Date: 23 Jul 2001

On Mon, 23 Jul 2001 11:36:07 EDT you wrote:

> I finally read When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes. Most of you already know
> that Block's novel is many things in addition to a great crime story. It has
> to be one of the all time drinking books. Coincidentally, I also recently
> reread The Thin Man, another novel where drinking has an important role,
> written by a person who apparently knew what he was talking about. I recall
> that a good chunk of Crumley's The Last Good Kiss takes place in bars. Any
> other alcohol-soaked tales you would recommend? I must be interested because
> a bout with a virus has put me on the wagon for a couple of weeks.
> Manuel Ramos

I just read Greshem's Nightmare Alley, which begins and ends with a geek, defined in the book as an alchy so desperate he will become a carny animal (like a
"monkey man") who eats live animals, etc., for his daily dose. It's an excellent study in degeneration, interpreted from a Freudian perspective. (One of the few novels where an Oedipus Complex is thoroughly and convincingly worked through too.)

Other titles to look at:

Charles Jackson's The Lost Weekend is a famous title from the 40s; Billy Wilder made into a good film starring Ray Milland. But both will seem dated in some respects.

The classic alcoholic novel, for my money, is Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, though it's not a crime novel. It's a great Joycean feast, the last day in the life of an English (ex-)consul in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, late 1930s.

Believe there are a few studies of alcoholism in literature too, but no titles come to mind except Linda Leonard's Witness to the Fire, which is about the larger subject of addiction & creativity.

Bill Hagen


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