May 3, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard, Part I

mr-pinketon-scotland-yardTake a trip with me now, friends, back, back, back in time a few weeks ago when I was talking here on the Spiked Punch (in the Mystery of the Dead Police post) about my love of Pocket Books, both those initial-capped as being from the brand that shares that name, and the general books-sized-to-fit-in-your-pocket that were widely available during the early-and-middle-ish part of last century. More recently than that, I re-read another Pocket Book from way farther back in 1941, one called Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard, by David Frome (there’s at least one more Mr. Pinkerton book, maybe others – if you see it, buy it and send it to me please). In it, there are three murders, a jolly little man named Mr. Pinkerton (not part of the famous detectives, by the by) who somehow gets embroiled in it all, his taciturn bulldoggy pal Inspector Bull, and some Londoning, which I always like. A fun little read! And with some Cocktail Talking too. Longtime (we’re going back farther than the post mentioned, but not so far as 1941) readers will realize I’ve had the below Cocktail Talk on here before, many moon ago – but it’s such a sweet quote, I’m going with it again! I’ll have a few others from the book later, for balance, don’t you worry.

 

Mr. Paget had brought along with him one of the new-fangled American contraptions for mixing spirits, and he, Linda Darrell, and Hugh Ripley had brought some mint from the garden, sent Gaskins to the fish monger’s for a six pennyworth of ice, and mixed it up with lemon juice. They made what they call a cocktail out of it.

 

–David Frome, Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard

March 15, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Killer Take All, Part I

deadly-pick-up-killer-take-allJust a week ago I talked about the double book book I’d recently picked up, talked about in The Deadly Pick-up Cocktail Talk post, that is, and therein mentioned the second book of the one-book duo, Killer Take All, by James O. Causey. And you know what? Today we are Cocktail Talking from that very book. It’s a swell piece of pulp pleasure, too, hitting the same pace and at least near the style of longtime fav Day Keene (read more Day Keene Cocktail Talks while you’re here why dontacha). By that I mean, our hero/narrator (who happens to be a golfer! Of all pulpy things) gets into trouble, then more trouble, then trouble piles on another layer of troubles, and troubling on and on until you feel there is no way he can get outta the trouble hole. Plus: some mobsters and ex-mobsters, an ex-girlfriend who may be untrustworthy, a cop who may be the opposite, loads of other shady intriguing figures, and (if that wasn’t enough) an old master painting playing a big part. Plus booze! And bars! A dandy, dandy read.

Stephen reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a pint of bonded bourbon. “Open it, Tony? We could both stand some anti-freeze.”

I took a deep slug. It was good whiskey. Stephen kept his eyes on the compass as he reached for the pint and downed almost half of it.

“Hey, you’re driving, remember?”

He took another slug and grinned, showing even white teeth. “Breakfast, man.”

–James O. Causey, Killer Take All

February 15, 2022

Cocktail Talk: Eight Faces at Three, Part I

eight-faces-at-threeI’ll admit freely that I am not a very social-media-y person. Maybe it’s age, maybe inclination, maybe I type too slowly, maybe it’s a curse put on me by an ancient sorcerer, who knows? However, I will say that at least one awesome thing has happened for me via the socials (I’m sure many things, but that’s not as dramatic), and that was when someone on the twitters pointed me towards the author Craig Rice and the book Eight Faces at Three. I believe it was mystery author and cool cocktailer (author of Down the Hatch: One Man’s One Year Odyssey Through Classic Cocktail Recipes and Lore) and noir-ish editor (typing all that out, I’m sorta jealous I’m not him!), Vince Keenan. I didn’t know Rice at all before this pointing, and that was a big failing I’m now happy to say I’ve corrected. Rice (full name something like Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig Rice) lived a bit of a wild, early-to-mid 1900s life, and that’s saying something. Not only married many times (including to a beat poet, of all things), a cocktail and booze-swirler and swigger during some rollicking periods in history, a mystery book writer and ghostwriter, and the first crime-etc. writer to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, when Time was a bigger deal than we can probably really grasp – I mean, that’s huge!  – she was also (I as I read when trying to track down more info, and which I loved so much I wanted to type out), described by Bill Ruehlmann as “the Dorothy Parker of detective fiction: she wrote the binge and lived the hangover.” Wowza!

Of course, none of it would matter as much if Eight Faces at Three wasn’t all kinds of fun to read! It starts a wee bit slow, but once murder happens, and a (perhaps wrongly accused?) suspect suspected, and (most of all) said suspect’s pal, the tipsy debutante Helen Brand arrives and decides to solve things with press agent (and also tipsy) Jake Justus, well, the fun starts rolling at speed. They’re accompanied (into bars, cars, and bottles) by defense council John J. Malone, which means this book kicks off the John J. Malone series of Rice books, and while he’s a hoot, I hope in other books our other two named imbibers also show, cause they have a madcap 20s romance vibe that was all kinds of kicks. And they cocktail a lot! As well as open bottles, as in the below quote (which doesn’t specific a spirit, but I’m taking it to be rye, as that seems their tipple of choice).

 

Drink?

Jake gasped, collected his thoughts. “Invariably.”

She laughed. “Reach into the side pocket. No – this side. I thought it might be a long, cold ride into town.”

Jake beamed approvingly at her. “There’s a certain Florence Nightingale touch about you that’s beginning to grow on me.”

She laughed again. “No glasses though.”

“Well,” he said, “you couldn’t have everything. It wouldn’t be fair”

He passed the bottle to her, watched admiringly as she tilted it up and drank deeply without allowing the big car to waver more than a little on the icy pavement.

 

–Craig Rice, Eight Faces at Three

December 7, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Some Slips Don’t Show, Part I

some-slips-don't-showI have had enough A.A. Fair Cocktail Talks and Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks on the ol’ Spiked Punch for those that don’t know to now know they are the same person, right? Well, the latter, Mr. Erle, is the person I suppose, and the former, Mr. A.A., just a nom de plume (as they say), but I like to hope he at least wore different hats when writing as different people. Anyway, I’ve had a fair (haha!) enough amount of Cocktail Talks as mentioned for you to go back through them to browse my thoughts on the two personas, on the books written by them, and my feelings therein. So, don’t miss that! Cause I’m not going to go over it all here, instead want to jump right in to the drink-y quotes from this book, Some Slips Don’t Show, which stars (as all the A.A. Fair books, I believe) detective Donald Lam, and to a lesser extent, his partner Bertha Cool. In this yarn, they end up with a client who isn’t completely sure if he cheated on his wife while in San Francisco, but may be being blackmailed. Curious! And then there is a murder, and some art, and a modern lady beguiled by the diminutive (in height, somewhat, but not in smarts or stick-tuitive-ness) and dashing Donald, as ladies tend to be. But before said beguiling, there’s background around the client, who it seems had himself a night.

 

She laughed a throaty, musical laugh. “Trying to play the big, bad wolf was pretty much of a strain on him. He was out of character.”

“I can imagine,” I said. “What happened?”

“He started drinking Champagne like water on top of some fruit punch. The combination didn’t agree with him.”

“So, what happened?”

“He went to the bathroom.”

“Then what?”

“Do you have to know all the details?”

 

–A.A. Fair, Some Slips Don’t Show

 

November 16, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard, Part I

maigret-man-on-the-boulevardI’m back into another George Simenon yarn starring Parisian Inspector Maigret (there have been many Maigret Cocktail Talks you can browse at will), an ideal read for a rainy November day, as during a fair part of Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard Paris is engulfed in heavy rains. And our stolid, stoic, Chief Inspector (to give him his full due) moves along through the wet and dry and cloudy days in his own particular way: slow at times, thoughtful at times, dreamy (can I say that? I did!) at times, but always pushing forward. His case this time involves the murder of a man who had a second-life of sorts, pointed out first by the fact that he was murdered wearing light brown shoes, shoes which his wife swears he didn’t own, and which Maigret calls “goose-dung” shoes, due to the color. That’s amazing! Maigret follows the various threads, spooling them up one-by-one, while stopping for various sips along the way: wine, Calvados, aperitives, more, maybe even more than usual (one of the many reasons I love Maigret so much is his love of bars, bistros, brasseries, and other eating-and-watering holes. Even when they are around-the-corner, as in the below).

 

“Where to now chief?”

It was just eleven o’clock.

“Stop at the first bistro you come to.”

“There’s one next door to the shop.”

Somehow, he felt shy of going in there, under Leone’s watchful eye.

“We’ll find one round the corner.”

He wanted to ring Monsieur Kaplan, and to consult the street guide, to find Monsieur Saimbron’s exact address on the Quai de la Megisserie.

While he was there, having started the day with a Calvados, he thought he might as well have another, and drank it standing at the bar counter.

 

–George Simenon, Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard

October 5, 2021

Cocktail Talk: An Old Man’s Love, Part I

an-old-mans-love-trollopeFirst published in 1884, An Old Man’s Love was the last novel completed by the Spiked Punch’s pal Anthony Trollope, published after his death (there’s one more unfinished novel, too – oh, and check out all the Trollope Cocktail Talks to learn more, in an overall way, while having oodles of reading fun), and also one of the few novels by him that I’d yet to read, until recently! It’s a short novel, and almost could have slipped into novella size, though I’d hate to miss all but a few of his last words. I wouldn’t put it into the super-awesome tier of Trollope, as it’s fairly one-path’d as opposed to his thicker, more layered pieces. But it’s a good study of just what the title would have you believe: an older gentleman falls for his younger ward and nearly marries her – but then a past love of her’s shows up, and stuff ensues, as you’d expect. There are a few other pertinent characters, including the old man’s (Mr. Whittlestaff, that is), housekeeper, with whom he has some funny exchanges, and her drunken reprobate of an estranged husband. The latter is featured in the below quote, which itself also features one of my favorite phrases, “drunk as a lord.” This phrase usage is really why the below makes it to Cocktail Talk status. Drunk as a lord! I’ve been there, my friends.

 

On the next morning, when John Gordon reached the corner of the road at which stood Croker’s Hall, he met, outside on the roadway, close to the house, a most disreputable old man with a wooden leg and a red nose. This was Mr. Baggett, or Sergeant Baggett as he was generally called, and was now known about all Alresford to be the husband of Mr. Whittlestaff’s housekeeper. For news had got abroad, and tidings were told that Mr. Baggett was about to arrive in the neighbourhood to claim his wife. Everybody knew it before the inhabitants of Croker’s Hall. And now, since yesterday afternoon, all Croker’s Hall knew it, as well as the rest of the world. He was standing there close to the house, which stood a little back from the road, between nine and ten in the morning, as drunk as a lord. But I think his manner of drunkenness was perhaps in some respects different from that customary with lords. Though he had only one leg of the flesh, and one of wood, he did not tumble down, though he brandished in the air the stick with which he was accustomed to disport himself. A lord would, I think, have got himself taken to bed. But the Sergeant did not appear to have any such intention.

 

— Anthony Trollope, An Old Man’s Love

August 31, 2021

Cocktail Talk: Owls Don’t Blink, Part I

owls-dont-blinkThis may be one of the weirdest Cocktail Talks ever! Boom! If you’ve read past Erle Stanley Gardner Cocktail Talks, and you should, you’ll already know that I lean towards liking his books written under the pseudonym A.A. Fair (the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool mysteries) better than his more famous Perry Mason books (though as I age, I’ve found more of those I like a little more than expected, too), so that’s not weird. The book has a fair number of twists and turns and unexpectedness happening for PI Lam and jolly moments from PI Cool, with more of the former, but that’s all expected in these yarns, so not weird at all. Though ending in LA, much of the book (which was pubbed in 1942) takes place in lovely New Orleans, and that’s where the weirdness happens. See, I’d expect as a famous writer, and as one fairly meticulous usually, Mr. Gardner would have actually visited that fair city, and spent time on the streets and in the bars and restaurants before writing this book – and had some of the city’s legendary cocktails and highballs and such. And there are many classic libations that trace their histories back to New Orleans! However, when a scene takes place in a bar and PI Lam is ordering drinks, his list of “New Orleans drinks” is bafflingly, oh, boring? Un-New-Orleans-y? Weird? To me, weird. Maybe there was a time in the 40s that people thought of the below as New Orleans drinks? I’m glad it’s not now! But the below Cocktail Talk is still worthy – weird can be fun, too.

 

We had no more than seated her when the waiter came up for an order.

“Plain whiskey and water,” she said.

“Gin and Coke,” I ordered.

Hale pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, let me see. Do you have any really good Cognac?”

I answered for the waiter. “No,” I said. “Since you’re here in New Orleans, why not drink a New Orleans drink? Gin and Seven-Up; Gin and Coke; rum and Coke; or bourbon and Seven-Up?”

 

–Erle Stanley Gardner (writing as A.A. Fair), Owls Don’t Blink

February 16, 2021

Cocktail Talk: The Uncommercial Traveller, Part I

uncommercial-travellerThe Uncommercial Traveller by our pal Charles Dickens is not a book one hears about enough – heck, even a Dickens head like me hadn’t had it in his hands until recently. But I scored a copy, which isn’t really that hard, though said copy is like a print-to-order thing, with no, like TOC, or copyright notes, or title page, anything. Which is fine, and definitely better than no copy at all! If you don’t know (and I’ll admit, I didn’t know much until I got said copy), The Uncommercial Traveller is a collection of personal essays, or literary sketches as they say, that Dickens originally published in a journal he founded called “All the Year Round” (if anyone wants to gift me a few original copies of that, go right ahead), and really involves the main character (Dickens, that is, as far as it goes) writing about his wanderings around London, the UK, and (in a dreamy sort-of way and regular ways) Europe, including visiting the site of a famous shipwreck, strolling the city in the wee hours due to insomnia, mapping out the haunts of neighborhood dogs, visiting the town he grew up in, and more. They are all written in the Dickensian style, with wit, insights that remain relevant today, details rendered through his particular peculiar eye, and all. He stops at pubs and hotels and other watering holes, too, as he loved such, and drinks, so it makes for good Cocktail Talk-ing (oh, don’t miss all the past Charles Dickens Cocktail Talks, as there are many jolly ones). I’m not sure yet how many Uncommercial Traveller Cocktails Talks I’ll have yet, but you can bet they’ll be more! We’re going to start at one of those neighborhood public houses, one attended by theatre-goers during intermission. And while it does have drinks! It’s really an ode to the sandwich. But I love sandwiches! Especially with drinks.

 

Between the pieces, we almost all of us went out and refreshed.  Many of us went the length of drinking beer at the bar of the neighbouring public-house, some of us drank spirits, crowds of us had sandwiches and ginger-beer at the refreshment-bars established for us in the Theatre.  The sandwich—as substantial as was consistent with portability, and as cheap as possible—we hailed as one of our greatest institutions.  It forced its way among us at all stages of the entertainment, and we were always delighted to see it; its adaptability to the varying moods of our nature was surprising; we could never weep so comfortably as when our tears fell on our sandwich; we could never laugh so heartily as when we choked with sandwich; Virtue never looked so beautiful or Vice so deformed as when we paused, sandwich in hand, to consider what would come of that resolution of Wickedness in boots, to sever Innocence in flowered chintz from Honest Industry in striped stockings.  When the curtain fell for the night, we still fell back upon sandwich, to help us through the rain and mire, and home to bed.

 

–Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller

 

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