What's a Girl Gotta Do?

What's a Girl Gotta Do?

by Sparkle Hayter

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What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Sparkle Hayter

Arthur Ellis Award Winner: The “flat-out funny” first mystery in the series featuring a newly single reporter trying to clear herself of murder (Publishers Weekly).

Meet Robin Hudson. Dumped by her husband, she’s been demoted to third-string reporter at New York’s All News Network. Her downstairs neighbor thinks she’s a hooker. Louise Bryant, her finicky cat, refuses to chow down on anything but stir-fry. Now Robin’s being blackmailed by a late-night caller who knows her childhood nickname and other personal stuff, like whom she gave her virginity to. What could be worse?

Being the prime suspect in the bludgeoning death of her mystery caller—that’s what. In life, he was a PI who had the skinny on everyone. Now, while Robin is undercover investigating a suspicious sperm bank, she must also find the killer and clear her name. In her downtime, she’s amusing herself with her hot new boy toy, who may not be Mr. Right but could be Mr. Close Enough. When someone else is murdered, Robin races to break the story before she makes headlines again—as the next victim.

The Robin Hudson Mystery series is a winner of the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective.

What's a Girl Gotta Do? is the 1st book in the Robin Hudson Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497678316
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 11/18/2014
Series: Robin Hudson Mysteries , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 271
Sales rank: 190,898
File size: 787 KB

About the Author

Sparkle Hayter has been a journalist for CNN and other news organizations, a stringer in Afghanistan, a producer in Bollywood, a stand-up comic in New York, a caretaker for an elderly parent in Canada, and a novelist of seven books. And some other things that are kind of a blur now. The first novel in her Robin Hudson Mystery series, What’s a Girl Gotta Do?, is the recipient of the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for best first mystery novel, and the series is a winner of the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective. Hayter’s articles have been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Nation, and New Woman. She currently lives in Canada with her rescued Nepali street dog, Alice, and is working on a new book.

Read an Excerpt

What's a Girl Gotta Do?

A Robin Hudson Mystery

By Sparkle Hayter


Copyright © 1994 Sparkle Hayter
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-7831-6


On the last day of the year, I got this weird phone call. It's not every day a dame like me gets a call from a mysterious stranger.

Well, actually, it is almost every day. I'm a reporter and I get a lot of phone calls from mysterious strangers, most of whom are clearly a few bees short of a hive. It's a fact of my life.

But it's not every day I get a call at home from a mysterious stranger who knows my childhood nickname, Red Knobby, something very few people know, I assure you. He knew my childhood nickname, he knew my mother's medical history, he even knew when and to whom I'd lost my cherry in high school.

So I knew this guy wasn't just another conspiracy buff calling up with a wild theory, claiming to have "evidence" of a link between freemasonry and Lee Harvey Oswald or some other scandal that was going to rock our republic to its very roots. This guy knew some strange stuff about me, and when he said he was a private investigator and wanted to meet to give me the rest of a report he'd done on me, it naturally piqued my interest.

I tried to get as much information from him as I could over the phone, of course, but he was a tough nut to crack. He wouldn't tell me why he was investigating me, or who hired him to investigate me. To every question, he answered, simply, "Meet me at the Marfeles Palace Hotel tonight. I'll find you."

My company was having its New Year's Eve party that night at the Marfeles in midtown Manhattan.

I hung up the phone and asked myself: Who would investigate me, Robin Hudson, a lowly, third-string correspondent at the All News Network with a floundering career and a failed marriage? Sure, my estranged husband and I were divorcing, and I won't kid you, I was angry with him and I was hurt. But I'd agreed to the divorce and I wasn't seeking alimony. It wasn't like Burke had any need to dig up dirt on me and it wasn't like there was much dirt to be dug up. What could this mystery man find?

But I have secrets, like everyone else, embarrassing secrets I'd just rather people didn't know about me, and I was especially vulnerable to embarrassment at the moment. See, the last six months of the year weren't very good for me.

In July, a faux pas at a White House news conference effectively ended my brief career as a Washington correspondent. Shortly after that, another faux pas, involving a cannibalism story, sent me into TV news Siberia, the Special Reports unit. Murphy's Law, right? Once my career was pretty much destroyed, my husband, Burke Avery, left me for another woman, and not just any woman but a much younger woman.

In light of all this, what could anyone dig up that would possibly make me feel or look worse? Well, there were a few other humiliating incidents I'd like to leave behind me, thank you very much, and a few shameful acts I don't want the whole world to know about.

So I'd meet the guy at the Marfeles that night. The location was good; there'd be a lot of people at the ANN party to make me feel safer, just in case the guy was some kind of sicko who wanted to get me alone in an underground parking garage, Deep Throat-style, to rape and flay me.

The ANN New Year's Eve party was an annual apocalyptic event, a costume ball where employees dress up as their favorite news story and generally get wrecked. This year was our tenth anniversary and the theme was a salute to ten years of twenty-four-hour television news, a very big deal.

Yet, before I got that phone call, I planned to skip it. Why? Maybe because my estranged husband was going to be there. Maybe because he was coming with Miss Amy Penny.

Miss Amy Penny. During her relatively brief life thus far, Miss Amy Penny had done a lot. As co-host of ANN's Gotham Salon, a morning magazine show, she provided a steady diet of celebrity news, fashion guidance, and other soft features for homemakers who'd taken the Mommy Track.

Before becoming a "television personality" (which may or may not be an oxymoron), she was a Miss Mason-Dixon Line and a TV and trade show spokesmodel for that upscale, low-dust baby powder, Gentility. You may remember their ad campaign two years ago, the one where a woman with caramel-colored hair and big tits lolled around on a beige carpet with a baby- for-hire and two of those little wrinkled-up dogs, Shar-Peis. Amy was the one with the big tits.

All this, plus the fact that she aspired to "serious journalism," I learned from a recent, half-page, kissy-face article in People, which failed to include the accomplishment most pertinent to my own life: She'd managed to break up my marriage.

Miss Amy Penny. Just the sound of her name was enough to burn a hole in the lining of my stomach. I'd seen her around the network and caught a few episodes of her program but, as Burke worked for a rival station, I'd never had to see her on the arm of my husband before. Friends of Amy's made sure I knew they'd be there. Presumably, they thought I'd opt to avoid further humiliation and take a pass on the party, which had made sense to me. But then the guy called and I changed my mind.

As the ANN party was a costume party, I toyed for a while with the idea of going as Ronald Reagan's colon, a story that had special meaning for me. But in the end (no pun intended), I opted for something simpler and less offensive, as one of my New Year's resolutions was to try to offend fewer people in the next decade and thereby escape from the century with my life. I decided to go as Ginny Foat, a prominent feminist tried for murder and acquitted in 1983. On a practical note, it was easy to put together. All I had to do was wear a "Support Your Local Feminist" button and carry a tire iron around.

It felt oddly appropriate to me. Maybe because my estranged husband was going to be at the party. Maybe because he was bringing Miss Amy Penny.

Understandably, it took some serious motivational exercises to get up my courage to go. I poured myself a glass of lemon Stoly on the rocks, put some music on, and sat down with my ancient, battle-scarred cat, Louise Bryant, in our favorite armchair. Together, Louise Bryant and I pondered the comforting lyrics of our favorite postmarriage song, Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking."

I don't know why but this ritual, that song, and the act of hitting the palm of my hand gently with my tire iron seemed to bring order to my thoughts. A kind of serenity came over me and I found the nerve to go.

Murphy's Law again. When I got outside my apartment building, I ran into my downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Ramirez, an eighty-year-old bully with a blue rinse, who was out walking her high-strung Chihuahua, Señor. God, I hate those dogs. They look like rats with a glandular problem, they're dumber than a sack of hammers, and they're bad-tempered—a horror movie just waiting to happen. What is the attraction?

In Mrs. Ramirez's case I could kind of see it, though, because she and the dog shared the same snappish temperament. Not all old people are sweet and wise. Even assholes grow old. Mrs. Ramirez, for instance, has this nasty habit of cornering me in the elevator, calling me a whore, and rapping my head with her cane. She complains constantly about me to the landlord, the super, and the few good Catholics left in our East Village neighborhood. If she wasn't so damned old, I'd press charges.

With Señor's leash in one hand and her carved cane in the other, she shuffled towards me menacingly. "I couldn't sleep last night because of you!"

I'm always really sweet when I talk to her. It's kind of an experiment. I'm trying out that kill-them-with-kindness theory.

"Hello, Mrs. Ramirez!" I said, smiling angelically. "How's your little friend Señor? And how are you?"

Still got that very large, very rough stick up your ass?

"You had a big party last night! I was up all night!"

"I didn't have a party. I watched a movie and went to bed."

"I heard dancing!"

Mrs. Ramirez's problem, as I've tried to explain to her 354 times, is that her hearing aid is turned up too high, amplifying the noise in my apartment, which is above hers. The sound of a cap popping off a soda bottle sounds like the crack of a whip to her. When my cat, Louise Bryant, walks across the floor, Mrs. Ramirez thinks there's a naked mambo party going on upstairs and multiple commandments are being repeatedly and cavalierly broken.

"I was watching Top Hat," I said. "The volume was way down."

"It sounded like you had the Rockettes up there! It was so loud it scared me. I had to take a nitroglycerin pill. Next time, I'm calling the police."

"Please call the police next time, Mrs. Ramirez. Have them come up and arrest the Rockettes," I said.

"I'll call them now!" she said.

Suddenly, she picked up her cane and waved it at me. I held up my tire iron to ward off the blow. This was great. Get into a sword fight with an old woman in the middle of the street. Try to convince the police when they came that I had to bean a frail eighty-year-old lady with my tire iron in self-defense. I turned and started walking away from her fast.

"You young people have no respect. You're all going to get AIDS and die," she said, as if that were a just punishment for lack of respect. Then she shuffled brusquely past me with Señor, who belatedly picked up Louise Bryant's scent and began yapping.

The glittering Marfeles Palace, a restored beaux arts building turned into a hotel and run by the imperious Eloise Marfeles, would normally be way out of ANN's price range, which was more along the lines of a Knights of Columbus bingo hall.

But Eloise Marfeles had defied centuries of superstition by allowing her building to have a thirteenth floor. No sooner had she opened the previous autumn than bad luck visited her with a vengeance. Fires broke out, unions staged job actions, elevators got stuck between floors, and other mishaps occurred almost daily. The tabloids were having a field day with it and business was bad.

As a result, ANN got a real deal on the place—the ballroom and a block of rooms on the thirteenth floor for use by company personnel the night of the party. For her part, Eloise Marfeles got a lot of cheap publicity out of ANN and a chance to debunk the superstition.

When I got there, I hesitated in the doorway and, with mixed feelings of curiosity and dread, scanned the crowd. Around me Dan Quayles, Jeffrey Dahmers, and Long Dong Silvers mingled with Hillary Clintons, Boris Yeltsins, giant condoms, and giant Tylenol capsules.

Frannie Millard, a robust matron done up as Margaret Thatcher, grabbed my arm and said, "Robin Hudson."


"I'm in charge of name tags tonight. Not everyone wants to wear one, but I hope you won't give me a hard time about it."

"What a drag, having to work at the party," I said, as she pinned me for easy identification.

"I like helping out," she said efficiently and left me for three members of the Standards & Practices division, also known as the network censors, a.k.a. the court eunuchs.

An ancient panic grabbed me as I stared into the social chaos ahead: Who would I hang out with? Tonight I needed a comfortable cordon of friendship to protect me both from mysterious strangers and from humiliation by my husband. I looked around for someone I recognized, someone sympathetic, and saw Louis Levin heading towards me. Louis was a news producer and a paraplegic and he had done his wheelchair up as an electric chair, complete with a leather and metal helmet.

"Hey, little girl," he said. "Wanna sit in my lap and play with Mister Microphone?"

"Who are you supposed to be?"

"Ted Bundy." He pushed a button and smoke came out of the helmet.

"You are an evil genius, Louis."

"Thanks. Who are you?"

"Ginny Foat. Say, Louis, have you seen my husband sliming around tonight?"

"Not that I know of," he said. "What's he coming as?"

"I dunno. I couldn't find out."

"I did see your second favorite person," he said. "Jerry Spurdle."

"What did he come as?"


"He came as a bucket of larvae?"

Spurdle was my boss in the Special Reports unit. I "belonged" to Jerry Spurdle, as he liked to remind me. He was part of my humiliation, my punishment, my artistic suffering.

"No. He came as Richard Nixon," Louis said. "He came as a dick. Get it?"

"Har har," I said slowly. "Just like Jerry to pick a story that was over before the network ever went on the air." An exclusive radio interview with Nixon in 1972 had made his reputation—Jerry's, not Nixon's—and he liked to remind people of it.

"I'm sitting with some of the writers," Louis said. "Why don't you join us?"

"Bless you. I will—later. First, I think I'll do some recon. Map out all the people I want to avoid." And try to make contact with my mystery man.

"Come sit with us. We're up in the balcony," he said, and motored away.

I circulated, waiting for the man who knew my secrets to approach me, while at the same time keeping an eye out for Burke and Amy.

This being a costume party, it was hard to tell who was who without reading name tags. Everyone was in disguise with a few highly visible exceptions, including Dr. Solange Stevenson, ANN's psychologist with a talk show, whose only nod to whimsy was a photo button showing her rival, Dr. Sonya Friedman, with a large red X through her face. Also not in costume, our fearless leader, Georgia Jack Jackson, chairman of the board of Jackson Broadcasting System, our parent company.

Solange was simply too dignified to wear a costume ("the soothing Solange Stevenson"—TV Guide). But dignity was something Georgia Jack didn't worry about too much. Since he considered himself his favorite news story he came as ... himself. Legitimately, I might add. In the 1980s Georgia Jack unleashed an entertainment empire on the world, built a twenty-four-hour news network against the odds, dated half the women in the Screen Actors Guild, and created a great deal of controversy by buying up classic silent films and adding sound and dialogue to them, which filmmakers decried as mutilation.

Jackson was huddled at one end of the ballroom with the cream of the correspondents, the mediacrats, the cool kids at the prom who excited my envy.

The network's premier anchor and talk-show host, "avuncular" Greg Browner, was dressed this night as an MX missile. Greg was a prince of the Jack Jackson church, and ruled an autonomous fiefdom within the kingdom. His highly rated call-in show had taken on Larry King and made a respectable showing. Greg then moved his show up an hour to beat King to the punch, and was taking away huge chunks of the traditional call-in audience.

Next to him was "dispassionate and professional" Joanne Armoire, dressed as the late great Lucy. Beneath her red wig, Joanne was blond and beautiful in a Lufthansa stewardess sort of way. Her career had been meteoric. She'd been one of the few Western women to go into Afghanistan with the mujahedin and she'd taken a bullet in her leg when she was covering the ethnic war in Sarajevo.

This is who I thought I would be: a brave, trench-coated figure, looking serious and beautiful, standing in a war zone in some picturesque country, bringing the world my own brilliant and illuminating insights on the news. I saw myself as a hardhitting correspondent, taking on world leaders, asking them tough questions, Oriana Fallaci in Rita Hayworth's body, bad men cowering and good men swooning in my wake.

That's who I thought I would be. This is who I am: a slightly rumpled, third-string reporter with ink stains on all her blouses and a small run in her stocking, who sneaks around with a hidden camera looking for seamy stories and petty scandals. The National Enquirer—in Rita Hayworth's body.

Joanne and I had started out at ANN around the same time, in similar lowly positions, and we had both been writers for Greg Browner when he was the anchor and managing editor for the six o'clock. Her hitch on the six had gone somewhat better than mine, in small part, at least, because she knew how to handle Greg's constant advances and his big ego. She knew when to speak, when to hold her tongue, and how to be diplomatic.

I did not. I told Greg to go fuck himself and was promptly given a new assignment—a better assignment, actually—another report on my "bad attitude" comfortably ensconced in my thick personnel file.


Excerpted from What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Sparkle Hayter. Copyright © 1994 Sparkle Hayter. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

Nancy Pickard

A sexy, funny, raunchy romp through network news. I loved it.

Katherine Neville

The most uproariously funny murder mystery ever written. Wonderful, fast-paced, and devilishly witty.

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What's a Girl Gotta Do 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time getting through the first part of this book because I did not understand why it was necessary to include so many characters and had to ask "Where is this author going with this story"? I almost stopped reading but had time invested in this book and nothing better to do so I continued reading.....and I AM SO GLAD I DID.......the last half of this book was GREAT. Robin is such a hoot, I laughed out loud and when the plot started comming together I understood why the author included so many characters during the first part of the book. Can not wait to see what antics Robin gets into next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me reading was a hard start but picked up speed and got better after first chapter plus its a freebie so worth it!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Strange and scattered
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Want a murder mystery, a smart gal reporter with a wry sense of humor, and some sex (nothing explicit) and romance on the side? This is the book for you- "What's a girl gotta Do?" Indeed!
SASSY57 More than 1 year ago
A nice read,compeling.
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
Tarte Noir "What fun! Robin Hudson's a great character - witty, tough, a bit of a mess, smart and just a tad cynical. Who wouldn't like her? Plus, she does have rather a knack for getting herself into messes. The writing is crisp and precise, the humor undeniable. Somewhere I heard the term "tarte noir". Excellent. Thoroughly enjoyable!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BluSqrrl More than 1 year ago
This book had me laughing out loud in more than one place. I really can't wait to read more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very distracting from the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I reccomend this book.
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millie208 More than 1 year ago
Never a dull moment in this fast moving adventure! Great Author!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Sparkle Hayter's debut tale of investigative reporter Robin Hudson is a fun, light read. The comic element, which will have readers laughing out loud, comes from the biting portrayal of the self-important media types that pepper Robin's landscape.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so scared when a man wanted to meet her