October 4, 2022
Sorry, after last week’s Kill and Tell Cocktail Talk (read that one for a little more information on the book by Howard Rigsby), I realized I had to have at least one more, while I could still type – before the Martini kicks in. It’s not actually as drinky a book as some from the era, and the PI star isn’t as hard-drinking as others (he turns down a number of drinks), but hey, it’s not like he isn’t gonna drink at all!
“What would you like to drink?” I asked. “I can make a fair Martini.”
She had begun to look worried again, but she seemed to shrug it off. She smiled. “A Martini sounds grand.”
I made it five to one, and when she had tasted it she rolled her eyes upward. “While I can still talk there’s something I’d like to tell you,” she said.
I came back with a bourbon and soda and sat down.
–Howard Rigsby, Kill and Tell
September 6, 2022
As a good reporter and editor (much like Rock Rockwell, the intrepid editor of The Record, and hero in this here mystery book from 1950), I’m going to start this Cocktail Talk by referring you to the reference point of the What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talk Part I, where I dig into the idea of reporters/mystery heroes, and a little more about the book as a whole. Here, I wanna just dive into the Cocktail Talking, so the only background on the book I’m putting in this paragraph is the tagline from the back cover, cause it’s one the finest taglines ever: “When a lusty lothario sings his serenade, romance rhymes with death!” Oh, and in the below they talk about overly-bittered Old Fashioneds. Also, memorable. Read it!
A voice at my elbow said, “Cocktail, sir? Old-Fashioneds and dry Martinis.”
“Old-Fashioned,” I said, hardly noticing the neat figure in black and white who spoke.
“Okay, but there’s more bitters in them than whiskey.”
I started and looked around. From under a frilly cap, the face of Amy Race was peering at me impishly. “I’m sticking to straight whisky myself,” she said. “That’s the trend below stairs.”
In spite of myself, I burst out laughing.
–Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?
August 16, 2022
The great Graham Greene hasn’t made an enormous amount of time Cocktail Talking here on the ol’ Spiked Punch (though do the read the past Graham Greene Cocktail Talks), which is a shame because A: I like his works lots, and B: he liked a good drink. Probably because we shade a little lower-brow (though he did write a fair amount of what he called “entertainments” which might lean into pulp pockets perfectly), or just because I forget to mark the pages of potential Cocktail Talks when reading his books. Or re-reading, I should specify, as I believe I’ve read them all at least once, re-reading being the case recently as I was re-reading his book The Comedians, which takes places mostly on Haiti during the tragic reign of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Circling around one main character and a few main satellites characters (who meet on a boat heading towards the country), it’s a sometimes chilling, always moving novel. Definitely one that one should be read, especially if you carry an interest in political history around like a traveling bar.
“What’s your poison?”
“Have you a whiskey?”
“I have next to everything, old man. You wouldn’t fancy a dry Martini?”
I would have preferred a whisky, but he seemed anxious to show off the riches of his store, so, “If it’s very dry,” I said.
“Ten to one, old man.”
He unlocked the cupboard and drew out a leather traveling-case – a half-bottle of gin, a half-bottle of vermouth, four metal beakers, a shaker. It was an elegant expensive set, and he laid it reverently on the tumbled table as though he were an auctioneer showing a prized antique. I couldn’t help commenting on it.
“Asprey’s ?” I asked.
“As good as,” he replied quickly and began to mix the cocktails.
–Graham Greene, The Comedians
July 19, 2022
Another (see The Unholy Trio Part I Cocktail Talk, if you missed it) quote from the Henry Kane political, blackmail, murder, money yarn called The Unholy Trio, starring private investigator Peter Chambers, who tears it up, romances it up, and drinks it up through the book. It’s a fun ride, folks, and one that even includes our manly hero getting (as it says on the book), “a gilt-edged invitation to trouble,” as well as getting married! Really. Well, sort-of. You’ll have to read the book to the get all the details, though the below covers the most important part, the marriage Martinis.
And so we went home to our bridal suite and there she said, “Martinis. And I’m making.” She opened the liquor cabinet. “Excellent ingredients here. And a jar of olives and a jar of pearl onions, but I don’t like either. No lemons.”
“I though you weren’t special for Martinis?”
“Except on special occasions. Do you think we ought to call down for lemons?”
I didn’t quite relish the idea of calling to Room Service from the bridal suite in the middle of the night for a couple of lemons.
“I’ll go down and get them,” I said, and when I returned, after my curious excursion to the kitchens below, there was a tall shaker with frosty Martinis sitting and waiting.
–Henry Kane, The Unholy Trio
May 24, 2022
Are you ready to celebrate tomorrow? I certainly hope so! Wait, celebrate what I hear someone in the back asking? Well, The Thin Man release date day of course! That’s right friends, one of the drinky-est movies of all time (and a swell mystery, too, natch), where the Martinis and such flow like rain in a Seattle winter, was released on 5/25, 1934, if memory serves. Based on the Dashiell Hammett book of the same name (which you must read), and kicking off a series of movies, The Thin Man for those whose lives have been sad so far, features drinking-and-joking-and-quipping-and-drinking-and-just-having-a-swell-time private detectives Nick and Nora Charles. And, for my money (what there is of it), the scene where we meet them for the first time is one of the best scenes in any movie, where a camera swerves through a crowded dance floor before you hear Nick telling the bartender the below, right after which Nora shows and orders seven Martinis. Amazing, as is this quote:
The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry Martini you always shake to waltz time.
–The Thin Man
September 14, 2021
Agatha (Christie, naturally — not to throw shade on other Agathas, but really, if just using the first name “Agatha” don’t most people’s minds head towards her? Just me?) is deservedly known best for her detective (whether Belgian, small town observer, or husband-wife team) books. But she wrote others, too! Some falling into what I’d call “international intrigue,” including They Came To Baghdad. She was a well-traveled writer, with a flair for description, and so writing more globe-trotting – as opposed to set in the UK – books makes sense. Though, I have to admit, there are lots of mysterious threads intertwining here, but hey, she knows her stuff. Basically, after some set-up and stage-setting and character introducing, and a lot of “what’s happening here”-ing, the story follows Victoria Jones, who loses her job, meets a nice chap in a park, decides she’s in love, follows him (by picking up a random job with free airline tickets) to Baghdad, and drops right into a worldwide conspiracy, nearly gets killed, gets kidnapped, goes on an archeology dig, and stays in a hotel run by a man named Marcus who likes to buy drinks, which are delivered by a waiter named Jesus. And a whole lot more! There are murders, twists, neat scenes, and more drinks. Well worth picking up!
“Come and have a drink with us Miss Jones. Martini – Sidecar? This is Mr. Dakin. Miss Jones from England. Now then, my dear, what will you have?”
Victoria said she would have a Sidecar “and some of those lovely nuts?” she suggested hopefully, remembering that nuts were nutritious.
“You like nuts? Jesus!” He gave the order in rapid Arabic. Mr. Dakin said in a sad voice that he would have a lemonade.
“Ah,” cried Marcus, “but that is ridiculous.”
–Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad
September 3, 2019
I’ve had a couple Cocktail Talks from George Harmon Coxe on the ol’ Spiked Punch, but not an inordinate amount. Which is a bit odd, as I sorta like his probably main star, photographer/drinker/mystery solver Kent Murdock. Maybe I just need to track down some more books? Recently, I did score a good one, The Silent Witness, in a two-novels-in-one hardback-book book, if that makes sense (the others was a great Simenon, Maigret and the Informer, and why don’t we do these “duo” books anymore? Modern authors too snooty to share?). Interestingly, it doesn’t star Mr. Murdock, but instead PI Jack Fenner, though Murdock shows briefly, as they both share the same fictional universe! I love that! It’s a crossover, in a way, and I think there were more, and Fenner shows up in small roles in the Murdocks I’ve read. We talk about crossovers now in movies as if they never happened before, but here we are. Oh, the book’s a good read, too, with a more slow burn development than many (the murder doesn’t happen for say 90 pages), and a neatly draw-out denouement between PI and villain, with lots of clues along the way. A good one – especially when paired with a book staring our old pal Inspector Maigret, and when featuring this quote.
But I can buy a drink while you two get acquainted . . . what will it be? He added when the waiter approached.
Nancy showed no hesitation. “A very dry Martini with a twist, straight up.” “I think – maybe a Cinzano and soda, with a bit of orange peel,” Kathy said, and Fenner asked for a Scotch and water.
— George Harmon Coxe, The Silent Witness
February 19, 2019
Well, when I posted an earlier Leave Her to Hell Cocktail Talk, I should have mentioned (or at least alluded to) that there might be more, but I wasn’t sure. However, in hindsight, why would I only want one, when there are multiple swell drinking scene in this book (which, as you learned when you read the earlier post, which you did read, right? but whichin you learned I’m reading via a you-should-own-it collection of three Fletcher Flora novels, said collection put out by Stark House). Heck, I’m guessing now that I’ll have even more from Kansas-born Mr. Fletcher (sadly gone from us a few years now), so you have that to look forward to (and if you need even more, see past Fletcher Flora Cocktail Talks, too). However, with that said, and with my admiration for said writer, I can’t completely agree with his final assertion in the below quote, which has three classic drinks in it. Three! Though, with novelists, you never know that the protagonist’s point of view is the authors, so really, maybe Mr. Flora loves an Alexander, and is having one right now at whatever afterworld bar he’s hanging at. Here’s hoping!
I looked right. A cocktail lounge was over that way, beyond a wide entrance and down a step. A number of people were drinking cocktails. There was no music. I recognized a Martini, which was all right, a Manhattan, which was better, and an Alexander, which you can have. Everything was very elegant, very sedate. Maybe someone saw me, maybe not.
–Fletcher Flora, Leave Her to Hell