September 27, 2022
Long ago on this here blog (the ol’ Spiked Punch, around longer than makes any sense, haha), I had a post with two quotes – in one post! What was I thinking? – from the Howard Rigsby book, Kill and Tell, the Pocket Book edition, 1953. Well, recently, I decided to re-read said book, brought back to it by the swell cover and the name, and cause I didn’t remember exactly how it turned out. I’d also forgotten what a, interesting, mid-last-century pocket-y mystery it is, just as the protagonist Tim Wilde is perhaps more thinky, or considered (if that makes sense) then some of his more hard-boiled shamuses of the time. Plus, it ends fairly sadly (not so strange, but the way it gets there I found different enough to be interesting). There are two murders, small town shenanigans, car smacks, monkeys (!!), piano playing, and more. Worth checking out. Plus the nice usage of the word “mottled” in the below!
I went up the stairs and he was standing there on the landing in a dressing gown. He had, as usual, a drink in his hand, a highball. His face looked mottled and feverish. “Well, I made it,” he said. “I made the inquest.”
“How was it?”
“Come in here,” he said. He turned and went into the sitting room and I followed him. He waved a fresh bottle of Scotch. “Pour yourself a drink.”
–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 9, 2022
It’s been 8 years (!!!) since I had the first Cocktail Talk from the George Simenon book My Friend Maigret – which, if memory serves (sadly, it doesn’t serve as well as it once used to, hahaha), was the very first Inspector Maigret book I ever read, after picking up three at once at the now-much-missed Seattle Library Book Sale. Since, I’ve taken many a stroll with the taciturn-at-times slow-moving-at-times always-large always-interesting Maigret, and look to take many more, though my collection is getting nearer and nearer to full. What a treat to go back and read this yarn, which falls into the category of Maigret-outside-of-Paris in the main (there are a number of these, though not as many as in the city proper I don’t believe), as he and a tag-a-long Scotland Yard Inspector (in France to watch the famous Chief Inspector’s methods) end up on the Island of Porquerolles to solve the murder of an ex-con who had been bragging in one of the local bars (where they spend a fair amount of time, drinking the local white wine mentioned below) about his friend Maigret. There are many Cocktail Talk moments as usual with Maigret, don’t miss My Friend Maigret Cocktail Talk Part I’s anisette (and for that matter, check out all the Maigret Cocktail Talks), but the below has both the white wine and marc, the latter always a welcome addition.
“Did he go steal jewels in New York?”
“I rather think he’s in Paris,’ Mr. Pyke corrected him calmly, selecting a toothpick in his turn.
A second bottle of the island’s wine, which Jojo had brought without being asked, was more than half empty. The patron came over to suggest:
“A little marc? After the garlic mayonnaise, it’s essential.”
It was balmy, almost cool in the room, while a heavy sun, humming with flies, beat down on the square.
—My Friend Maigret, George Simenon
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
June 21, 2022
It was recently my anniversary (thank you to my wife for marrying me!), which seemed the perfect time to re-read the 1944 mystery by George Harmon Coxe (a fairly well-known mystery writer from mid-last-century) called The Groom Lay Dead! It’s a nicely-paced (not breath-takingly-paced like Day Keene, but it keeps things moving) mystery around the death of a somewhat asshole-ish rich guy, with our protagonist being a slightly shell-shocked (this the WW II era) play director. So, there’s glamorous folks, an interesting upstate New York Finger Lakes setting, a few potentially shady (or moreso!) potential murderers, as well as a sort-of cult-ish health farm run by a hypnotic man – always a good addition. Worth checking out, especially if you can get the cover pictured here. I had a The Groom Lay Dead Cocktail Talk on here after the first time I read it, many years in the past (do, don’t miss that, ya’hear?), but I’d forgotten about this minor character I liked, and felt he (George Vernon, vaguely trapped up the health farm/cult) and his night out deserved a second Cocktail Talk quote.
Apparently it had been quite a while since George Vernon had been out and he’d made up his mind to enjoy himself. He had four drinks at the bar in addition to the two he’d had at Yager’s house: he had another Scotch and soda with his dinner and called for brandy with his coffee. Parks was doing all right, too. He got a lot of laughs of Vernon, who long ago had insisted that we call him George.
— George Harmon Coxe, The Groom Lay Dead
May 31, 2022
Hello Anthony Trollope fans! Which is everyone! Who likes to read, at least (which is also hopefully everyone)! Speaking of reading, long-time readers of this blog (which is everyone!) know that I love reading Trollope novels in the main, and know this due to the many many Trollope Cocktail Talks from years past. A long list that includes one Can You Forgive Her? Cocktail Talk. However! I was re-reading this book – the first in the amazing Palliser series, or series-esque – recently, and realized I needed way more in the way of Cocktail Talks from it. So, another is happening today, with the below quote. First a quick note: the novel is about a lady who goes a bit back-and-forth, not in her affections per se, but in how she decides to deal with them and her life, with a few other stories intertwined (including one which introduces Glencora Palliser, who shows up in most of the other books, and re-introduces Plantagenet Palliser, who shows up even more in them). All good Trollopian stuff! Including the below.
On the night before Christmas Eve two men were sitting together in George Vavasor’s rooms in Cecil Street. It was past twelve o’clock, and they were both smoking; there were square bottles on the table containing spirits, with hot water and cold water in jugs, and one of the two men was using, and had been using, these materials for enjoyment.
–Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?
May 10, 2022
Our second Cocktail Talk from David Frome’s fits-in-the-pocket-sized-book (be sure to read Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard Part I to learn more about the books, the murdering, and such) is brandy-based. It’s a little long, but wanted to set the whole scene, because it calls up multiple deficiencies in modern life. First: not enough people have brandy at hand like this for emergencies. Second: people don’t use the word “nip” enough to refer to a small drink. And third, people also don’t use the phrase “stiff peg” enough for a slightly larger strong pour of spirits in a glass. Let’s all work on bring these three things back into daily life, shall we?
“That Ellinger woman says my sister’s dead – is that true?
“Quite true, Mr. Ripley,” Bull said quietly. “Steady on, sir!”
He caught Hugh Ripley round the shoulders as he swayed in the doorway.
Superintendent Miller jumped to his feet and came over.
“Get some brandy,” he said to the maid. He pushed a chair up. Bull helped Ripley into it.
“I’m all right,” the young man said in a second. “Thanks.”
“This is Sir Charles Debenham, the Assistant Commissioner, and this is Superintendent Miller, of Scotland Yard,” Bull said. “They’re taking a hand in the investigation. Ah, here you are. Take a nip of this, sir.”
He took the decanter that Gaskins had fetched from the dining-room and poured out a stiff peg in the glass she held. Hugh Ripley poured it down his throat.
–David Frome, Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard
April 26, 2022
Just a few weeks back I had a Chester Himes Cocktail Talk (called The Crazy Kill, Part III) where I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t had any Cocktail Talking from the amazing Chester Himes in many a year, and talked more about my love of his work, especially his Harlem-based novels featuring police detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones (some of the finest characters created in detective fiction I think, with razor dialogue, sharp personalizations, and many memorable moments). I was thinking about it enough that I had to re-read some more from Mr. Himes, and so went with All Shot Up (check out the All Shot Up Cocktail Talk Part I, and all the Chester Himes Cocktail Talks), which boasts a robbery, chilly temps, a hit-and-run (with all sorts of twists), violence, politicians and politics, dark humor, plot shenanigans, and much more rollicking over the page at a blistering pace. Including the below quote, which reminded me of the first time I read the book. When I saw the drink referenced below on that first read years and years back, I reached out to the great Gary Regan (one of the bar world’s fine gentlemen, and sadly now slinging and drinking drinks at the big bar in the beyond), knowing he both knew endless amounts about drinks but also that he had a taste for mystery and detective fiction, too, just to see if he’d heard of the drink. He hadn’t, but did some research (always kind, Mr. Regan), and even though he didn’t track down another mention of it, we had a fine time talking it through and talking over the book. Here’s to him, and to Chester Himes, and for that matter to you, too.
He was drinking a tall frappe highball of dark rum with a streak of grenadine running down the center, called a “Josephine Baker.” If La Baker herself had been running stark nude in the bottom of his glass he could not have given her any more attention.
–Chester Himes, All Shot Up