What would you do if you knew you only had one day to live? It’s one of those questions we as a species dubiously blessed with the knowledge of our own mortality can’t help posing from time to time.It’s also the starting point for David Benioff’s fine 2002 novel The 25th Hour.Monty Brogan had it all, a pretty face, a hot Puerto Rican girlfriend and a nice career as a low-level drug dealer – until he was sentenced to seven years in a state penitentiary.Now he’s got one final day in New York City before the start of his sentence, and as I suspect would be the same for most of us, his plans include meeting up with friends for drinks.Benioff is too shrewd a storyteller to restrict his focus to Brogan.The 25th Hour hops between Brogan’s friends’ perspectives as though they were subway lines, ringing the changes on the basic theme of dread versus bravado.One of those friends is 30-something schoolteacher Jakob Elinsky who gets a head-start on Brogan’s last big night out.It’s one of the last of the vintage saloons on Amsterdam Avenue, complete with a stamped-tin ceiling, wood panelling sooted from decades of cigarette smoke, and frosted windows. Women rarely make an appearance here. Jakob supposes that the old men lounging about the room are gay, but this place is far from a pickup joint. More like a waiting room except Jakob’s not sure what they are waiting for.The 25th Hour was turned into a film by Spike Lee – the author and the director share an obvious love for the Big Apple.Frank Slattery, a high-school wrestling star turned junkbond trader, is in charge of organising Brogan’s final bash. It begins in a slightly more up-scale establishment.By the time Slattery has shaken the snow from his long cashmere coat and hung it from a hook, a glass of whiskey sits waiting for him at the bar…He feels this is an important moment in his life; for the first time a bartender has recognized him coming in the door and poured his drink without waiting for an order. If she got the drink right, he thinks, I’ll remember her in my will. God bless her soul, it’s Jamesons.Earlier that day, Slattery has spent time staring out the window of his skyscraper office wondering whether to throw himself into the Hudson River or beat his boss into a pulp.The party gets going, and for a time everyone is able to forget that Brogan is headed to a place where very bad things happen to good looking young men.Then the bartender pipes up.Jody lines up three glasses of whiskey. ‘You guys ought to come on Sunday for the Super Bowl.We’re setting up a big screen TV. Linda’s got a cousin who plays for the Packers. He looks just like her, except he’s six hundred pounds.” Slattery rubs the calluses on his palm and Jakob stares silently at the floor.Talk about conversation stoppers.But Brogan’s got a plan for how to escape what seems to be his certain fate of becoming Most Abused Prisoner on Cell Block D. And unbeknownst to his two best friends, it involves both of them.The 25th Hour is an elegantly crafted novel about a timeless theme so of course it was roundly rejected by publishers at first, only seeing the light of day after it had been sold as a movie script.Reading Benioff is like revisiting a bar in pre-Guilani-era New York. The air is thick with smoke, there’s lot of cursing and few punches get pulled, verbally or otherwise.But few places were ever better suited to contemplating – or ignoring – one’s own mortality.
Subscribe to Our Magazine
Published in print 8 times each year, Whisky Magazine is the perfect drinking companion for all who enjoy the water of life.
Subscribe to Whisky Magazine