The Contract by Sheila Grinell

“How do you encourage curiosity in a place where thoughts are policed?”

Joanna Dunhill knows just how difficult it can be working with family, and now that she has an opportunity to finally, in mid-life, achieve professional and financial success, family—and Saudi Arabian culture—stand in the way. Author Sheila Grinell flawlessly depicts female empowerment and cultural dissonance in this story about the difficulties of owning and growing a small business. Her new novel, THE CONTRACT (She Writes Press, October 2019, Original Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-63152-648-0, $16.95), explores the many “contracts” we enter in our lives, implicitly in marriage and with siblings, as well as explicitly on the job.

Joanna and her husband, Ev Dana, operate a museum design company to which Ev supplies brawn and creativity in an abstracted, laid-back way that irks Jo no end. Given her drive and management skills, though, she’s convinced they can win a much-prized deal with the Saudi Arabian government. The mission: to create a new children’s museum focused on renewable energy.

When Jo’s competitor and archrival, Phil Owen, becomes involved in the deal, Jo must find a way to look past their personal drama and join forces. Harder still, she must probe the limits of what she will be allowed to accomplish in Saudi Arabia as she seeks to expand opportunities for the mothers and daughters who will patronize the future museum. Meanwhile, it seems Ev would rather pass on the entire project and explore one of his own at a local art gallery. Will Joanna’s over-ambitiousness and Ev’s side-gig get in the way of both their business and their marriage?

“The test was about to begin. Not the presentation she and Ev would make to the review committee–they knew how to present their qualifications. No, the test would be learning the ropes of a society that repressed women yet where the potential client, the deputy director of the agency that had summoned them, was female.”

 In THE CONTRACT, Grinell draws complex characters who share many of the struggles Americans face in business, especially when confronted with gender and cultural differences. Even here, where we enjoy the freedom to choose our own paths, we are often unsure how to take the next step.


Sheila Grinell spent forty years developing science centers in the US and consulting on museum projects around the world, including in Saudi Arabia. She turned to literature in her sixties, publishing a debut novel, Appetite, in 2016. The Contract is her second work of fiction. Born in a taxi in Manhattan, she studied at The Bronx High School of Science, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and their dog.

There is No End to This Slope by Richard Fulco

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“Richard Fulco’s THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE is a brave novel. Fulco’s first-person protagonist, John Lenza, born Gianni, is an exposed nerve, a raw reminder of the fears, frustrations, and neuroses from which we all suffer at times when confronting our deepest truths.  Truths, it must be said, that Fulco accesses with brutal honesty. With a deft touch, he explores themes of love, loss, self-recrimination, high theatre, rock & roll, mental exhaustion, and finally, personal détente. Any writer willing to avail his characters to such scrutiny, for all their strengths and weaknesses, is deserving of praise.”
—Peter Melman, author of Landsman

“Groucho Marx is famous for saying he wouldn’t belong to a club that would have him for a member. John Lenza, the hero of Fulco’s exhilarating novel, ups the ante and wouldn’t belong to any club no matter who they accept. With dialogue as crisp as a caramel apple, imagery of an-ever evolving Brooklyn, and terrific references to theatre, literature, and rock ‘n’ roll, THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE craftily whips together elements of romantic comedy with the parts of life that aren’t so easily fixed. THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE goes to show that not all endings bring a new beginning.”
—Richard Melo, author of Happy Talk and Jokerman 8


He writes letters to a dead girl—John Lenza, an aspiring writer from Brooklyn, New York, hasn’t written a novel, a play, or any other potentially publishable project.  His obsession with his part in the death of his best friend Stephanie in high school, is a metaphorical brick wall—blocking him from a fulfilling life.  Lenza’s struggles to reconcile his guilt from the past and to enjoy the present sets the tone for Brooklyn native and playwright Richard Fulco’s emotionally charged debut THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE (Wampus Multimedia; March 18, 2014; $XX).

By day, John Lenza sells textbooks to New York City schools.  Like a 21st century Willy Loman, Lenza drifts, letting things happen to him rather than figuring out what he really wants from his work-life and his relationships.  At Cobble Hill High School he meets his future wife Emma Rue, an impulsive alcoholic.  At a “writerly” coffee shop near his new digs in Park Slope he meets Teeny, an overweight gay man, who mines Lenza’s life for his own material.  Richard, a homeless man becomes a voice of reason and a roommate, while Pete the landlord worries mostly about whether Lenza is truly taking special care of those beautiful wood floors in the apartment and, when Lenza loses his job, if the rent will be paid.

At one point in THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE John Lenza describes himself as intelligent, perhaps too intelligent to do anything.  For him and many of the characters in Fulco’s novel it is hard to find a way to navigate the day-to-day while nurturing a sensitive and creative spirit.  Does John Lenza deserve to be tortured by something that happened so many years ago?  Or is the event really a safety net that he allows to prevent him from finding out what his true creative potential might be?

Through deeply wrought characters and scenes that mirror the angst everyone faces as life happens and years pass, Fulco touches on a fundamental issue that drives great artists to self-destruct.  Ironically when Lenza has wrung all he can out of his pained self, it may be the mundane day-to-day that ultimately saves him.

Richard Fulco received an MFA in Playwriting from Brooklyn College. His plays have either been presented or developed at The New York International Fringe Festival, The Playwrights’ Center, The Flea, Here Arts Center, Chicago Dramatists and the Dramatists Guild. His stories and reviews have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Failbetter, Front Porch, Bound Off, The Rusty Toque, Full of Crow, Nth Position, and the Daily Vault. He is the founder of the online music magazine Riffraf. There Is No End to This Slope is his first novel.