Saturday, February 13, 2010

Whiskey and . . . Water

By Michael Wiley

In The Bad Kitty Lounge – which St. Martin’s Minotaur will release in seventeen days – not that I’m saying you should pick up a copy; I’m just saying is all --And if you do pick up a copy it’s not that I’ll necessarily be forever grateful to you, though of course I will, and if you send me your name I’ll name my next child (either son or daughter) after you -- Or I would if I hadn’t had that vasectomy after the birth of the twins a few years back. But you get the point. Now, where was I?

In The Bad Kitty Lounge, when a client asks PI Joe Kozmarski what he would like to drink, he thinks, “A glass of bourbon with or without ice sounds right.” But he answers, “‘Water.’” A hundred pages later, after getting beaten and bruised by some bad guys, he thinks, “a tumbler of bourbon, filled to the brim, no ice, would send me to heaven.” But he pours himself another glass of water.

Like more than a few other fictional PIs, Joe has a drinking problem. Before he was a private detective, he was a cop, but he was fired after he got drunk and plowed his cruiser into a newsstand. Magazines and newspapers filled the air like a blizzard. Now, with a little help from the AA and an occasional slip from the wagon, he drinks water.

Story of my life too. Not the newsstand. Not even the drinking problem. The water habit. I drink it when writing, even though I know that some of the PI writers I respect the most (Raymond Chandler at the center of the crowd) clutched a highball in one hand while tapping the typewriter keys with the fingers of the other. My problem is that, while I can handle my liquor as well as the guy on the stool next to me, the guy on the stool next to me talks gibberish when he gets drunk. My other problem is that I’m a morning writer, and, for me, whiskey at 8:00 a.m. means a very sound and comfortable sleep sometime around noon. And a hangover at 3:00 p.m., when the twins come home from school.

So, I’m a water-drinking man. But without romanticizing hard drinking, I do respect the power of a couple of stiff drinks – or a couple not-so-stiff, heart-healthy glasses of wine – to take the edge off a jagged day. I let Joe Kozmarski wish for a drink with the same intensity that he wishes for love and justice – because love and justice generally are elusive in his world. After facing too much of that world, he thinks, “I need a drink. I need to rest on a stool in a bar that smells of old whiskey and wood. I need to go away. The destination doesn’t matter. It’s the trip itself, the leaving behind.”

Those are some of the same impulses, by the way, that lead me to read and write mysteries.

The latest mystery that I've been reading? City of Dragons! My copy arrived on February 2, and my wife grabbed it from the mail and disappeared with it. I saw little of her or it until she finished the last, satisfying page. Am I jealous? Me? Never. But I did need a few extra stiff drinks while waiting for my turn.


Meredith Cole said...

I'm with you on the water. Although I have to admit that I've been drinking quite a lot of tea lately... I think it's because it's been so darn cold! As soon as spring hits, though, it's water all the way.

I look forward to reading your book!

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Meredith. I've been drinking tea and coffee too -- anything to keep the blood warm and the head clear.

Shane Gericke said...

Hey, nice cover design on that book! I like the neon. Looking forward to reading it. And is that water decaf or leaded? :-)

Shane Gericke said...

I wish I could be a tea drinker, but never did learn the habit. Dad was a cop and drank coffee instead of tea, and of course idolizing boy imitates his hero and ...

Terry said...

Fun post. I was rifling through my bookshelves yesterday when I noticed a name that looked familiar. It was yours. It was The Last Striptease. I remembered I really liked it.

Anyway, I'm rereading it. Love your style. Now I'm going to have to buy more. And you don't even have to name any kids after me. This site is too enticing.

I do water and tea by day, by night, a little wine with my husband. With friends, anything they put in front of me. I've got to try those Chandler gimlets though.