If it’s a dark and stormy night, Justin Razza is usually behind the bar at Charleston Grill. But the onetime English major has long nursed the idea of writing a book. Last month he self-published Last Call with Jon Hobbes, a noir mystery about a wayward cop who starts mixing drinks during Prohibition.
“With the resurgence of classic cocktails, I wanted to put them in a literary context, so I came up with this caper,” Razza says.
Nominally, the book follows Jon Hobbes as he tries to figure out who stole a case of rare French wine, but the narrative incorporates extensive cocktail descriptions. When Hobbes steps into the Velvet Lounge, the site of an encounter with Nice Guy Eddie, he asks for a martini with a twist:
“The gentleman behind the bar did not fill the crystalline mixer with vermouth and gin to stir them, but rather poured the ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shaking the tin vigorously, the liquid inside slamming around the rocks of ice, he bruised the gin so that when it was poured into the coupe before me there would be cool and clean ice chips forming on the top layer of liquid.”
At the end of the book, Razza includes a glossary of cocktail terms and recipes for the drinks mentioned in the story. Still, he says he treated the tale surrounding them with more care than his fictional Velvet Lounge barman applied to the gin in his shaker.
“I did want it to be absolutely real,” Razza says, noting that he looked up when traffic lights were invented before installing one in the made-up town where Hobbes lives.
In addition to accuracy, Razza aimed for a breezy tone.
“I want you to pick it up for the beach or the plane,” Razza says. “If you fall asleep midway through, you’re not going to have to reread.”
According to Razza, the book is “doing pretty well” since he posted it on his social media accounts. But he allows that his expectations weren’t high. “If I sold two copies, I thought that would be fantastic,” he says.
Last Call is available on Amazon for $9.99.