Thursday, January 18, 2018

We Met at Nine. We Met at Eight.

You are having a dinner party for eight, including yourself, in a memorable setting. Where is this setting and which seven characters in crime fiction would you invite and why?

We Met at Nine. We Met at Eight.

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As one of my guests refuses to budge from his home (and no one else is able to move him either), we meet in an elegant West 35th Street brownstone in midtown Manhattan. And if we’re dining chez Nero Wolfe, we have to invite Archie Goodwin, too, even if he’ll probably ask for a corned-beef sandwich and have to eat it outside. And, of course, Fritz Brenner will prepare the meal. But he won’t be at the table, which means that, counting me, we’re three.

Since we’ve already decided who’ll be cooking the meal, let’s settle on the rest of the help as well. I asked Bertie Wooster to lend us his man, Jeeves, for the evening, but he had a previous commitment at the Junior Ganymede Club and couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, Bertie took my inquiry into Jeeves’s availability as an invitation and more or less invited himself. So that bounder Bertie Wooster is in. Four.

Instead of Jeeves, I thought Mr. Rogers from Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None might just do in a pinch. After all, Rogers was a manservant who carried on in his duties without missing a beat after his wife was knocked off with poisoned brandy. Who said good help was hard to find?

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To select the wine, I’m going with Katie Stillwell from Nadine Nettmann’s delightful sommelier mysteries. She’s smart, knows her wine, and can always defuse a crisis if someone bites a cork instead of sniffs it.

To clean up after dinner, I’ve engaged Juliet Townsend from Lori Rader-Day’s Little Pretty Things to do the needful. Of course the guests are advised to keep a close eye on their belongings.

It would have been fun to include some gourmands on the guest list, but perhaps the two most famous in all of literature, Gargantua and Pantagruel, never appeared in any crime fiction that I’m aware of. And how would they have arrived? I doubt they’d have fit into the New York City Subway or a taxi, let alone squeezed through Nero’s front door. And their vulgarity and scatological humor might well have put the other guests off their feed. Still, imagine Gargantua smacking his enormous lips as he enjoyed an amuse-gueule of crispy-fried pilgrims, lovingly prepared by Fritz…

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That reminds me. The menu. After the aforementioned fried pilgrims, Fritz will follow with shad roe, braised duck, then salad. We’ll finish off with Fritz’s homemade apple pie, coffee, and brandy in Nero’s office.

Okay, back to the guests. The giants are out, and I still need four more diners. Since one can be blackballed in society for throwing a dull dinner party, we’ll need wit and sophistication in surfeit. And, since I’m known to enjoy my drink, I’m killing two birds with one stone and inviting Nick and Nora Charles. Their banter is second to none, and Nick can do double duty at the bar.

Nora: “Why don't you stay sober today?”
Nick: “We didn't come to New York to stay sober.”

And then there were two. We have five men and only one woman. Let’s correct that immediately. Anna Blanc, the adorable disinherited socialite in Jennifer Kincheloe’s brilliant and madcap series set in 1907 Los Angeles, may not know how to boil water, but we’re not asking her to cook. She’s been trained in the best finishing schools and, if she can manage to keep her clothes on through dessert, she’ll be the life of the party.

Finally, rounding out the guest list, my eighth diner is my favorite gal in all of crime fiction. She’s witty, can hold her drink, and won’t eat too much. (If anything at all.) Ellie Stone will sit next to me, as we have her future to discuss.

After overindulging on food and drink, we’ll stumble down the stairs to the street and hail cabs to take us to a speakeasy, where the cops surely will barge in to break things up. Everyone will scramble through a back exit. Everyone except for Bertie Wooster, who’ll get pinched. Don’t worry, though. He’ll give a fake name, pay the fine, and limp home, where Jeeves will have his famous hangover remedy ready for the master.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Overindulging on food and drink, then running from the cops. Sounds like a good evening, James.

Paul D. Marks said...

Congratulations on your Lefty nom, Jim! Good luck to you and Terry.

RJ Harlick said...

Love it. Wouldn't miss this for the world. The madcap dinner party continues.

Unknown said...

More pandemonium - I think I'm getting an idea of what crime writing is really all about!

Kathy Reel said...

Jim, you are one witty writer. This piece was so entertaining. What a dinner it would be!

catriona said...

I'm in a massive huff about missing this party! Oh and hey - congratulations on your Lefty nomination, Jim!

Leslie Karst said...

Can I come if I help wait tables? That way I can at least eavesdrop on the witty repartee and finish what people leave on their plates. And so happy for your Lefty nom, my dear!

Susan C Shea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan C Shea said...

Me and my typing...What I meant to say:

Fun! I'd go to any dinner party Wolff goes to, or rather, allows us to stage on West 35th Street. The entire thing sounds like a lark. May I sit near Nick and Nora? I'd like some of their ability to banter to rub off on me.

Jennifer Kincheloe said...

Thanks for including Anna. She never gets invited anywhere anymore. :) And congrats, again Jim.

James W. Ziskin said...

Thanks, all! I’m opening up the dinner to all of you.


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James W. Ziskin said...

Good one, Ann. :-D