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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Bitter Drink

F.G. Haghenbeck

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To purchase Bitter Drink

Title: Bitter Drink
Author: F.G. Haghenbeck
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 160 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Bitter Drink - US
Trago amargo - US
Bitter Drink - UK
Bitter Drink - Canada
Bitter Drink - India
Martini shoot - France
Un cocktail amaro per Sunny Pascal - Italia
Trago amargo - España
  • Spanish title: Trago amargo
  • Translated by Tanya Huntington

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Our Assessment:

B : reasonably well-done alcohol-infused Chandler/Taibo II-influenced noir

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express A 20/06/2011 Eric Libiot

  From the Reviews:
  • "La découverte du moment. A lire en urgence. (...) Un régal." - Eric Libiot, L'Express

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Each of the short chapters of Bitter Drink begins with a cocktail recipe, and then a brief mention of the history of that cocktail. Needless to say, the novel itself swims (and occasionally threatens to drown) in drunken excess, much of it indulged in by the narrator, who admits near the beginning of his story:

I didn't know what I was yet. For that, I guess you need an entire lifetime. I'm just a beatnik bloodhound by the name of Sunny Pascal, half-Mexican, half-gringo, half-alcoholic, half-surfer, half-dead, half-alive.
       He's a private investigator in Hollywood, but he presents himself as being in 'personal security' on his business card, and the gig he's hired for is to watch over the filming of The Night of the Iguana south of the border, in Puerto Vallarta. With director John Huston and the all-star cast of Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Sue 'Lolita' Lyon -- as well as Elizabeth Taylor, along for the ride with Burton -- it was a big deal production in a smalltime locale (that, however, had lots of potential ...).
       Sunny is unimpressed by the film -- "Lots of dialogue and no car chases" -- and the work doesn't seem too taxing:
     My work on the set pretty much consisted of doing nothing. The bartender kept the drinks coming, and I obligingly tossed them down.
       Of course, complications come soon enough, and Sunny faces the wrong end of a gun barrel more times than he's comfortable with. A fancy ring is stolen from Elizabeth Taylor, there are some photographs that some folks are very eager to get their hands on, and a few bodies do pile up. It takes a while for Sunny to figure out how exactly he's getting played here, but eventually all the dirty pieces fall more or less into place in this Chandleresque -- in atmosphere and convolutions -- plot.
       As also with Chandler, much of Bitter Drink is mainly about atmosphere. There's lots of repartee, and seductive women and powerful men do all the usual preening; there's the occasional thrown punch and less frequent shoot-out; naturally, too, Sunny is repeatedly KO'd by one thing or another -- fist, drink. Above all else, there's lots of booze. Haghenbeck manages to make the twist of a different cocktail-theme for each of the many short chapters not get too annoying; it does feel a bit forced, but it's an almost amusing enough idea, pulled off well enough.
       Bitter Drink is a pretty smooth cocktail-noir: all the ingredients are here -- topped off with all that real-life star-power (and, so Haghenbeck: "they did and said what's written here") -- and Haghenbeck blends everything reasonably well. All in all it's an enjoyable, fast-paced and twisty little thriller.

- M.A.Orthofer, 29 November 2012

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Bitter Drink: Reviews: F.G.Haghenbeck: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author F.G. Haghenbeck was born in 1965.

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© 2012 the complete review

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