Monday, August 4, 2014

Ian Woollen's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, Ian Woollen outlines the ways in which booze fits snugly into his novel Uncle Anton's Atomic Bomb:


The book cover of UNCLE ANTON’S ATOMIC BOMB features a vintage martini shaker and glass. Booze lurks everywhere in this novel, as it did in American life during the Cold War years. The traditional cocktail hour was a time of marital and parental ceasefire in many American households.

Ward Wangert, a main character, fancies himself a mix master. He personally doesn’t consume overmuch, but he likes being around drinkers. A blueblood professional, he secretly wishes he could have become a bartender, an art he learned as a child, while helping to extend his fractious parents’ ceasefire cocktail hours.

I grew up in Kurt Vonnegut’s house in Indianapolis. Vonnegut came back to visit a couple times when I was a kid. My dad was an architect (like Vonnegut’s dad) and, on one of the visits, my father apologized to Kurt for eliminating the master bedroom upstairs in order to create a two-story living room. Vonnegut said, “Don’t worry. I heard so much fighting between my parents coming from that bedroom that I’m glad it’s gone.”

In the novel, Ward and two buddies create a summer drink called a ‘Panty Ripper’. Hmmm. I didn’t research that one enough. What did Ward put in a Panty Ripper? Vodka, most likely (there’s a Russian backstory). And 7-Up. This being 1960s Indianapolis, site of a popular, large 7-Up bottling plant. Add a maraschino cherry and a jigger of juice. What the hell. Make a pitcher.

Rum lubricates the Maine sections of the book. I could have worked in a scene with ‘Eddy’s Chocolate Milk’. Wild Eddy himself could be an entire novel. “Yah take three fingers o’ dahk rum and stir in three spoonfuls o’ powdah chocklet into a saucepan o’ whole milk. Shake it up frothee like and pour into a beer stein with ice cubes.”

Captain John Bowen, another good friend, was browsing recently in a Used and Rare Books shop in Camden, Maine. He pulled down a cookbook from a dusty shelf and discovered that it had belonged to famous historical novelist – Kenneth Roberts, who wrote ARUNDEL. Inside the front cover, under the former owner’s handwritten name, was a scrawled recipe for a drink that Captain Bowen now serves as a ‘Kenneth Roberts’:

    Rum, good rum
    Pineapple juice
    Dash o’ bitters
    Shake and decant all afternoon


Ian Woollen’s new novel, UNCLE ANTON’S ATOMIC BOMB, is due out Sept. 1st from Coffeetown Press. Recent short fiction has surfaced at Bartleby Snopes, The Smokelong Quarterly, and The Blue Lake Review. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana most of the year, somehow managing to escape to Maine for the month of July.

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