About the Book
Title: The Legacy of Old Gran Parks
Author: Isobel Blackthorn
Release Date: 24th February 2018
Genre: Dark Comedy
Publisher: Hellbound Books
Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.
It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.
Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whisky and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.
All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next to Miriam, thrashing about in the night.
Gran Parks is stirring. Who will survive? Who will get away? Who will stay?
Even as I entered the roadhouse, taking in at a glance the young man seated by a window to my left, his multi-coloured beanie failing to obscure his scarred brow, I had a sinking sense that my optimism was premature. On the jukebox, Joan Baez was busy lamenting poor old Dixie. Misgivings reared, and it was as though the carnage back in Cockatoo had followed me all the way along the highway, trailing behind me like a wraith.
I shook away my thoughts and approached the counter. The woman cleaning the pie warmer looked personable enough. Although she had her back to me, I thought she might have been a kindred soul. She seemed about my age and same in height and build. I thought it funny how women over fifty all ended up looking the same. Well, maybe on the surface. She wore her hair scooped up high on her head, and as she turned I saw the fingers of grey pinned back from her face. She’d painted her eyebrows—they were overly arched—and caked on the makeup, yet her cheeks still creased when she offered me a smile, waiting, hands on hips.
‘What you want?’
‘My car has died on me,’ I said by way of explanation.
She eyed me with cool hostility. Any hope I had of conviviality withered. ‘My car has died on me,’ I repeated, deciding, despite my rumbling belly, that if she expected me to order, she had another think coming.
‘That it, there.’ She indicated with a tilt of her head and I followed her gaze back to my steel-grey hatchback, angled awkwardly, its rear jutting out, obstructing the exit.
‘It isn’t in the way, I hope.’
‘I get Con to shift it.’
Her accent was thick. I couldn’t place it. Italian? I detected a twang. Eastern Europe, maybe. Somewhere like Romania.
She held out her hand. I gave her my keys and she disappeared.
I shifted round a fraction and surveyed the roadhouse interior, avoiding looking in the direction of the scar-faced man. Set alongside the long run of casement windows were tables of lurid orange Formica with matching chairs. The sort of colour that showed every blemish. The floor was covered in cheap grey patterned linoleum, worn and chipped about the entrance.
The counter, with its display cabinets and vintage till, protruded into the space. In one cabinet were the remains after the day’s trade: two sandwiches—egg mayo, and ham and salad—and an otherwise lonely Kitchener bun. I hadn’t seen one of those since the weekend I spent in Adelaide several years back. It looked odd and out of place and homemade.
On a menu board, propped on a high shelf behind the counter, were listed hamburgers with the lot and chips, written in neat lettering. Beneath, written in large, clumsy letters by someone who couldn’t spell, was a small range of gourmet pies: Venisen, Hunta and Stake. I thought maybe there was a good cook in residence, for those pies were obviously not bought in. Besides, almost no one deviated from the traditional meat pie, not even in the city. Meat slurry they were normally, with tomato sauce squirted in the crust vent.
The woman reappeared behind the counter.
‘He’s moving it into the garage.’
I looked around to see a burly-looking man heading past the bowsers to my car. He had on the navy-blue overalls of a mechanic. I noticed a slight limp in his gait. He opened the driver’s side door and reached in to release the handbrake and disengage the gears. Then he went around and leaned back against the rear bumper. Once the car was moving, he hurried back and took hold of the steering wheel. There was a brief pause in which I admired his strength.
‘You want to order something?’
‘I’ll have a steak pie, please.’
‘Go on, then.’
‘Fresh out of steak,’ the woman said without turning. ‘Only got the hunter.’
‘What’s in it?’
‘This and that. Could be chicken.’ She didn’t sound that sure. ‘He changes it,’ she added as an afterthought.
She gestured behind me. She didn’t mean scar face. She was referring to the mechanic. It was a confronting revelation, that the man who fixes cars also bakes the pies. I chose not to make too much of it.
‘Sauce?’ she said, raising her eyebrows to her hairline.
‘No, thank you.’
‘Better with sauce,’ she mumbled grumpily.
‘If you say so.’
The woman flounced away, her piled-high coiffure bobbing behind her. I leaned against the counter and waited. My sense that I’d offended her was confirmed when she reappeared, grabbed the tongs from the bench and extracted the only pie in the warmer, plonking it on a plate and squirting on the side the sauce I expressly didn’t want, and setting the whole affair down on the counter in front of me along with some cutlery.
‘You have it here,’ she said, nudging the plate in my direction.
‘Sit. I bring them across.’
‘Can I get a drink?’
‘Help yourself.’ She pointed to the fridge beside the door to the kitchen. I went over and grabbed an orange squash.
Loaded up with my dinner, I made my way to a table far from the guy with the scar, who sat there motionless, staring into space, ignoring his surroundings or oblivious to them.
I leaned back in my seat and waited for the chips. A few minutes later the sour woman came and plonked down a bowl. The chips were heavily salted.
Avoiding the sauce on my plate, which had taken on the colour of congealed blood, I proceeded to cut into my pie. Flakes of pale meat smothered in gravy oozed out. Looked like chicken. He must have used the thigh. I detected the flavour of fresh thyme beneath a liberal dousing of pepper, and a hint of something unfamiliar. Aniseed perhaps.
Midway through my repast the mechanic, Con, wandered in, trailing a smell of diesel behind him, which spread and infused the room. He put my keys on the counter, turned and scanned around as though observing a crowd, taking in each of the two of us in turn. I reciprocated, taking him in, and not with a sympathetic eye. He was broad shouldered, long in the body and he had a bit of a belly on him. His left foot kicked out sideways. He had fuzzy, brown hair, a cleft chin and his eyes were set too close together. His brow was arranged in a permanent frown, and his lips were the same as his mother’s, thin and tight, curved down at the edges. I placed him around thirty.
Our eyes met and he didn’t look away.
‘Not like the sauce, then?’ he said. I thought he was addressing me, but there was a loud clang behind the counter and the woman cleared her throat.
‘She said, no sauce.’
‘Is that right?’
How could two people get so caught up on whether I wanted the sauce? What difference could it make to either of them? To anything?
I polished off the chips and bit into the last segment of my pie and washed it all down with the orange squash. Outside, shards of shadow leached into the gloaming. The neon sign centred on the wide verge at the corner flickered as though trembling in the cooling air.
About the Author
Isobel Blackthorn is a novelist, book reviewer and English tutor based in rural Australia. She holds a PhD in Western Esotericism and the occult features in most of her writing. Isobel is the author of the novels Asylum, The Drago Tree, A Perfect Square and The Cabin Sessions. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is her fifth novel. Her short stories have appeared in journals around the world and her short story collection All Because of You received a 5 Star book award from Reader’s Favorite. Her passion for books is boundless. Isobel reviews for Shiny New Books, Trip Fiction, Sisters in Crime and the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. She lives on the wild southern coast of Australia with her little white cat, Psyche.
Make sure to check everybody else out on the tour!