All posts by Genevieve Wynand

Frankie Ray Rolls into Tinseltown by Mel Anastasiou

Fresh from the pages of our Winter 2020 issue, this week’s feature author is the multi-talented Mel Anastasiou. As a writer, editor, and mentor, Mel is dedicated to the written word and the writer’s craft. Her stories captivate and entertain readers, and her writing guides encourage new and seasoned authors alike.

Today, we offer you an excerpt from Pulp Literature Issue 25, Winter 2020: Part 3 of the Monument Studios Mystery The Extra, starring Frankie Ray and Connie Mooney. The intrepid duo reaches Hollywood in their stolen rattletrap, with unexpected extra cargo — a mendacious movie mogul and his gun-shot son. A power struggle at the highest levels and a gun under the seat propel the can-do heroines to a rocky start in Tinseltown, 1934. 

The Extra: Frankie Ray Rolls into Tinseltown

by Mel Anastasiou

Chapter One

This was not how Frankie had planned to arrive in Los Angeles. 

Not with King Samson, head of Monument Studios, hunched over the wheel of the Model A. Not with Frankie in the rumble seat, hanging on with both hands and jouncing madly with every turn as midday wore on to afternoon. 

Frankie said, “I wish we didn’t have to drive so fast.”

“You go ahead and wish,” King Samson said. “I’m in a hurry. I’ve got to put myself between Marietta and my director before she drives him crazy with her woman-director opinions. Or he up and quits.” 

“I’m cold and windblown,” Connie said, “and bounced halfway to old age.”

“Tin-can it,” Samson said. “The two of you have groused and fidgeted ever since we pulled over for coffee and doughnuts three hours ago. Cold coffee.”

“Tasty doughnuts,” Frankie murmured. “And my cocoa was plenty hot.”

The head of Monument Studios changed gears with a roar. [Illo 2 Frankie Issue 25]

With Samson doing the lion’s share of the driving, they stopped only when the tanks showed empty. Once the tanks were filled, they’d torn past Burma-Shave ads so quickly that they missed half the punch lines. Now it was Thursday afternoon, and as California deepened around them, Samson refused to give up the wheel, ripping through grim forests of oil wells and storming seas of pastel bungalows edged with white picket fences.

Frankie wiggled her knees around on the rumble seat and thought about things. She thought, for example, that even though he’d paid for their food and fuel all the way south, King Samson’s shoe was too heavy on the gas. Connie never learned to speed up when she was taking a corner, like Frankie did. And Leo, with his wounded shoulder, never took the wheel at all. But they’d made it almost all the way to Hollywood, and that fact alone made her smile until the wind slapped a small bit of something into her eye. 

She squeezed her eyes half-shut and blinked until they were clear. Palm trees along the side of the road cast shadows that flicked over her like scenes from a stuttering movie projector. Every so often an oil derrick, smack in the middle of the road, lowed and creaked as they passed, and for a moment or two the whole world smelled like petroleum. Frankie almost lost her hat to the wind, staring goggle-eyed at ticky-tack businesses like the Coffeepot Diner — shaped, by heaven, like a coffeepot. On the left side of the road stood midnight auto supply garages. shiny with stacked hubcaps. On the right lay junkyards, prickly with scrap iron. Where, Frankie asked herself, was the grandeur? Where was the glamour?

Where was Hollywood?

She pictured her father, glowering over the rim of his sherry glass. “Fool of a girl, look to the hills, whence cometh my help.”

Even from his bed a thousand miles to the north, her father was right. Frankie looked to the hills, and there it was. She nudged Connie. Heads swivelling, they gaped at the huge crooked letters standing chalk-white against the green and brown hills above the city. 

The huge sign read Hollywoodland. Frankie was so overcome by the sight that she had to remind herself to breathe. 

Samson leaned forward and jutted out his chin, both hands on the wheel of the Model A. They sped like an arrow straight down the street to the end of the road. Ahead, the road widened into a palm-lined avenue, busy with traffic. 

A smaller sign on the roadside read Sunset Boulevard. 

The end of the road. Frankie could hardly believe they’d arrived. She could more easily believe that the four of them would sit in this car, in a tangle of mutual help and enmity, to the end of time. But they’d made it, and straight ahead of them stood a pair of gates as tall and golden as the gates of song and story. Shining letters across a great wall read Monument Studios, and beside the gates there loomed a pair of radiant statues.


To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 25, Winter 2020 here!

In addition to the Monument Studio Mysteries, Mel  writes the Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, featuring Spencer Stevens, and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, starring Stella Ryman, which won a Literary Titan Gold Book Award and was longlisted for the Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. As well, she is the author of two illustrated writing guides for Pulp Literature Press. Follow her at MelAnastasiou.wordpress.com and on twitter @melanastasiou

 

Throwback Thursday: The Mystery of the Forgotten Soldier

Each week we are taking a look back at the authors, stories, and poems that captivated us in 2019, and offering the issue to you for the author price of 25% off. Today we offer you an excerpt from The Seven Swans: The Mystery of the Forgotten Soldier by Mel Anastasiou, from Pulp Literature Issue 21, Winter 2019

At sixty-two, Spencer Stevens longs for lost chances and long-ago true love. He’s the proprietor of the Seven Swans, a derelict Hertfordshire canal pub rich with past mysteries. In this installment,  Spencer’s survival depends upon a war horse’s great heart, and his lasting happiness upon his investigative talents.

The Seven Swans: The Mystery of the Forgotten Soldier

by Mel Anastasiou

Chapter One

When a fellow my age makes up his mind to pursue youthful dreams, he had better be one of two things. Either he must be wealthy, in top physical form, and retain a full head of hair, or he must be gifted with a supremely optimistic view of the world. I had the head of hair of the former and nothing of the latter. Nonetheless, I was on that June morning in Hertfordshire, the Garden County, creating a daring plan for my own future. I was a fairly old fellow, setting out to do the impossible, viz. to get back the love of my far-off youth, who was living in America, and married to somebody else. The plan I was concocting involved several other people, who might not be quite so ready to risk their own endeavours in the pursuit of my own. It was up to me to see my plotting safely through. 

All for love, I told myself. I placed a cooler, vital to my scheme, beside the picnic table between the canal and the Seven Swans pub. The cooler stood open and ready for action along with several rolls of kitchen towel. I fiddled with a bag of plastic cutlery. This might sound dramatic, but so be it: I awaited my luncheon guests with mixed feelings of daring and trepidation. 

I had gone to great lengths to please with my selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I was of course a dry alcoholic, equipped with all the regrets, past and present, of that particular condition. Still, the bottles of shandy were safe from me. The cans of Guinness were more of a temptation. Those cans were earmarked for my elderly builders and mentors, Stan and Eustace. Sunshine glinted off bottles of lemon and orange squash, danced along the folded wrappings of cellophane sandwiches—egg and cress, cheddar and pickle, always safe choices—and a more adventurous selection of bags of crisps, including lamb and mint, and Coronation Chicken flavours. In all my years here in the UK, as an expat Canadian, I had never grown accustomed to the adventuresome national taste in crisps. I had a private theory that this sort of bold individuality had, in macrocosm, gone a good way towards winning two world wars. 

I unscrewed the top a bottle of lemon squash, twisted myself around on the picnic bench seat, and stuck my feet out in their battered old trainers so that they caught the full June sun. I examined the Seven Swans pub with a critical eye. It was a long way from being ready to open and resume business. The window on the canal side was as yet unglazed, and I smelled beers from centuries past, as if the Seven Swans were breathing out like an old fellow across his pint glass. Still, we had made some progress here, Stan and Eustace and I, and I raised my lemon squash bottle in salute.

To my left along the canal, a narrow boat chugged round the bend towards me, its green and red painted sides striped with shadows from the willows and rowans overhead. Branches waved in the late morning breeze as if to hurry the boat along. But narrow boats cannot be hastened. Like history, friendships, French cooking, and true love, narrow boats move in their courses and at their own speed, and there is nothing anybody or anything can do to quicken their pace. 

Contrariwise, for me, the time for slow progress had passed. In my plans to retrieve Holly from the past into our future together, I had reached a point where action was recommended and even required. However, romantic action on an intercontinental scale requires money, and I had less than none. I grimaced and tipped lemon squash down my throat.

The narrow boat reached the Seven Swans. I read the name painted on the prow: The Narrow Escape. Sweat gleamed on its captain’s brow, and the hot noise of his diesel engine made speech impossible. On impulse I tossed him a bottle of cold shandy and an egg and cress sandwich. He let go the wheel, caught one in each hand, and touched his brow with the bottle. I saw him untwist the cap and swig at the shandy as the willow boughs closed round the back of the narrow boat and he moved out of sight.

I was not alone for long under the willows, for here at a swift hobble came the spry, expert renovating duo, Stan and Eustace. Both carried pint glasses half filled with servings of well-poured Guinness. The pint glasses were what Stan and Eustace termed loans, from the well-established Bearded Lamb public house. It was these two old fellows’ practice to walk off with glasses from the Bearded Lamb, and over the last month or so I might have completely equipped the Seven Swans with pint glasses they’d brought with them. However, it seemed wise to wash and return the glasses to the Bearded Lamb’s proprietor at least once a week. Not out of friendship, for I had long since stopped hoping that relations between that publican and myself would thaw. No, I returned the glasses for my own private satisfaction, the way office workers who dislike their jobs bend to collect and toss crumpled, discarded papers into distant waste paper baskets. The world did not watch, nor did it applaud these small moral efforts, but they felt good and were the right thing to do. Philosophical treatises have been developed out of less.

We three gazed at the Seven Swans pub, now somewhat revived under our handiwork.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. I easily recognized that the hand was attached to Angelica, as I’d felt that same hand on bits of me quite often over forty years, when we were married.  Angelica spoke in my ear. “I certainly hope that you’re improving, as well.”


To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 21, Winter  2019 here!

Along with the Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, Mel Anastasiou writes the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, starring Stella Ryman, and the Monument Studios Mysteries, starring Frankie Ray and Connie Mooney. As well, she is the author of two illustrated writing guides for Pulp Literature Press. Follow her at MelAnastasiou.wordpress.com and on twitter @melanastasiou

 

Save even more!  Get Mel Anastasiou’s Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, The Labours of Mrs Stella Ryman, and The Writer’s Boon Companion, a $53 value, for the special price of $40!

 

Issue 25 Cover Artist: Ann-Marie Brown

Ann Marie BrownAnn-Marie Brown is a Canadian painter working in encaustic and oil. Right now she’s painting out of a studio on the west coast, in the company of bears and rain.

The cover piece — On Thin Ice — for Issue 25 is part of a body of work completed during a six-month residency at the Artsu studios in Helsinki. The early years of Finnish independence were defined by a flight to the edges of ideology, a pattern the artist sees repeating itself in North America. In researching the conflict that ensued, she was interested in what was built from the ashes and curious about what can be learned from the hard-won lessons of that place.

The beautiful red pointe shoe of On Thin Ice offers the issue’s poignant opening act. The dancer en pointe appears weightless, suspended in a moment of grace, inviting us into the stories, themselves balancing the weight of beauty and sorrow. 

Order your copy of Issue 25, Winter 2020 here.

And to discover more of Ann-Marie Brown’s work, be sure to visit her website.

 

The Pulp Literature Advent Calendar

Every December growing up, my brother and I received traditional European Advent calendars which offered a lovely and festive countdown to the big event, an agonizing twenty-four days later. Lightly dusted with silver sparkles, they displayed Christmas trees or Santa’s workshop, angels or snow-draped fields . No chocolate treats here, the delight was in the suspense of carefully peeling open each day’s window, wondering what magical scene was playing out beneath.

Our very own 24-day Advent Calendar

With twenty-four fabulous back issues, one to mark each day of Advent, we hope to share with you the joy and magic of the season. When you purchase an issue on its corresponding day, not only will you be collecting great literature, but you will also receive a special gift!

If you choose print copies of the magazine, you will get  a mixture of digital and tangible prizes.*  If you purchase a digital copy, you will receive an ethereal surprise.

A daily email countdown

If you’d like to take the element of chance out of the equation, sign up for our daily email where we will crack open each window early.  We’ll give you a heads-up on the day’s bonus before you buy, along with an inspirational quote from Your Writing Muse.

The Mega-Deal

And if fear of missing out has you worried, we have a super offer for you:  buy our complete six-year collection in print or digital form at any point during the 24 days before Christmas, and you’ll receive all the bonus gifts!

As we begin this holiday season and our look back at the great issues of the past, I feel the same suspense I did as a child, knowing that with each day comes the treasure of the season’s familiar comforts and of the unexpected surprises along the way.

Sign up for our Advent Calendar here, and explore back issues of the magazine here.

*Subject to availability — some print issues are limited, so be sure to get yours early!