by Anneli Rufus
What better way to launch a new publishing imprint that's all about hardboiled crime fiction than with a brand-new cocktail that cozies up to you all sweet and suave and friendly-like before making you stagger, wondering: How the heck did I get here?
Both the imprint and the cocktail are called Switchblade. And both debuted at a launch party last week in Berkeley, where local author Summer Brenner and Los Angeles author Gary Phillips celebrated their new novels I-5 and The Jook, which are brand-new from Oakland-based PM Press, a two-year-old, anarchistically inclined outfit whose co-founder Ramsey Kanaan founded the world-renowned AK Press as a teenager thirty years ago.
Both authors read from their books. Phillips' The Jook is the funny-sad story of a one-time football great facing what might be his final chance to play pro again after running afoul of the law. Brenners' I-5, tellingly subtitled A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex, is the harrowing highway saga of a Russian woman who has been tricked into sexual slavery, watching the American dream fly past from under lock and key.
Served to all willing party guests by its inventor, Jackie Patterson -- a mixologist at Heaven's Dog restaurant-bar in San Francisco -- the cocktail included gin, Grenadine, and absinthe. That last ingredient, the long-embattled wormwood spirit, was banned in the United States from 1915 until just two years ago. Cheers, and let's all raise a glass or two to East Bay authors and publishers.