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
September 28, 2021
Recently (not today recent, but just weeks ago), I had a few Cocktail Talks from the A.A. Fair book Owls Don’t Blink (you can read Part I and Part II as desired). A.A. Fair of course being an alias of Erle Stanley Gardner, who is/was/will be mostly famous for his series of books featuring dashing and mystery-solving attorney Perry Mason. I’ve written before here on Spiked Punch (check out past Erle Cocktail Talks for evidence) how I generally like the Perry Mason television show better than the books, in a twist, and how I also tend to like the A.A. Fair books better. Hey, I’m strange! I don’t dislike the Perry Mason books, but sometimes our loveable lawyer is a little too, oh, cool? I dunno. I will say this: the Perry Mason books are worth reading, A: to make up your own mind, B: cause some (like The Case of the Cautious Coquette) are dandy reads, C: they all tend to move fast and frolicsome, and D: the versions in the 40s, 50s, maybe even early 60s usually have outstanding covers. This one, featuring our red-headed heroine holding a smoking gun and wearing a smoking pantsuit, is no different. The tale itself features a mysterious letter, woman, murder, gun, car wreck, and more. And an un-mysterious drink for Perry.
He arose as Mason entered the room, said, “Mr. Mason, the lawyer?”
The man extended his hand. “I’m Stephen Argyle. I’ve very glad to meet you. I have heard about you. Won’t you sit down and join me in a drink?”
He was thin to the point of being bony, with long fingers, high cheekbones, bleached out eyes, think hair which was well shot with gray. He wore glasses which clamped on the bridge of a high nose with a black ribbon hanging from the side, giving him an expression of austere power.
Mason said, “Thank you. I’ll have a Scotch and soda, please.”
Argyle nodded to the butler, who walked over to the portable bar, dropped ice cubes in a glass, mixed a Scotch and soda, and wordlessly handed it to Mason.
–Erle Stanley Gardener, The Case of the Cautious Coquette
May 29, 2018
I was at the amazing Seattle Public Library annual booksale
not to long back, and came across a great box of book (well, lots of boxes of book, many, many, many were there, but this was a particular
one) that had a fair amount of old pocket-sized books, the ones with good covers, including books from heavy-hitters like Hammett and Chandler. But also some names I didn’t know, which is where this beauty by Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse
, comes into the picture. It wasn’t the best pulpy pick-up, but it’s lots of fun – I mean, it has the subtitle “Murder in a Tropical Paradise” and what’s more fun than that! There was a tough detective, a bunch of double-dealing, a murder on a boat, rum, and more, including the below quote that isn’t about rum. I love booksales!
“Forgive me,” she said, after a great lurch of the boat. “If I’m making passes at you under the table, please blame it on Davy Jones.”
“I’m not complaining,” I said.
“You’re really nice,” she smiled. “What are you drinking?”
“Drambuie. It sits well after a big meal.”
“A man of discernment.” She cased me slyly, weighing me with her wise eyes. “You don’t find many Drambuie drinkers on a boat like this. I would have judged you a Scotch and soda man.”
“I didn’t think it showed.” I lifted her glass and sniffed it. “You fooled me, too. I would have called you the Manhattan type. Instead, you’re sipping Aquavit. Scandinavian ancestors?”
“I love the Swedes?” She laughed. “I also love Aquavit because it warms me and excites me. But Aquavit is a kind friend the morning after.”
–Adam Knight, The Sunburned Corpse