Okay, So It’s A Lurid Book Cover: Summer Weekend Cocktails, Dylan Thomas on YouTube, Good Writing and Great Music

Our notes for Friday, beginning with cocktails; moving through literature; ending with music.

The young bikini-and-martini set, thankfully.

The young bikini-and-martini set, thankfully.

Brown Whisky Is Not Just For Winter.  From the New York Times, some summer drinks using brown booze.

And Old-Fashioneds Aren’t Always Dark.  From Gastronomista, a tequila old-fashioned that actually sounds good.

Go Scandinavian.  As long as we’re discussing traditional cocktails with non-traditional spirits, I might try an aquavit Manhattan (if I can find some aquavit) (from Saveur.com).

Movie Booze.  For movie buffs, from Liquor.com, a list of The 6 Most Influential Drink Orders of All Time.

There’s Always Time For Good Writing.  Some superior prose passages from “After Deadline.”

Considering the aquavit Manhattan.

Considering the aquavit Manhattan.

Welsh Poetry Is Good For You.  From the poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), When All My Five and Country Senses See.  I couldn’t it on YouTube, so you will have to content yourself with Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  It is sometimes challenging to follow what Thomas means, but there is no doubt as to what he says.

St. Paul and The Broken Bones.  If you haven’t heard this Birmingham-based band’s classic-soul, horn-driven sound, you’ve been missing out.  Try “Call Me.”

St. Paul and The Broken Bones

St. Paul and The Broken Bones


Memorial Day Weekend Cocktails, Plus A Navy Seal’s Commencement Speech

FlagBest wishes for a happy Memorial Day weekend from White Collar Wire.

Mow what grass?

Mow what grass?

From the New York Times, this set of interactive videos about summer cocktails is a great start to the weekend.

The Thin Man movies starring Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) combine two elements of our mission (cocktails and crime fiction).  This montage from several “Thin Man” films has some of their best martini-hits.

A suspect.

A suspect.

 

We support gin here at White Collar Wire.  See this article about the renewal of gin in London.  And, on the subject of gin, from Liquor.com is this video on the Corpse Reviver Number 2.

Tiki drinks are a hot-weather favorite.  From Saveur.com, here’s a story about Dragon 88’s mai tai.

Nothing causes good-natured arguments better than the correct preparation of the Sazerac.  From our friends at Gastronomista.com, an article that reminds you: Trust Me, You’re Drinking Your Sazerac Wrong.

Finally, I am no great fan of commencement addresses, but this one by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, seems especially appropriate on Memorial Day weekend.

A Polynesian extravaganza.

A Polynesian extravaganza.


The Rap Sheet, True Crime and White Collar Wire

The Rap Sheet

The Rap Sheet

We are honored to be added as a “True Crime” blog by The Rap Sheet, one of the world’s leading crime-fiction blogs:

Since it spun off from January Magazine to become a separate blog in May 2006, The Rap Sheet has earned its reputation as an essential resource for readers seeking information about what’s new and interesting in the world of crime fiction. It covers crime, mystery, and thriller fiction both recent and vintage, appearing in all media–print as well as broadcast.

Edited and written mostly by J. Kingston Pierce, the site has been nominated twice for Anthony Awards, and in 2009 it won the Spinetingler Award for Special Services to the Industry. Remarking on the blog’s value, novelist and editor Ed Gorman wrote in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: “Part pure journalism, part critique, and part just plain fun, The Rap Sheet is a tribute to the intelligence and wit of a single person. Pierce gives opinionating a good name.” In a post of her own highlighting blogs that provide “good crime fiction recommendations,” critic Sarah Weinman described The Rap Sheet as “one of the oldest … and still one of the best …”

The Rap Sheet currently receives 1,500 to 2,500 hits each day, ranking it among the most consistently popular blogs of its kind.

Great stuff.

 

 

 


Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction

Forgot how itchy this suit is.

Forgot how itchy this suit is.

Pop culture and theology mix fruitfully in pulp-crime fiction.

Here’s a four-part course from 2012: Red Harvest: Crime Fiction and Gospel Conviction          .

Here’s the blurb that went with the class:

Crime fiction, in its varied forms, both illuminates and counterpoints the Gospel.  Crime fiction correctly presents and analyzes the sinful human condition, even where its conclusions are horribly wrong.  And, in crime fiction as nowhere else, the law is most definitely the Law: God did not get after Cain for shoplifting.

Second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke.

So: four classes’ worth of dark human hearts and blazing Gospel light, interspersed with mayhem, Augustine, detectives, 1930s pulp novels and the overlooked theological punch from the opening line of The Postman Always Rings Twice: “They threw me off the hay truck about noon.”

These are complete classes, so prepare a stiff drink before hitting “Play.”

As an example of what not to drink, consider this assault on civilization from that Pravda of sentimentality, Parade magazine: Girl Scouts Cookie Thin Mints Martini

Ingredients

  • 3 parts chocolate vodka
  • ½ shot creme de menthe
  • 1 shot chocolate milk liquor
  • Chocolate syrup (as needed)
  • 1 Thin Mint, crushed

Directions

  1. In a martini shaker, mix together chocolate vodka, creme de menthe, and chocolate milk liquor. Shake well. If you don’t have a martini shaker, use a glass filled with ice and mix well.
  2. Coat a martini glass with chocolate syrup. Crush the Thin Mint cookie and coat the brim of the martini glass with the cookie. Then, pour your martini drink mixture into the glass.
Thin Mints Martini: ready for Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Red Lobster.

Thin Mints Martini: ready for Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Red Lobster.

 

The mind, as well as the bowel, races.  One might add:

3.  Insert Luger under tongue to minimize the aftertaste

 

 

 

The Seelbach.

The Seelbach.

Here is something more appropriate: Garden & Gun magazine’s Guide to Southern Cocktails.

 

 

 

 

We have, of course, written on crime fiction and how it relates to business crime, cocktails and theology before.

 

 


Criminals In Ties: Contract Law and Reservoir Dogs

Mephibosheth and David.

Mephibosheth and David.

The interplay between law — especially criminal law — and theology is more subterranean and nuanced than many give it credit for.  The same is true of civil law, as here:  Contract Law and Reservoir Dogs

A contract is an exchange of promises: “I promise to do x if you promise to do y.”  Each party must undertake an obligation—called “consideration”—for the contract to be binding.  A simple unilateral promise with no consideration (“I will give you my car on Monday”) is not usually binding.  These law-rules about obligations in our daily lives provide a contrast to the covenant that the Lord makes with David and to the way that David treats Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son.

Off to compliance training.

Off to compliance training.

Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), of course, shaped an entire generation of criminals-in-ties on film.  We have discussed crime and theology before, at Spare the King and Seize the Spareribs, in what may be the only paragraph in English to discuss both King Saul and John D. MacDonald’s fictional private eye, Travis McGee.


John D. MacDonald and King Saul

The Quick Red Fox (1964).

The Quick Red Fox (1964).

We worked John D. MacDonald’s private eye, Travis McGee, into this discussion of King Saul and the young David:  Spare the King and Seize the Spareribs.  I most recently read The Quick Red Fox, which I was thinking about for the Saul and David post.

MacDonald had fine PI prose:

Darker Than Amber (1966).

Darker Than Amber (1966).

“We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody threw the girl off the bridge” (Darker Than Amber (1966)).

 


George V. Higgins and the Archeology of White-Collar Crime

George V. Higgins

George V. Higgins

In popular culture, business-crime is presented cartoon-fashion. In movies, on television or in novels, businesspeople who are corporate targets of government investigations come across as Snidely Whiplashes with French cuffs.  This practice is predictable, its results boring.  Not so with the work of the late Boston-based novelist and one-time Assistant United States Attorney George V. Higgins (1939 – 1999).   From the George V. Higgins Collection at the University of South Carolina:

George V. Higgins (1939-1999) succeeded in nine distinct careers, all of which are documented in his archive.  Armed with two English degrees and a law degree, Higgins became a journalist for the Associated Press, The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal, as well as a federal prosecutor, district attorney and defense attorney, novelist, critic, historian and a creative writing professor at Boston University (1988-1999).  He was also a fierce Red Sox loyalist, so much so that he wrote a book on Boston baseball in 1989 titled The Progress of the Seasons: Forty Years of Baseball in Our Town.

 

Here’s a collection of articles about Higgins: the NYT on George v. Higgins

Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years (1988)

Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years (1988)

What distinguishes Higgins, above all else, is voice.  The term is “voice” is both over-used and under-used: over-used, when the critic means something like “tone.”  Under-used, when the meaning conveyed is “narrator.”  With the lawyers, crooks, businessmen and prosecutors of a Higgins novel, “voices” means actual “voices” — the sounds that one immediately recognizes as true, as here from Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years (1988), where a lawyer advises his client:

“‘You take your victim as you find him,'” Morse said.

“What?” Farley said.

“It’s a law thing,” Morse said.  “You run over an eighty-year-old derelict with your car, no living relatives, and kill him.  It’s not gonna cost you anywhere near as much, you hit a thirty-year-old brain surgeon with four kids and a wife and the only injury he suffers is the loss of his right hand.  You didn’t pick your victim right, and so it’s gonna cost you.  Sounds kind of mean, but that is the law.  And the law’s fuckin’ life — so they say.”

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970)

Doubtless, Higgins can be difficult to read: a torrent of dialogue, and common, barely-linked events.  Higgins’s novels are not thrillers, nor mysteries.  Not only do they lack suspense, some barely have a plot.  The best two in my experience are The Friends of Eddie Coyle (his first one) and Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years.

Higgins was also adept at describing the dynamic of business-crime prosecution, politics and disloyalty.  Here, again from Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years, is a portion of a conversation between Saxon, a criminal-defense lawyer, and Farley, the owner of a Boston paving company and the target of a federal investigation.  (For our younger readers, “Bobby” is Robert F. Kennedy):

“Now,” he said, “you’re telling me, these federal guys might do that?  I must be getting old.  This used to be America.  What a rotten bunch of pricks.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” Saxon said.  “They are a bunch of pricks.  But they’re no worse’n the rotten bunch of pricks that Bobby’s men, and Ike’s appointments, FDR’s and Truman’s, all of those guys were.  They all did the same damned thing.  Suited them to crucify someone because the public’d like it, well, the next sound you hear’ll be the carpenters at work.  War is the extension of diplomacy by other means?  Justice is quite often the extension of politics by prosecution.”

“Well,” Farley said, “guess all I can do now’s hope she [his wife] keeps a good grip on her marbles, this whole shitty thing blows over.”

“That,” Saxon said, “and that nobody else in your little entourage gets cold feet and lets you down.”

“Never happen,” Farley said.  “My people are loyal.”

“Right,” Saxon said.  “That’s what Jesus thought.  ‘Have a piece of bread, Judas.  ‘Nother cup of wine?  Nothing like a little supper with your friends all by your side.'”

The lawyer has his theology wrong — Jesus knew exactly what Judas was about — but that conversation likely happens in law offices somewhere each and every day.


Why’d He Do It?

monopoly-banker

Here’s a note from Professor Ellen Podgor about an article on Sentencing the Why of White Collar Crime by Todd Haugh (Illinois Institute of Technology – Chicago-Kent College of Law)  in the Fordham Law Review.  From the abstract:

“So why did Mr. Gupta do it?” That question was at the heart of Judge Jed Rakoff’s recent sentencing of Rajat Gupta, a former Wall Street titan and the most high-profile insider trading defendant of the past 30 years. The answer, which the court actively sought by inquiring into Gupta’s psychological motivations, resulted in a two-year sentence, eight years less than the government requested. What was it that Judge Rakoff found in Gupta that warranted such a modest sentence? While it was ultimately unclear to the court exactly what motivated Gupta to commit such a “terrible breach of trust,” it is exceedingly clear that Judge Rakoff’s search for those motivations impacted the sentence imposed.

This search by judges sentencing white collar defendants — the search to understand the “why” motivating defendants’ actions — is what this article explores.

Suchet_Poirot

“Motive,” of course, is much more popular in detective fiction than in sentencing law, but motive in business-crime cases is more nuanced than in street-crime cases.  A better understanding of “why” not only yields better sentencing but would also yield greater public understanding of white-collar sentencing.

 


Browning: “the poet, not the automatic”

anton chekhov

Does reading literary fiction really increase your social intelligence?  Here: I Know How You’re Feeling, I Read Chekhov

Maybe.  But what about crime fiction?

 

 

 

 

A little Raymond Chandler increases the social intelligence you really need.  The best crime fiction illumines sin, salvation and manners as well as Chekhov.

See this 1977 essay on Chandler by Clive James:  The Country Behind The Hill

‘In the long run’, Raymond Chandler writes in Raymond Chandler Speaking, ‘however little you talk or even think about it, the most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time.’ At a time when literary values inflate and dissipate almost as fast as the currency, it still looks as if Chandler invested wisely. His style has lasted. A case could be made for saying that nothing else about his books has, but even the most irascible critic or disillusioned fan (they are often the same person) would have to admit that Chandler at his most characteristic is just that – characteristic and not just quirky. Auden was right in wanting him to be regarded as an artist. In fact Auden’s tribute might well have been that of one poet to another. If style is the only thing about Chandler’s novels that can’t be forgotten, it could be because his style was poetic, rather than prosaic. Even at its most explicit, what he wrote was full of implication. He used to say that he wanted to give a feeling of the country behind the hill.

. . . .

Marlowe can be hired, but he can’t be bought. As a consequence, he is alone. Hence his lasting appeal. Not that he is without his repellent aspects. His race prejudice would amount to outright fascism if it were not so evident that he would never be able to bring himself to join a movement. His sexual imagination is deeply suspect and he gets hit on the skull far too often for someone who works largely with his head. His taste in socks is oddly vile for one who quotes so easily from Browning (‘the poet, not the automatic’). But finally you recognize his tone of voice.

It is your own, day-dreaming of being tough, of giving the rich bitch the kiss-off, of saying smart things, of defending the innocent, of being the hero. It is a silly day-dream because anyone who could really do such splendid things would probably not share it, but without it the rest of us would be even more lost than we are. Chandler incarnated this necessary fantasy by finding a style for it. His novels are exactly as good as they should be. In worse books, the heroes are too little like us: in better books, too much.

 


Crime and T.S. Eliot

Today (September 26th) is the birthday of American-born (but eventually British-subject) poet T.S. Eliot (1888-1965).  He wrote little about crime except Murder in the Cathedral (1935):

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
-Thomas, Part I

And here’s one about a criminal cat, Macavity:

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw—
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime—Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair—
But it’s useless to investigate—Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
It must have been Macavity!’—but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place—MACAVITY WASN’T THERE !
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

© T S Eliot. All rights reserved, 82 years ago