September 13, 2022
For our final What Rhymes with Murder? Cocktail Talk (and don’t miss What Rhymes with Murder? Part I and Part II to get some more boozing, sure, but also to learn more about this Jack Iams’ 1950 mystery, where a British flirty poet gets shot, a reporter hero tries to track down the murder as he’s a suspect, and where the society page grand dame reporter might be the best shamus of the bunch!) I have what I’m thinking is one of the finest moments in the however many years I’ve been writing here: the mention of grappa in a 1950s pulp pocketbook! Really! Amazing! I love grappa, being like one of the big grappa pushers I know, and someone who brings back bottles of obscure-in-the-US grappas in my suitcase when traveling to Italy every year. So, when I saw the below, I was very, very happy. You will be, too.
I went around the corner to Frascini’s, a restaurant where a lot of newspapermen and politicians and cops hung out. It was crowded, and I had a feeling that people were staring at me, and after a bowl of minestrone, I didn’t want anything more.
“Whatsa matter, you sick?” asked Tony Frascini.
“No, just shaky.”
“Have a grappa. Fix you up.”
–Jack Iams, What Rhymes with Murder?
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 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?