Ah, Treachery! by Ross Thomas read by Frank Muller

The salad dressing was the only one Partain ever used: “9 parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, vinegar soaked salt, ground black pepper and more garlic than most people liked.” Write this down. Ross Thomas’ recipes are rare, legendary and authoritative. As are his stories, his characters, and his dialogue.

‘What did you do in the army for fun when you weren’t soldiering?
‘I read a lot.’
‘What?’
‘European history. When I got to World War I, I always stopped.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I already knew how it would end  in 1945.’
‘That was the end of World War II, not I.’
‘Was it?’

Not only authoritative but establishing authority, establishing themselves as authorities.

When he was soldiering, Edd (“Two-Dees”) was Infantry in Vietnam, then the States, then Germany, then Central America (“…not dangerous for an observer.”).  After 19 years he beat up his superior officer and was discharged for the good of the service without a pension or PX privileges. The loss of PX privileges was annoying.

Now Two-Dees is staying in a condo on Wiltshire Boulevard, where he is observing the pretty daughter of Millicent Altford in between jobs and/or lovers. Ask any political geographer to map out D.C. in L.A, and he’ll draw you the route to the 86 volumes of Who’s Who in Millicent Altford’s study, in a luxury building named after a failed British prime minister.

The very femdom, very wily, not so old political rainmaker Millicent Altford is however hiding out in her own ‘significant money salon’ in the extravagantly elegant wing of the exclusive “Olympia” Hospital a few blocks east of Century City, for which she herself raised the seed money. Gourmet meals  and a French menu every morning.

Partain entered Millicent Altford’s hospital room and found her sitting in an armchair, wearing a smoke-grey silk suit, herlong legs tucked back to the left and crossed at the ankles. On her feet were black suede pumps with two inch heels that matched her purse. Next to her feet was a worn black leather suitcase with silver fittings that looked both old and expensive.

Edd Twodees gets shot just before they’re scheduled to fly from LAX. Millicent buys him something temporary to wear at the airport; he takes off the nice blue suit with the bullet holes and says:

‘What I do with my shirt, tie and coat?’
‘I’ll take care of them.’
He handed them over and watched with dismay as she dropped all three into a nearby trash container.
‘That coat could have been re-woven,’ he said when she returned.
‘I told you; we’ll buy you new stuff in Washington. A nice top coat from Burberry’s, some suits and a couple of jackets and pants from Brooks Brothers or Niemann’s.’
‘You ever been inside a J.C. Penny’s?’
‘Not in 42 years,’ she said.

When she is not giving orders, putting together “soft money” and “bundling”, Millicent Altford gives congressmen lectures in the ancient history of campaign financing.

It was a typical campaign office for the times. One big room, lots of desks, typewriters, ringing phones, hot as hell, noisy… and then there was this 50 year old slob sitting behind one of the desks..and a red headed guy. I tell the slob my name and that I want to help out in the campaign and he tells me that they aren’t hiring…The red head of course is Joey Sizemore. He takes me outside where we catch a cab and head for the old Morrison Hotel that they tore down years ago. We ride up to the 11th floor and go into a big room that has two desks, two phones on each desk, a secretary called Norma who’s at least 60, and nothing else. Joey introduces me to Norma. Tells me that she used to be a senior long distance telephone operator with SouthWestern Bell, uses a key to open a desk drawer and hands me a typewritten list of names with addresses and phone numbers thats about an inch thick. It was the fat cat list. Every Democrat in the country who had an estimated net worth of $100,000 or more.. which would be around a million today… All I had to do was call each name and talk whoever answered into contributing a minimum of $1000 to the Stevenson campaign. Norma had this sexy contralto voice and placed each call person to person working east to west — all operator assisted then, no touch tone, no direct dialing.. ancient times. I asked Sizemore what to say. He said since I was in the ad business I’d think up something. There were almost 2000 names on that list and we called every damn one of ’em. A lot of ’em twice.
‘What was your batting average?’, the congressman asked.
‘.593′ That’s when I learned what makes people give money to politicians.
The congressman smiled: “is it a secret?’
She shook her head, “Fear. And Flattery.”
Still smiling, the congressman said: “What about hope for a better tomorrow?”
“Forget hope,” she said.

 

Red Hat Society’s Queens of Woodlawn Avenue by Regina Hale Sutherland read by Staci Snell

Imagine three divorced fairy godmothers wearing red hats feeding you yellow cake, laying out your new life, and getting you ready for the charity ball by teaching you how to play bridge. There you have it. The almost penniless newly divorced matron with good manners sets up a home decorating business, stops crying, and learns to negotiate and win.

And One Last Thing by Molly Harper read by Amanda Ronconi

The spunky wife of a floor licking, scum sucking, receptionist-nailing hack accountant discovers her husband’s infidelity and writes up the dastardly deed in his monthly newsletter which she emails to kith and kin and customers. She accumulates notoriety (“SCORNED LOCAL WIFE SUED FOR SCATHING E-MAIL”) , attracts the appreciation of a geek girl with a business in female revenge communications, takes inventory, takes a lover, eats.

Funny afterscenes include the interview with her mother, published in the local Gazette,

Unable to return to her marital home, Mrs Terwilliger is reportedly staying with her parents… When contacted by the Gazette, Mrs Terwilliger’s mother, Deb Vernon, insisted that many wronged wives would follow in her daughter’s footstops if they thought of it.

“Everybody thinks Lacy’s gone crazy but that’s not true. She knew what she was doing… She was just pushed too far. And yes she overreacted a little bit, it happens to the best of us, but I don’t want to comment. Of course, if Mike didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed he shouldn’t have run around town chasing some hussy like his pants were on fire, but I don’t want to comment. I just wish people would mind their own business, but really I have nothing to say.

The Ex-Debutante by Linda Frances Lee read by Susan Bennett

The smart daughter of a beautiful mother comes back to her “godforsaken sheep-happy hillbilly town” to handle her mother’s fourth or fifth divorce, and finds herself staging the annual Debutante Ball. “Don’t the pilgrims make skin cream?,” her mother asks her before mentioning how hard she has worked on maintaining her own natural beauty.
Miss Carlyle Ridgely, daughter of the Daughters of Texas, assembles 7 indelicate but moneyed 17 year olds, definitely not Ridgely Wainwright Cushing Jamison Ladley Ogden Harper-approved material.

First Impressions by Jude Devereaux read by Cynthia Darlow

Cynthia Darlow always lends coziness and warmth to stories about Southern life, Southern manners, and Southern towns. Like many, this story begins with an inheritance: the old Farrington mansion along with its papers, pictures, and privy things. This time, the heir is a 45 year old single mother and editor, who was once sheltered and loved by Mrs Farrington, the grande dame of Arundel, North Carolina.

When Eden returns to this very small, very traditional Southern town she finds herself courted by a local lawyer, a wily FBI agent, and a killer.

She also finds herself.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg read by Fannie Flagg

A sweet, adorable, clever story about a beautiful and beautifully mannered ex Miss Alabama who has decided to jump in the river. Maggie has made a list of pros and cons and the pros have won out. For months, Maggie makes preparations for the day. She has donated all her clothes and jewelry to the local theatre, arranged to have flowers delivered to the graves of her parents for the next 25 years, written a letter  to her  cleaning lady with $500 and her gold watch, closed her bank account and given away the money to charities, cleaned and shined her leased car and her rented  apartment, and left her old tiara and baton to an old friend of her mothers who worked at the local department store and always called her up when there were sales. But in the cab on the way to the river where she’s hidden away weights and a raft, she is  commissioned to sell her favorite house in the world, Crestview. For the sake of the beautiful old house, and for the sake of the small happy firm to which she is devoted, Maggie feels she must put off the big day. She comes back home, whites out the date on the ‘To Whom It May Concern Letter’ she has left in her kitchen, and gets to work.