Saturday, March 14, 2015

Gil Brewer: Squalid, but funny

Some things that surprised me about Gil Brewer's 1961 novel A Taste of Sin:
1) The protagonist drinks too much, but his drinks are absinthe and Pernod. 
2) The morbid (and mordant) humor, as in the ending of the first chapter: 
"In my mind there was the sound of broken glass."  
and its segue into the beginning of the second: 
"I got in the Volks and sat there. 
"Well, a sane woman could be a bore." 
3) The virtuosic sarcasm of some of the best of that humor, as this observation about the cop who questions the protagonist: 
"He was very bright. He sighed brightly."
 4) That no one could write squalid, desperate sex like Gil Brewer could. Lots of books of the time tried, and their scenes often read like something out of a sex version of Reefer Madness. Not Brewer's
© Peter Rozovsky 2015 

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Anonymous Mary Beth said...

If it wasn't raining cats and dogs outside I would be heading out to pick up some Peychaud bitters, absinthe and rye. A rainy afternoon with Sazeracs and a noir novel - it's growing on me.

March 14, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't read enough of Brewer's work to know whether that sort of humor was typical. But in this book, anyhow, having a typical down at the heels noir protagonist drinking absinthe and Pernods rather than cheap whiskey or gin was a terrific joke. I wonder if any other American noir characters did the same.

March 14, 2015  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Absinthe and Pernod -- this man has a thing about aniseed and liquorice. But where did he buy the absinthe? It was banned in the U.S. from 1912 to 2007.

March 15, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Brewer was an expert drinker. and evidently a worldly one. His books were certainly set between 1912 and 2007.

March 15, 2015  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Ah. Then we must conclude that Brewer's protagonist (and Brewer) were supplied by a moonshiner who specialised in niche markets. I like that idea.

March 15, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The character in question works at a liquor store, but the story establishes no connection between that and his taste in alcoholic beverages. I suspect that Brewer was clever enough to enjoy the little joke of giving the character those tastes.

March 16, 2015  

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