Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: "Bitter Drink" by F.G. Haghenbeck

Bitter Drink review
Author: F.G. Haghenbeck
5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Crime Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free paperback galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Beatnik detective Sunny Pascal is an expert at two things: cocktails and finding trouble. And when the filming of John Huston's The Night of the Iguana hits a few snags with its sexed-up, star-studded cast in a Puerto Vallarta paradise, producer Ray Stark brings Sunny in to chill out the set. But matters get tipsy when someone's found deader than dead, shot down by a gun belonging to one of the cast members.

Now Sunny's got to keep his Hollywood stars out of jail long enough for him to solve the case. But the trouble doesn’t stop with murder. The Mexican mafia and local newspapers wage a tension war against the hedonistic Americans, and if John Huston has anything to say about it, Sunny's got to be the one to keep the show on the road. Only Sunny will be doing it his way: with a martini in one hand and a Colt in the other. 

My Thoughts: This book; what to say about this book. Well, you could definitely make a drinking game out of it! Start each chapter with the described cocktail and song and, as you read along, set specific events to take an extra drink. Every time someone is killed or attacked, take a drink; everytime Sgt. Quintero says mis huevos (literally “my eggs”, but colloquially: “balls”), take a drink, etc. You wouldn’t get much reading done in any given day, but you sure would have fun doing it!

Speaking of Sgt. Quintero, he made me think: “Sadsack Gonzales, the saddest mouse in all of Mexico.” I loved his deadpan nature – “Sergeant Quintero explained everything so halfheartedly a mannequin could have done better” – and all his interactions with Sunny Pascal were just priceless. The author said that much of this book is based upon real events and actual conversations, but leaves it up to the reader to find out which actually happened and which came from his own imagination. I thought that was fascinating.

He has a real gift for description, as this description of John Huston proves: “He wasn’t as tall as he looked in photographs, just slightly shorter than a palm tree. His voice wasn’t that deep either, only a notch lower than a lawn mower. He puffed on a cigar the size of a rolling pin, perfuming the entire set. His face, underneath the Panama hat jammed down over his ears, radiated power – a god looking down upon mere mortals. He embodied the kind of power possessed by those who run the movie business. And that’s the only power that counts here.

This book is a love-letter to Raymond Chandler and Paco Ignacio Taibo II; a feast of noir. It’s also a love-letter to Puerto Vallarta, a place I would have loved to have seen during the time of The Night of the Iguana, before it was taken over by tourists. If this sounds like your sort of book, you really won’t want to miss this – a fun, fast, and furious read. Recommended.


  1. Oh wow. Neat! And love that you thought you could make a drinking game out of it. *giggle* That is to neat, and caught my attention. :D Thank you.

    1. Yeah, that was one of my very first thoughts - each chapter begins with a recipe for a cocktail and a short history of said cocktail, so I immediately thought, "hey, this would make a great drinking game!" Heh. It was a fun book - short, sweet and fun.

  2. Ӏ became intereѕting іn reading thiѕ when I
    reaԁ the summarу, but Ι hadn't heard much about it, so I didn't add it too
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    list. Anyway, after your геview, I will bе suгe to do sο!

    1. I hope you do, it's a very good book.


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