Friday, May 8, 2020

The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense and the Violet Hour

The new collection The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense (Crippen & Landru) gathers sixteen stories by Art Taylor—among them stories which have won a dozen of the mystery genre’s leading awards, including the Edgar, the Anthony, and multiple Agatha, Derringer, and Macavity Awards. Recently, another of Art’s stories—“Better Days” from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine—was named a finalist for this year’s Agatha Award for Best Short Story (read all the nominated stories at that link). Last year, Art wrote a Drinks with Reads post for “Better Days”, and today he offers another cocktail to accompany his new collection.  

The sixteen stories in The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense cover more than twenty-five years of my writing career. Needless to say, re-reading those stories myself offered opportunities for reflection about that quarter-century of work—where I started as a writer, where I’ve evolved, and where (hopefully) I’ve improved. Some of the individual stories seemed reflective themselves: characters thinking about their lives, pondering existential issues, debating hard choices. The title story especially is steeped in nostalgia, swirled with a bit of melancholy, and topped with a dollop of regret.

The cocktail I’ve chosen to accompany The Boy Detective is called the Violet Hour. I know of at least two mentions of that phrase in books on my shelf. In The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, Bernard DeVoto writes about the martini being suited to “the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.” And in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, James Bond christens his famous version of the martini as The Vesper: “It sounds perfect and it’s very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world.”

While each of those references refer to gin drinks and speak specifically to early evening—day easing toward night—the Violet Hour recipe below is bourbon-based and a drink I would more strongly recommend as a nightcap alongside some late-night reflections of your own: your senses settling, your mind wandering, memories tiptoeing around the edges of your thoughts. 

My friend Brandon Wicks introduced me to this drink. I’m not certain of its origins, and Googling “Violet Hour cocktail” will turn up several other cocktails with markedly different ingredients. But this specific recipe has become a regular at our house, and I’m glad to share it here. 

The Violet Hour

2 oz. bourbon
.75 oz. sweet vermouth
.25 oz. dry vermouth
.10 oz. blackstrap rum (a little over half a teaspoon)
2 dashes old-fashioned bitters

Build in a single old-fashioned glass with no ice. Stir.
Serve at room temperature. No garnish.


  1. Thanks so much for hosting the collection here!

  2. Love the stories, of course, Art. And the cover, too. And the drink sounds pretty good right about now.