Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Long Goodbye with a Gimlet

I always wonder if it's in questionable taste to recommend books by, and featuring, alcoholics (or very heavy drinkers) with yet more alcohol. But then I think if I avoided every writer who had had a drink problem I'd have to get rid of a lot of books I love and maybe it doesn't do to be overly worried about these things.

I love a bit of Raymond Chandler, and hard boiled noir generally, both on film and in book form, for it's stylishness, but also for the very real feeling that the world weary cynicism has come from a generation who had genuinely seen, and lost, to much. There's more than a whiff of ptsd about some of these characters.

I have a copy of 'The Long Goodbye' but I haven't read it yet. If I didn't have it it would be right at the top of my wish list - you can't go wrong with a handful of modern classics under the Christmas tree either (annoyingly when talk turns to presents this year people keep telling me they're not going to buy me more books - which is fine, but they say it like someone can have to many books, which is obviously nonsense).

Meanwhile the reason I've chosen this book with this drink is because Chandler (who I would more naturally associate with bourbon or other whisky) basically defines the gimlplet in this book. Before 'The Long Goodbye' a gimlet seems to have quite commonly have had soda water in it as well as gin and lime, since 'The Long Goodbye' it's accepted that the proper way to make one is half and half gin and rose's lime cordial (well chilled and in a martini glass).

The Gin Foundry recommends Sipsmith's VJOP (very junipery over proof) as the gin to use. It's an excellent gin, but it's very strong, so I'd be more inclined to go for an old fashioned classic like Tanqueray, Beefeater, or Plymouth - especially Plymouth if you want to honour the naval connections the gimlet has. The other option would be to go for one of the new wave American gins. Whatever the choice I'm seeing this combination as perfect for Boxing Day.


  1. You have a bit of a typo her m'dear, I think you meant to type 'naval connections'.

    Half and half gin and lime cordial sounds dreadful, I would need some soda in with that.

  2. Thank you! I use an iPad which has some very odd ideas when it comes to auto correct. For some reason it remains convinced that the word I want when I write book is generally going to be hook - It's the most annoying, but not the most random, trick it has.

    Gimlets are better than they sound - though not particularly a favourite. What I do like about them is that they're simple, and they don't encourage me to overindulge...

  3. I always wondered what went in a gimlet - it sounds delicious. Must try with some hard-boiled noir over Christmas (Dashiell Hammett being noir of choice). I'm with you on the strange comments about "no more books", as though you can ever have too many.

  4. There's an Irish saying, 'When the drink is in, the wit is out.'
    But perhaps not in Chandler's case. The Long Goodbye is his masterpiece.
    I like The High Window too, where Marlowe returns to his apartment after the case is over, and plays chess alone. 'You and me and capablanca,' he says (I quote from memory, always a mistake).
    Dashiell Hammett can write compellingly well about drink. His devoted couple Nick and Nora Charles enjoy a Bourbon or three together in The Thin Man.
    John O'Hara (much admired by Chandler) quit drinking after being diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. As a widowed father he did not want to leave his small daughter parentless.
    The last seventeen years of O'Hara's life were drink-free and very productive.
    O'Hara's trilogy of stories from this abstemious period of his life, Sermons And Soda Water, is worth reading. His men and women get drunk, quarrel and endure hangovers. Razor sharp dialogue.
    Dorothy Parker (another O'Hara admirer) brought her own mordant wit to the drinking life.
    Lilian Ross of The New Yorker describes seeing Parker walking in the snow in Manhattan, wearing carpet slippers. It's in Ross's memoir, Here But Not Here.
    I forget the name of the New York newspaper columnist who called his autobiography The Drinking Life. He was a friend of Jackie Onassis.
    He too stopped drinking.
    I am a Sinatra fan and quite a few of his songs are about the destructive aspects of alcohol.
    Jack London wrote John Barleycorn to that effect.
    J Haggerty

    1. Peter Hamill wrote A Drinking Life as well as Why Sinatra Matters and Invisible City - A New York Sketchbook.
      I am sure Mr Hamill could mix us all a perfect gimlet, a swell 'old-fashioned' or a dandy rum punch.
      If Desperate Readers enjoy Chandler, why not try Ross Macdonald?
      Begin with his haunting identity thriller, The Galton Case.
      Macdonald's private eye Lew Archer is more realistic than Marlowe and I think wiser.
      Paul Newman was miscast in the role in two watchable movies, Harper and The Drowning Pool. If you listen closely to the latter, you can hear Roberta Flack's wistful melody, Killing Me Softly.
      Scott Fitzgerald's 'drinking fiction' (perhaps a genre in its own right) is seen to morally instructive effect in the witty Pat Hobby stories and in Babylon Revisited, set in Paris.
      Tender is the Night was written between long alcoholic spells and a benzedrine habit.
      Fitzgerald said the essence of vitality was the ability to start over.
      Two of his confessional works, The Crack-up and Afternoon of an Author, reveal the despair and the loss of vitality brought on by alcoholism.
      J Haggerty