the case, and finally Maigret himself is getting a drink (well, he may have had a few more – I couldn’t write out the whole book here!), with one of his police compadres.
“Did you find her?” asked the waiter.
“Nice, isn’t she? What will you have?”
“A hot grog for me.”
“The same for me.”
“Two grogs, two!”
“This afternoon, when you’ve had some sleep, you’ll be writing your report.”
— George Simenon, Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
May 9, 2017
It’s May, which means this is the perfect time for some Maigret-based Cocktail Talks (because both words start with M – seems like a great reason to me). If for some absolutely insane reason you don’t know who Maigret is, well, friend, you’re in for a treat. He’s the Parisian Police Inspector who stars in many, many mysteries written by the prolific George Simenon. I’ve read a fair amount of Maigret stories and novels, and yet I feel there are still a whole bunch yet to discover – I’m in for treats, too! This particular book revolves around some Paris police and judiciary intrigues, a very proficient and friendly burglar found dead early in the morning, and a series of hold-ups. As well as a series of drinks – Maigret being fond of a number of liquor’d libations (read more about it all here). There’s enough good Cocktail Talk-ing in this tale that I thinks I’m going to have to have multiple quotes, starting with this one (where, funny enough, Maigret isn’t drinking at all):
“Haven’t you anything to drink?”
“No. It’s for you. I’d like you to take a nip of something.”
He remembered she was fond of her glass, and at this, sure enough, she went to the dining-room sideboard and brought out a bottle of plum brandy.
Even at such a moment as this, she could resist cheating a bit.
“I was keeping it for my son . . . He sometimes took a drop after dinner.”
— George Simenon, Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
February 3, 2015
Not too long ago I had my first George Simenon Cocktail Talk post, and in that very post mentioned that I thought I’d probably have more – and I was right! I’ve read a few more Inspector Maigret books since then, most recently A Man’s Head. And it was a good yarn indeed, fast-paced, intriguing, nicely mysterious, and really tightly plotted. Everything you’d want (if what you want is a worthy book, that is). Also, a fair amount of the action takes place in bars, which I’m all for, as you might guess. The main bar is the American bar in the Cupole, where Maigret makes a sorta rare foray into cocktails.
He heard someone call out.‘A Manhattan.’
And he said: ‘The same for me.’
He was not himself of the cocktail generation. Beer was more in his line. The barman pushed a dish of olives toward him, but he did not touch them.
—A Man’s Head, George Simenon