From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 12 Mar 2003

Ah, the wild years. Back in Montreal in the seventies and early eighties, taverns were the exclusive domain of men (except for occasional women on staff), and usually offered only beer and pub food. Brasseries were open to women and men, and usually offer wine as well.

But I doubt there are any "taverns" left at this point. The last one I know of converted in the early-nineties. I remember a tavern I used to frequent right downtown for lunch (two drafts and a decent hot meal served on a real plate with real cutlery, and still cheaper than McDonalds). When they first converted from a tavern to a brasserie, there was no women's room. So the owner would stand outside, looking official, while the women used the facilities. Not that many women would venture into the place -- it was a pretty gloomy dive at the time. When asked where the ashtrays were, the waiters (usually all called "chief" for some reason) would usually offer the typical pub witticism: "You're standing on it."

And now I live in a pre-fab California malltown that's virtually bar
(and smoke) -free. The closest drinking establishment (ie: within wandering distance home) is tucked away in the back of a chain burger joint in the middle of a sprawling mall. It's all offensively clean and brightly lit and plastic and there are nauseatingly cute names for all the food items, but the beer and the people are real. Even though I don't smoke, I sure miss the slightly sinful smell of cigarettes with my pints. And there's something scary about these overly chipper waitresses with big plastic name tags bringing you you drinks... most of them look like they're working their way through cheerleading school.

Worse, there's TV screens all over this tiny alcove, and not one of them's ever tuned to a hockey game.

Anyway, I'm reading C.J. Songer's BAIT right now, and I'm really enjoying the tone of the narrator, an ex-policewoman who's had plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, working for a small security firm in LA. There's a great balance between toughness and sensitivity here, a believably hard-boiled femaleness that is too rarely captured in print, as she tries to figure out what the hell happened to her missing partner (another ex-cop) and who's trying to set her up for a possible murder rap.

Has anyone else read this, or its sequel, HOOK? I'm not even finished the first, and am already looking forward to the second.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com -- # To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to # majordomo@icomm.ca. This will not work for the digest version. # The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

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