Red Letter Days by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Red Letter Days

Red Letter Days by Sarah-Jane Stratford
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 2.6 MB

When two brave women flee from the Communist Red Scare, they soon discover that no future is free from the past.

Amid the glitz and glamour of 1950s New York, Phoebe Adler pursues her dream of screenwriting. A dream that turns into a living nightmare when she is blacklisted-caught in the Red Menace that is shattering the lives of suspected Communists. Desperate to work, she escapes to London, determined to keep her dream alive and clear her good name.

There, Phoebe befriends fellow American exile Hannah Wolfson, who has defied the odds to build a career as a successful television producer in England. Hannah is a woman who has it all, and is now gambling everything in a very dangerous game-the game of hiring blacklisted writers.

Neither woman suspects that danger still looms . . . and their fight is only just beginning.

“And now it’s in the Senate, too, isn’t it?” Anne answered. Though McCarthy himself actually had gone away, censured and disgraced after the Army-McCarthy hearings. People still used the term “McCarthyism,” but only because it was a useful shorthand, with more zip than “HUACism.”

Phoebe stacked up her newspapers, all folded open to local crime reports, and put up another pot of coffee. She lit a cigarette and sat on the makeshift window seat, wrapping her stockinged toes around the jamb and letting her skirt flutter outside the open window in what she hoped looked very devil-may-care without being too saucy. It was warm, and many windows up and down Perry Street were open. Phoebe took long, luxurious drags on her cigarette, reveling in all the street sounds. Other typewriters, of course, clacking away, and music everywhere, some single instruments, some groups, rehearsing or creating or teaching. Next door was the Disorderly Theatre Company, a clutch of young men in a living room, shouting scenes from a political play that even the bohemians of Greenwich Village would say was laying it on a touch thick. But there was always the chance it would blossom into something that would make the world sit up and take notice. That happened.

Shop doors were open, and Phoebe watched the steady flow of commerce in and out of the butcher’s, grocer’s, and fishmonger’s. If she leaned out a touch farther, she could see the regulars draped over the outside tables of the Coffee Nook, where the proprietors Floyd and Leo made cappuccinos more addictive than cocaine. It was a sign of being a true Village artist if one was allowed to give a reading or play music any night at the Nook, especially a Thursday. Floyd and Leo presided over the lineup with a severity that would have been the envy of Stalin.

The bread seller came down the street on his bicycle, accosted on all sides by housewives vying for the freshest loaves. The artists tussled for the best day-old bread. Phoebe was tempted to run down for a loaf, but was too comfortable in the sunshine. It was like being in an Italian film. Those first early scenes where everyone is poor but happy, scraping along and dreaming big. Anything could happen over the next hour and a half.

“Hey, Adler!” Jimmy shouted up at her. Phoebe sighed. In a film, the neighbor from across the road might or might not turn out to be her true love—the very idea of which Phoebe found snort-worthy—but he would at least be charming. He would keep the audience guessing. Though Jimmy wasn’t without his usefulness. Phoebe had written three different scripts in which a scrawny, moonfaced buffoon of a young man turned out to be a criminal mastermind.

Not that she really minded Jimmy. As she said to Anne, “He’s charmless, but harmless.” “That’s as may be,” Anne replied. “But I wish he’d try to close his mouth when he’s around me. Not even a bloodhound drools that much.” There was no use in pointing out that all men drooled around Anne. Jimmy’s insistence on being friends with Phoebe was mostly based on her friendship with Anne. Phoebe’s comparative writing success and general cheerfulness might be other reasons, but they were a distant second.

“Do a fellow a favor, huh, and lend me a gasper?” he begged from under Phoebe’s window, where he was weeding Mrs. Pocatelli’s front garden.

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