November 29, 2022
Our recent Graham Greene Cocktail Talking (don’t miss The Comedians Cocktail Talk and This Gun for Hire Cocktail Talk, plus more Graham Greene’s from the past) continues, this time with The Heart of the Matter, which I recently re-read, and in which they drink a lot of Pink Gins, and sweat a lot, too. It’s a classic in the more serious Greene vein, steeped in immaculate, elegant, prose, alongside delving into the interactions and motivations of the main character, including a deep look in his Catholic beliefs and how they cause in a way part of the action to unfurl. Not for the faint of reading heart, neccessarily. But for those who like gin!
“What about you, darling?” He turned quickly away from her and began to fix two more Pink Gins. There was a tacit understanding between them that ‘liquor helped;’ growing more miserable with every glass one hoped for the moment of relief.
“You don’t really want to know about me.”
“Of course I do, darling. What sort of a day have you had?”
“Ticki, why are you such a coward? Why don’t you tell me it’s all off?”
“You know what I mean – the passage. You’ve been talking and talking since you came in about the Esperanca. There’s a Portuguese ship in once a fortnight. You don’t talk that way every time. I’m not a child, Ticki. Why don’t you say straight out – you can’t go?”
He grinned miserably at his glass, twisting it round and round to let the Angostura cling along the curve.
–Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
August 30, 2022
Recently was re-reading the 1950s Dell Mystery pocket-sized book What Rhymes with Murder?, by Jack Iams, and thinking: why don’t more books have mystery-solving-reporters anymore? Let me step back: Jack Iams was a novelist (mysteries and others), teacher, and maybe most of all: reporter and journalist, for Newsweek, London Daily Mail, New York Herald Tribune, and others. So, perhaps not a complete surprise that some of his mystery books features Rocky Rockwell (amazing), City Editor and writer for The Record, one of two dailies in the small city this yarn and others take place within. Not only a writer/editor, if you wondered, but also a man not afraid to mix-it-up, both with circulation war heavies and such and with the dames – mostly his fiancé here, but also a wee dalliance with a writer for the other paper in town. He’s not the only newspaper person/mystery solver in pulp book history, either, though we don’t see as many now (I hope that’s right. It feels right!), which is a shame. Of course, not as many newspaper folks in general, sadly. But I digress! To get back to the matter at hand, this book, where Rocky gets mixed up with the murder of a visiting overly-amorous British poet (the ‘overly-amorous’ may have been implied with ‘British poet’)! It’s quite a swell mid-century piece of mystery fiction, moves quick, has some feints and counter-feints, ends up with two murders, Rocky rescues a paperboy from a hoodlum, and of course spends some well-earned time drinking up in clubs and hotels and homes. So much so that I’m gonna have a couple What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talks, starting with the below pink gin-ing. Or desire for sure.
Across the room, alone at a table, sat Ariel Banks’s secretary Clark-Watson. A waiter was trying to explain something, then the clipped, high-pitched British voice said distinctly, “Dash it, I am simple asking for a pink gin.”
“But he don’t know how to make it,” said the waiter.
“That is scarcely my fault,” said Clark-Watson.
Amy chuckled and said to me, “I think I’ll get into this act.” She got up and strolled to Clark-Watson’s table. I could hear her saying, “I’m Amy Race of the Eagle. Perhaps I could be of assistance?”
“Can you tell this chap how to make a pink gin?”
— Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?
November 4, 2014
There are far too many detectabulous fictional detectives to begin to name even my favorites here (just scroll through the Cocktail Talk posts and you’ll see many of them). But one that I haven’t been too closely acquainted with is literary mystery-unraveler Gervase Fen, created by English writer Edmund Crispin. It’s not surprising in a way, because Crispin was a cat person, and I’m a dog person. But I overlooked that when reading The Case of the Gilded Fly lately – which was the first of I believe nine Gervase Fen books. And I think I’ll read more, even if the dogs look at me sidewise when I’m reading them. Mr. Fen is an Oxford don, and I tend to like Oxford, and pretty witty besides, and the murder was nicely raveled and then unraveled. Not to mention that the book contained the below quote, ideal for Cocktail Talking.
There followed the ceremony of mumblings, apologies, and recognitions which always occurs when a group of people only partially acquainted are brought together, and a great and complicated maneuvering of chairs. Nigel, about to go off once again to the bar, was forestalled by Nicolas, who as he ordered pink gins contemplated with unconcealed glee the extremely uncomfortable relationships which were likely to be established within the next few minutes.
—The Case of the Gilded Fly, Edmund Crispin
August 20, 2012
When growing up, we owned a bunch of horses. And yeah, I showed them and all that (though not nearly as well as my sister). But, even with this bit of background, and my admiration for men in a certain type of suit, I never have spent much time at the track (that’s the horse track, for those of you still thinking Olympics). Which is probably one of the reasons I haven’t read much Dick Francis, who writes a lot of his mysteries around the tracks of England and the folks that hang out at or near them. But when on an extended trip to Italy once I was in a need of a book, and there was a Dick Francis number where I was staying, and so I read it, and liked it pretty darn well. It was called Whip Hand, and was horse-y, and had the following quote which I was quite fond of:
We met most weeks at noon in the upstairs bar of the Cavandish Hotel, where a pink gin for him and a whiskey and water for me now stood on prim little mats beside a bowl of peanuts.
–Dick Francis, Whip Hand
August 1, 2012
In the post below this one, I introduced a book that I was destined to like (and had a long story about why—go read it why dontcha, if you haven’t), called The Man with a Load of Mischief, by Martha Grimes. What I didn’t say (cause I was going on and on too much) was that the title actually refers to a local pub in a small English village, and that a murder takes place at said pub along with three other murders at other local pubs. It’s a pub-murder-a-thon (which, on the page, I’m all for), and as you might expect with that set up has more than one quote that needed reproducing, which is why there is a Part II in the title above. But hey, just read and love the quotes, don’t worry about semantics.
Since Mrs. Withersby’s oracular powers were somewhat dimished by gin, not many people listened
In the meantime, Twig had shuffled in and taken their order for drinks. A pink gin for Agatha, a martini for Melrose. She leaned her ample bosom on folded arms and said, “Now, my dear Machett, let’s have Murch in here.”
Jury wasn’t used to such etherealized cup and china. His cup was shaped like a conch shell, the handle an airy spindle of green. He was almost afraid to pick it up. On a plate were tiny cakes, prettily iced.
“And were you in the Jack and Hammer on that Friday evening?”
“I popped in about six-ish for a Campari and lime, yes.”
—The Man with a Load of Mischief, Martha Grimes
March 30, 2010
The last week or two, I reread all the Hoke Moseley books by Charles Willeford. If you don’t them, or Mr. Willeford’s work, and you know how to read, then change your reading patterns. Or get out. That’s how I sound after reading them, but it’s not how they sound, because they’re not as fake tough (and some of the less-detective/etc ones not at all), but what I like to think of as naturalistically insane. Very matter of factly crazy somehow. Hoke Moseley is a Miami detective, who deals with some criminals but also ends up taking care of his teenage daughters and his pregnant partner (well, she’s not always pregnant, as she has a baby in one of them) and various random Floridians. He drinks Early Times mostly (though isn’t opposed to other options) and has false teeth. This isn’t really saying much really about the books, but this might help: I think if I could have one more book written of any series, I might choose to have one more Hoke Moseley book written by Charles Willeford. If that tells you anything (I wonder what other people would pick with this option? What would you choose?) This quote is from Sideswipe, the 3rd of 4 Moseley books.
Frank was in his den, watching a lacrosse game on cable, and Helen was in the living room. She sat at her fruitwood desk, addressing envelopes and enclosing mimeographed letters requesting donations for the Palm Beach Center for Abused Children. She was on the last few envelopes when Hoke joined her in the living room. He poured three ounces of Chivas Regal at the bar, added two ice cubes, and gave himself a splash of soda. Helen looked over her shoulder and smiled. “I’m about finished Hoke. Could you fix me a pink gin please?”
“Tanqueray or Beefeater?”
“It doesn’t make any difference when you add bitters, so I’d just as soon have Gordon’s.”
Because it did make a difference, Hoke poured three ounces of Tanqueray into a crystal glass, added ice cubes, and put in a liberal sprinkling of Angostura bitters. He took a cocktail napkin from the stack and put the napkin and drink on the edge of the desk where Helen could reach it.
“Thank you,” Helen sipped her drink. “This is Tanqueray.”
“There is a difference then.”
—Charles Willeford, Sideswipe
PS: The other Willeford books (not in this series) are also darn fine. Especially The Pick Up (one of the great, and the first book by him I read), and Cockfighter (which was of course made into the fine, fine movie starring the best actor ever, Warren Oates).
February 19, 2010
Listen, just because I like, or sorta like, or have read all the way through, a book, doesn’t mean I have to agree with the quote provided here on the Spiked Punch. Sometimes, I just want to use a quote for education purposes, or to disagree with, or because I think it’s just the rootin-tootin-est. The below falls somewhere in there, but for sure it: comes from a book with a great name (The Corpse with Sticky Fingers), comes from a book written by George Bagby, and illustrates a rule I like to live by (by stating the opposite. See, this is the educating part), which is that you never turn down a pink gin when jump music is on. The inspector might, but me? Never. Even when on the job. Especially when on the job. So, now you know.
She shut the door behind us and turned up the radio. Jump music jumped at us. She made a vague gesture in the direction of the bottle of gin.
“How about a pink gin?” she said
“Not on the job, thank you,” said the inspector.
— George Bagby, The Corpse with Sticky Fingers