February 13, 2018
I love the Stark House
Noir Classics series – thanks Stark House! They take some legendary noir/crime/mystery/all-the-good-stuff writers, some looked over, some not, pick out some of their (often lesser-available) books, and often package two books in one volume. Which is amazing! Recently, I became the proud possessor of another in the collection, a book combining two hits from Charles Williams – Nothing In Her Way and River Girl
. That’s some combo!
I’ve Cocktail Talked Charles Williams before – a fair amount, go check them out – and am always happy to find a yarn of his I haven’t read (thanks again Stark House!), which is the case here times two. He’s known for his sea-set books best, perhaps, but also for his unflinching look into his characters, who all carry flaws, his usually-right-on plotting, and a couple movie adaptations, including ocean-bound Dead Calm. Neither of the books in this two-books-in-one powerhouse takes place aboard a boat on the ocean like that one (though as you’d expect from the title, River Girl includes a river), but both are worth diving in to. I liked Nothing In Her Way a bit better of the two, because it’s a grifters story, and, well, I like reading about the cons and the cons who try to con. Also, it has a number of Cocktail-Talk-able quotes, so we’re gonna feature two here, starting with the rum and accidental-glass-breaking (or is it?) number below:
It was one of those dim places, with a black mirror behind the bar, and while it was doing a good business, I hadn’t known it was that crowded. I’d just put my drink down and was reaching for a cigarette when I felt my elbow bump gently against something, and then I heard the glass break as it went over the bar. I looked down at the spreading Daiquiri, and then at him. It was odd. There’d been plenty of room there a minute ago.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It didn’t spill on you, did it?”
“No. It’s all right.” He smiled. “No harm done.”
“Here,” I said. “Let me get you another one.” I caught the bartender’s eyes and gestured.
“No,” he protested. “I wish you wouldn’t. It was just an accident. Happen to anybody.”
“Not at all,” I said. “I knocked it over. I’ll get you another one.” The barman came up. “Give this gentleman another Daiquiri. And charge me with a glass.”
–Charles Williams, Nothing In Her Way
January 16, 2018
The earlier Cocktail Talks from the Charles Willeford book Pick-Up
(read Pick-Up Part I
, and Pick-Up Part II
if you missed ‘em) alluded to me diving into the Willeford canon lately – deeper, that is, than the Hoke Mosely books I do so love (read all the Willeford Cocktail Talks
to learn more). The dive included the dark, really, lesser-known book Made in Miami
, which is a fast-paced, hotly-focused, a bit (for the times, and maybe even now, in inflection) saucy and tawdry, and finally fairly bleak look into a shady side of Miami. If that sounds intriguing, it’s well worth tracking down. And it has – it’s hot in Miami – some nice cocktail talking.
Maria unzipped her dress at the back and carefully slipped it over her head. She draped it lovingly over the foot of her bed while she looked for a coat hanger in the closet. It was the only really decent dress Maris had brought with her and she took excellent care of it. The silk dress was much too good to wear in a Rotunda Room full of women while she drank Tom Collinses at sixty-five cents apiece, the waiter expecting a dime tip every time he brought another round.
–Charles Willeford, Made in Miami
December 12, 2017
I recently re-read The Three Clerks
by the awesome Anthony Trollope – one of his earlier books, and one at the time that he himself called “the best novel I have ever written.” It was his sixth novel, out of a whole lot of novels, and weaves together the story of, as you might expect from the title, three clerks working in government offices in London, with varying degrees of success. Another thing you might expect, after reading that briefest of descriptions, is that these young gentlemen probably enjoy a sip of the tipsy now and again – being young and out on the town. Which is why there are a lot of good cocktail talking in here, enough that I’ve already had one Cocktail Talk quote from The Three Clerks
on the Spiked Punch. But with the re-reading, I realized just how many there are! So, a few more are demanded, I say, in honor of Trollope. Starting with this gem that contains multiple booze-y treats, as an old sailor-y uncle of a few other main characters looks for a drink.
He had dined in town, and by the time that his chamber had been stripped of its appendages, he was nearly ready for bed. Before he did so, he was asked to take a glass of sherry.
‘Ah! sherry,’ said he, taking up the bottle and putting it down again. ‘Sherry, ah! yes; very good wine, I am sure. You haven’t a drop of rum in the house, have you?’
Mrs. Woodward declared with sorrow that she had not.
‘Or Hollands?’ said Uncle Bat. But the ladies of Surbiton Cottage were unsupplied also with Hollands.
‘Gin?’ suggested the captain, almost in despair.
Mrs. Woodward had no gin, but she could send out and get it; and the first evening of Captain Cuttwater’s visit saw Mrs. Woodward’s own parlour-maid standing at the bar of the Green Dragon, while two gills of spirits were being measured out for her.
— Anthony Trollope, The Three Clerks
October 17, 2017
Trollope, how I love thee, let me count the ways . . . okay, that would take too long. But just check out all the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, and you’ll read about my swoons until you are blue in the face. Or at least a light shade of pea flower. Anyway. The Way We Live Now is for many THE Trollope book, the big one, the masterwork of all his masterworks. Me, I love it. But it’s not my favorite. But I see where they’re getting to, as it’s a big book, and incredibly insightful, and less happy (which many like) than some of his others, less friendly, more calling-people-out. Which makes it the perfect book for today’s world, in some way. Really, re-reading it (third time? fourth time?) I was struck by how relevant and right on target it was considering the, oh, self-interested spot we’re all within. I strongly suggest it. Though reading it, you may well (as Lord Nidderdale below) find yourself needing a bottle of bubbly. Hopefully you have more luck than he:
“A bottle of Champagne!” said Nidderdale, appealing to the waiter in almost a humble voice, feeling that he wanted sustenance in this new trouble that had befallen him. The waiter, beaten almost to the ground by an awful sense of the condition of the club, whispered to him the terrible announcement that there was not a bottle of Champagne in the house. “Good G — — ,” exclaimed the unfortunate nobleman. Miles Grendall shook his head. Grasslough shook his head.
“It’s true,” said another young lord from the table on the other side. Then the waiter, still speaking with suppressed and melancholy voice, suggested that there was some port left. It was now the middle of July.
“Brandy?” suggested Nidderdale. There had been a few bottles of brandy, but they had been already consumed. “Send out and get some brandy,” said Nidderdale with rapid impetuosity. But the club was so reduced in circumstances that he was obliged to take silver out of his pocket before he could get even such humble comfort as he now demanded.
–Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now
August 15, 2017
In the past (relatively speaking), I had a Cocktail Talk from Our Mutual Friend, by your-pal-and-mine Mr. Charles Dickens (really, check out all the Charles Dickens Cocktail Talk posts, and revel in my love of his work). It was a post focused on the pub in the book, and as usual with Dickens – who loved a good pub – a fantastic bit of bar description. Now, in the present (relatively speaking, as it slips away and shows up again as I type), I’ve just finished re-reading (third time? Fourth? They’ll be more) Our Mutual Friend, I realized it was mad to not have more, because there are so many good Cocktail Talk-style quotes in this book about dust (you’ll need to read the book to understand that), wealth, society (still incredible relevant on those points as a reflection of today’s society), jealousy, violence (those too), love, and trust. More, too, really. It was the last finished novel for the 1800s Chuck D, and if not my favorite (I suppose, if forced to pick, it might be Bleak House, but that’s impossibly hard to pin down), right up there. Heck, there are so many good quotes in it, I might just turn this blog into an Our Mutual Friend site, starting with this rum note:
“Bring me round to the Bower,” said Silas, when the bargain was closed, “next Saturday evening, and if a sociable glass of old Jamaikey warm should meet your views, I am not the man to begrudge it.”
–Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
April 12, 2016
I recently received the book Miss Darkness: The Great Short Crime Fiction of Fredric Brown. I hadn’t had any experience with Mr. Brown before, which is a shame as he’s pretty darn good – smart, funny, able to write both super short stories and longer pieces, obsessed a bit with chess and Shakespeare and a few other choices things, like drinks. He also made a name for himself as a sci-fi writer (maybe even moreso) and I believe had a few movies made from his work. This collection is a monster of sorts, just in that it’s 726 pages, so hard to read on the bus (but not impossible!). A worthy monster to attack though, as it’s jam-packed with crime-noir-y goodness. And if you like circus sideshows, well, don’t miss it. I’m going to run a couple Cocktail Talk quotes from it, because Mr. Brown also enjoyed the tipples, as I’ve said. This one’s from the story “Good Night, Good Knight,” and has cocktail and bartending and acting and blackmail fun.
He got the haircut, which he needed, and the shave, which he didn’t really need — he’d shaved this morning. He bought a new white shirt and had his shoes shined and his suit pressed. He had his soul lifted with three Manhattans in a respectable bar — three, sipped slowly, and no more. And he ate — the three cherries from the Manhattans.
The back-bar mirror wasn’t smeary. It was blue glass, though, and it made him look sinister. He smiled a sinister smile at his reflection. He thought, Blackmailer. The role; play it to the hilt, throw yourself into it. And someday you’ll play Macbeth.
Should he try it on the bartender? No. He’d tried it on bartenders before.
The blue reflection in the back-bar mirror smiled at him.
–Fredric Brown, Miss Darkness