Sunday, December 01, 2013

What I learned from alcohol

I was so inspired by last week's rereading of Dashiell Hammett's "The Big Knockover" that I stopped at my local bar for a drink of what the Continental Op orders at Jean Larrouy's dive on the first page of the story: a gin and ginger ale.

 "You know what's even better?" the bartender said (my bartender, not Hammett's). "Gin and ginger beer."

This evening I decided to read some P.G. Wodehouse, starting where I began my Wodehouse reading years ago, with the Mr. Mulliner stories. Here's how the action begins in "The Truth About George," emphasis mine:
"The door leading into the white dusty road opened, and a small man with rimless pince-nez and an anxious expression shot in like a rabbit and had consumed a gin and ginger-beer almost before we knew he was there."
Wodehouse's story appeared first in 1926, Hammett's in February 1927. From this, we may guess that gin and ginger was a popular combination in the Anglo-American drinking world of the mid-1920s, an interesting bit of social history. What unexpected information have you picked up from crime or other popular fiction?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger R.T. said...

My earlier attempt at a comment disappeared. Such are the quirks of Blogger.

I mentioned that I learned from too many hard drinking detectives that drinking can lead to problems.

I also learned from Erlendur (Iceland's police detective) that one should be ever grateful for a loving family.

And I learned from Morse (Dexter's Oxford police detective) that classical music can provide important comfort in trying times.

Then there is Nero Wolfe. Lesson: good food is always a pleasure.

December 01, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

From Nero Wolfe we learn, too, if we needed reassurance, as one will in these increasingly illiterate times, that lax usage is an outrage.

But t think of these as moral maxims or perhaps articles of faith. I had in mind something more humble: surprising facts.

December 01, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

I've just read the ARC of a February release--Michael Kurland's Who Thinks Evil (which I recommend)--and I learned something that surprised me: Professor Moriarty is a decent, honorable, and patriotic fellow. If we were to believe Holmes and Watson, Moriarty is little more than the "wickedest man unhung."

Perhaps that is not responsive to your query, but WTH . . . it's the best that I have this evening.

December 01, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You can't fool me. WTH is just a euphemism for WTF.

December 01, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a friend who drank Jack-And-Ginger (Jack Daniels and ginger ale). Sometimes too much.

I don't know if it's unexpected information I picked up, but most likely the reason Mike Hammer smokes so many Lucky Strikes is that the brand was so prevalent in World War II, it hooked many a soldier. However, I also recently learned that Camp Lucky Strike was one of the American Army camps established near Le Havre, France in World War II. I also learned that the Lucky package was at one point green, not white. Long story why the change. I just wonder which color Hammer preferred.

December 04, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds like there's an entire complex of reasons for Spilane's choice of cigarettes for Mike Hammer to smoke, each of the reasons thought-provoking.

The second time I ordered a gin and ginger ale, I got to talking with a fellow customer who had interesting things to say about the history of mixed drinks. The mixers, he said, were first added to cover up the rotten quality of Prohibition-era liquor. I don't remember if I had heard that before.

But I don't think I had heard that an Old-Fashioned got its name when post-repeal drinkers would order one of those old-fashioned drinks from Prohibition. This theory leaves unanswered the question of what the drink was called before repeal.

December 04, 2013  
Blogger Juri Nummelin said...

Putting salt into coffee that has been standing for hours to freshen it up. This is from a Ross Macdonald novel, but I forget which.

December 06, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Juri, I had never heard of that practice. Does it work?
I guess there was more to that Macdonald guy than freshman-level psychology.

December 06, 2013  

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