April 9, 2013

Cocktail Talk: Dead Dolls Don’t Talk

Day Keene is one of my favorite pulp-ateers. And by that I don’t mean someone who does puppet shows with puppets made of fruit. Though that would be, um, interesting, too. No, I mean one of the writers who wrote in the middle of last century, and who wrote books that usually fit in your pocket and stories in magazine with vaguely lurid names. Both genres tended to be about crimes, criminal, down-on-their luckers, drinkers, back-alley brawlers, just-in-troublers, and anyone who’s run into, or looked for, trouble. Day Keene wrote a whole giant bar full of tales featuring those kind of folks, with tight plots that keep you on the edge and wondering how it’ll all end in a manner that’s not quite bleak, but close enough to call out to bleak without a raised voice. Anywho, his characters usually need a stiff drink, and Dead Dolls Don’t Talk (which is part of an amazing collection of three Day Keene novels reprinted by Stark House) isn’t any different. As this quote shows us:

As he sipped his second drink Hart gave the girl her due. Peggy made good Martinis, albeit they were a trifle strong and she served them in Old-fashioned glasses. The date, if it could be called that, was proceeding according to pattern. Peggy had made the usual announcement that she wanted to change into something cooler and more comfortable. However, instead of donning the usual filmy negligee, she’d put on a smart red shantung coolie coat that ended halfway down her thighs, creating the illusion that there was nothing by flesh and girl under the provocative garment.

Dead Dolls Don’t Talk, Day Keene

*See all Day Keene Cocktail Talks

January 2, 2013

Cocktail Talk: The Little Sister

Welcome back (to me, I suppose, since I haven’t blogged for a bit due to 2012 holiday cheer-ing)! There’s no better way I can think of to return to reality after a lovely holiday season than a couple Raymond Chandler quotes from one of his lesser-known beauties, The Little Sister. It’s all about Hollywood, Manhattan Kansas (really! Let’s go Kansans), ice picks, and weed. Nice, right? Oh, to ease you in, the first quote is booze-ific (or, booze-specific), but the second is just awesomely literary. Not sure, now that I think about it, how that eases you in, but I just wanted to put in the second quote. And, well, I write these posts. Happy New Year!

I went in. A gun in the kidney wouldn’t have surprised me a bit. She stood so that I had to practically push her mammaries out of the way to get through the door. She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight. She closed the door and danced over to a small portable bar. ‘Scotch? Or would you prefer a mixed drink? I mix a perfectly loathsome Martini,” she said. ‘Scotch is fine, thanks.’

‘What’s that?” She tried to throw me out with the point of her chin, but even she wasn’t that good. ‘Browning. The poet, not the automatic. I feel sure you’d prefer the automatic.’

–Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister

June 11, 2012

Cocktail Talk: Murder in Brass

First and foremost, before the murder-and-drink-talk starts, let me apologize for the lack of posts last week and for probably the next couple. Things, as they say, have come up. Fun things, and things I may tell you about later (well, except the part about me running in a grass skirt through grass fields. Cause you probably don’t want that image). Anyway, excuse time=over. Now, on to Murder in Brass, by Lewis Padgett. Who I don’t know a lot about, except that he was two guys. I do know that the protagonist of this book, retired-ish detective Seth Coleman is (as the back of the book tells us): Rough! Tought! Terrific! The book has something to do with a guy who may or may not be running around knocking folks off. The “Brass” part has to do with his pops, who is dead and who was obsessed by brass. It was upstate New York and gold hadn’t been invented yet. Perhaps the best part of the book is when Mr Coleman (Rough! Tough! Terriffic!) goes into a diner with his alcoholically-minded sidekick to get a drink and finds out this spot doesn’t serve booze:

‘Take it easy,’ Bedarian said, seizing a menu. ‘Jesus. The place is dry.’

A bitter voice voice said, ‘Listen, bud, you know what a liquor license costs?’

The thin, sour man in the white apron stood over us, a pad and pencil ready. Wilma Bird said, ‘Mike doesn’t have to serve liquor. He’s got the best food in town.’

Mike made an unpleasant noise in his throat. ‘So what? I don’t have Martinis and Manhattans and Zombies and Pink Women–’

‘Pink Ladies,’ Bedarian corrected, touched in a sore spot.

‘Pink tootsie-rolls for all I know,’ Mike said somberly. ‘Fine name for a drink. A man ought to drink rye. Then he knows where he’s at. Women shouldn’t ought to drink at all. What’s yours?’

Murder in Brass, Lewis Padgett

August 13, 2011

Cocktail Talk: Grifter’s Game and Lucky at Cards

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.


June 21, 2011

Cocktail Talk: Like Love

I’ve hit up Ed McBain quotes before (a couple from his boozirific The Gutter and the Grave), and talked a bit more about him there, so I’m going to skip too much intro here, and just say that the cover for this book, Like Love, is very tantalizing, and the two quotes below are also very tantalizing, especially if you like Rob Roys and Martinis (hey, wait a minute, I like both of those!). The Rob Roy sadly isn’t mentioned very often in books outside of those tomes focused specifically on cocktails and cocktail lore, which made it even nicer to see it in this police procedural-y book. Also, the Martini isn’t really thought of (enough, anyway) as a romantic drink enough anymore, which made it even nicer to seen in in a romantic scene here.


I worked until about four-thirty. Howard came in and said he was knocking off, and would I like a drink. I said yes, I would. We went to the bar on the corner, it’s called Dinty’s. I had two Rob Roys, and then Howard and I walked to the subway. I went straight home.


He was glad to be away from Kling and away from the squad room. He was glad to be with Christine Maxwell who came in from the kitchen of her apartment carrying a tray with a Martini shaker and two Martini glasses. He watched her as she walked toward him. She had let her blond hair grow long since he’d first known her, and it hung loose around the oval of her face now, sleekly reflecting pin-point ticks of light from the fading sun that filtered through the window.


–Ed McBain, Like Love

April 12, 2011

Cocktail Talk: In the Midst of Death

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

January 26, 2010

Cocktail Talk: Assassins Have Starry Eyes

I don’t know much, but I know I love the song “Starry Eyes” by Mötley Crüe. Do I love the book by Donald Hamilton called Assassins Have Starry Eyes? Not as much, definitely. But I did like it, though I don’t know the Hamilton oeuvre that well (and yes, I did just bust out the “oeuvre.” I rule like that, literarily.) I don’t even know Matt Helm, who’s called out so boldly on the coverm but who isn’t in the book at all. I do know that the book was once called Assignment Murder, but the Crüe never had a song called that (though, in hindsight, maybe they should have). And that it’s a funny jumble of a book, with some mystery, some intrigue, some hard-to-believeness, and some anti-government plot or rigmarole that Donald (if I can call him Donald) seems down on somewhat. I also know that the following quote is a nice kick in the face to those who would drink a pre-made or a poorly made Martini, and that is why I’m quoting it, and why Mötley Crüe would dig the book, because they don’t stand (in leather and thigh high boots) for any bad Martinis.

“Another of the same for me,” he said, pushing a tall glass in her direction. “And a Martini for my son-in-law; and none of that tired old bar mix, sister. Have him make it up fresh: Noilly Prat vermouth and Gordon’s gin, one to five–is that about right Greg?”

“One to five is fine,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “And none of those damn olives sister. Just a twist of lemon. Got it?”


–Donald Hamilton, Assassins Have Starry Eyes

September 8, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Tall, Dark and Deadly

Hey, happy Mon-Tuesday. Just hold off before calling me calendarily challenged. I know today is really Tuesday, and that there is no Mon-Tuesday day. But as it’s the day after a Monday holiday, all of us working slobs (those who work the regular work-week at least) going back to work feel like it’s a Monday, cause it’s the first day of the week with the good times that entails (sing it now, good times, any time you need a favor), but it’s actually Tuesday. Hence the Mon-Tuesday. What does this mean in the world of boozing and spiking of punches? That it’s a fine time for a quote by Hal Masur (who in his full name is Harold Q. Masur, as seen in this post about Suddenly a Corpse), from a book in his Scott Jordan series. Scott’s a lawyer, see, when that meant more than a bad film adaptation and a southern accent. What it means is he drinks hard, rumbles with jerky DAs, snuggles up with any number of hourglass figures, and then solves mysteries and murders. The kind of lawyer a boy or girl can admire, and aspire to being (or hiring). You know, as it is Mon-Tuesday, here are two quotes from Tall, Dark and Deadly: one martini one, and one bar one. Enjoy them, and then go litigate yourself something cold and strong (whatever that means).

“Thirsty Scott?”

“Parched. I’d like a martini, very dry.”

She went to a portable bar. “One martini, coming up.”

“May I help?”

“I know the formula,” she declared loftily. “Gin, vermouth, and cyanide.” She prepared the ingredients in a chrome shaker, applying the vermouth with an atomizer, and substituting a twist of lemon peel for the cyanide. I drank. It was very dry indeed and the gin left me a trifle lightheaded.

“Another?” she asked?

“Not unless you can handle me.”

“Does that mean I have to get you drunk?”

“Helps. I’ve very shy.”

I entered and perched on a bar stool. The place was humming with activity. Regardless of the hour or the temperature, it seems that a large number of citizens continuously suffer from parched throats. In order to accommodate this drought the city has spawned a thousand watering holes that serve no water. This one was indistinguishable from its cousins.

            I ordered Canadian ale and got a glass of Milwaukee stout.


Tall, Dark and Deadly, Hal Masur

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