by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Queen of Arts, by Frances Pauli.
Moses Lake, WA, Gastropod Press, February 2018, trade paperback, $8.99 (184 pages), Kindle $0.99.
This is purely a funny-animal soap-opera. It’s also a connected collection masquerading as a novel. “Queen of Arts” is on pages 1 to 132. “In the Margins” is pages 134 to 167. “Off the Record” is pages 168 to 182.
Waterville has two rival newspapers, the Arts Examiner and the Gazette. They compete for scoops and more, angling for contacts with the municipal government and Waterville’s social leaders. When the latter decide to hold a Waterville Festival of the Arts, including a city-wide art contest, and the Gazette pledges to sponsor its prizes, the Arts Examiner has to scramble to make up any lost ground.
Stella Rose, the Arts Examiner’s senior editor, is the protagonist. Stella is a cinnamon bear. Marge, a squirrel, is the assistant editor. Vanessa Lorne, a rabbit, is one of the Examiner’s reporters, along with Gerald, an ibex, and Buck, a zebra photographer. Others are Mr. Mort Growning (tapir), the paper’s manager and Stella’s boss; his secretary Francine Tsarong (snow leopard); Mayor Stimple (bison); Lydia Willard (black panther), an art gallery owner; Terrence Ortega (polar bear), another art gallery owner; and many more.
“‘There you are.’ Growning huffed and leaned to the side, out of the line of the mayor’s horns. His rubbery snout uncurled, dangling like a stub of hose below his piggy eyes. ‘Stella, at last.’
‘I’m five minutes early.’ She checked the clock on the far wall to be certain.
‘Fine. Yes.’ Growning waved a gesture of dismissal. ‘Feel free to continue, Mr. Mayor.’
‘We’ll rely on you for full coverage.’ The bison’s voice shook the door on its hinges. ‘I want a dedicated team for this.’
‘Exclusive coverage?’ The tapir’s trunk extended to its full length. Not exactly impressive, but enough to tell Stella his interest was piqued, focused on whatever the bison had proposed before she arrived.
‘Now, now.’ The mayor tugged at the front of his suit, and his two companions exchanged a look that told Stella they wouldn’t be getting an exclusive. ‘The Gazette has sponsored the awards. We have to allow them…’
‘You went to the Gazette first?’ Growning clutched at his heart with one hoofed paw. ‘To the Gazette? We’re the Arts Examiner. Arts. That rag only publishes a column on culture once a fortnight, not to mention some of the garbage they’ve printed about y–’
‘They came to us.’ The bison rumbled over the top of Growning’s tirade. ‘Almost the second we had the idea, in fact. We have to allow them coverage, but the Examiner has more space for arts columns. We came to you first.’” (pgs. 7-8)