Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Whiskey and Wine

I've been reading Raymond Chandler recently and noting how much whiskey is consumed in the pages of his novels. It made me realize that there is almost no hard liquor in any of my own novels; the only instance I can bring to mind is the sharing of a flask of 'corn liquor' in one of the Donzalo's Destiny books. It was a bit of a curiosity in the the time and place the incident was set.

That undoubtedly is part of the reason I don't have much liquor in the tales. Distilling is either unknown or still 'new.' There is, however, a great deal of beer and wine disappearing down my characters' throats in pretty much all my books. The Mora are forever serving millet beer at their meals (which tend to be feasts) and a certain amount of palm wine makes an appearance. Beer, ale, wine — these are all common in the fantasies. People drink them with their meals. And at other times, too.

Indeed, one of the major Donzalo characters comes from a family of wine merchants. So that clan not only drinks it but speaks of the wine business, of vineyards, of transporting it. It makes a useful device for exploring a larger pattern of trade in that world.

But what of the other novels, the more or less mainstream ones set in Florida? Yes, wine is consumed. Even a little in the Young Adult 'The Middle of Nowhere.' But not by the kids, of course! 'Shaper' Ted Carrol always has beer and wine in the fridge, as do his neighbors (they are likely to smoke a little pot too, but that is another matter). He does have to be careful of keeping it on hand once his girlfriend's alcoholic daughter moves in. Out into the workshop it goes, into a padlocked fridge (not because of the girl so much as the fact that lots of kids hang around the place).

I might mention that Ted is a very temperate sort who only allows himself one small glass of wine a day. Yes, I pretty much copied that from my own life. I'm not a drinker. I don't think I have touched hard liquor in a decade. That is as much about being cheap as anything else.

What of the latest novel, the contemporary 'Asanas'? Much the same pattern, to be honest. Wine is served, wine is drank. I'm not sure I even mentioned beer anywhere; just not a part of my main characters' drinking habits. I do suspect that when young Race Hadley gets drunk and makes a scene, beer was involved. Incidentally, there is a secret about Race that I have told no one. And may never; I'll just say he is not quite the person most readers might imagine him to be.

That's getting off the track, and that track was alcohol. Now I have noticed this, well, sameness to the drinking in my stories, I should remember to mix it up a little (ha, that could have a double meaning) at times. Maybe someone will have a bottle in their office desk, a la Philip Marlowe. Or at the campground in that mystery-set-at-a-folk-festival I'm developing. But only if it serves the plot; that always come first.

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