Fact Check and More Probing Tales
James Hanna’s Fact Check and More Probing Tales is a diverting collection of twenty-two short stories featuring a quirky cast of characters who all initially appear to be living lives of quiet desperation but who are really defying normalcy and sometimes even logic as they lurch from one entertainingly anomalous encounter to another. Both truth and reality prove to be slippery subjects as Hanna pilots his characters through surprisingly likely yet still happily outlandish situations that allow them opportunities to showcase the many absurdities of modern life.
The title story, “Fact Check,” is narrated by the hopeless but hopeful Toby Dawes, a twenty-year-old farm kid from Putnam County who alternates his time between working at the Hillsdale Hog Farm, stealing his father’s erotic fiction collection, and dreaming of marrying/saving a local prostitute named Brandi. In amongst discussing the mundanities of his life, Toby explains how he encountered a rare bird that temporarily took up residence on his shoulder. Although the presence of his new feathered friend repulsed his parents, his employer, and even Brandi, things seemed to be looking up for Toby…until he made the mistake of attending a Donald Trump rally.
In a delightfully naïve and deadpan way, Toby relates the misfortune that occurred to the one extraordinary bright spot in his life. It’s strangely moving and very funny, and it raises questions about just how peculiar a seemingly average life can be. And Toby’s story is far from the only one in the collection to have a sting in the tail. For instance, in “The Lottery,” a loyal warrior dreams of experiencing life inside the dome with the glorious protectors, while in “Krispy Kremes,” a veteran of the Iraq War and the Capital Building siege aims to start an anti-vaccine insurrection. Things don’t work out well for either of them. In all these twisted tales, Hanna exploits the characters’ many foibles to great effect, by turns horrifying and amusing.
Hanna doesn’t shy away from lampooning himself either. In “The Land Fish,” a grizzled and misanthropic writer named Mason Trout, an unrepentant literary snob who is unwilling to read anything other than the classics, decides to take revenge on the book reviewers who have long derided his work by writing a truly terrible book. When the resultant work unexpectedly becomes a bestseller, Mason has great difficulty living his commercial success down. What’s more, while Mason serves as an amusing literary stand-in for Hanna, the author himself also appears in several stories, most often bantering with wife Mary and critiquing contemporary events.
Fact Check and More Probing Tales is a dazzling collection of stories about people and events that run the gamut from mundane to astonishing, delightful to terrifying, all the while both entertaining and amusing. There’s plenty of humor, pathos, and grot to be found within its pages, and the included stories really do have something to offer everyone.
|Page Count||240 pages|
|Publisher||Sand Hill Review Press|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|