Fact Check and More Probing Tales

Fiction - Anthology
287 Pages
Reviewed on 11/14/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

James Hanna made a point of reminding me that I awarded his book, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown, 5 stars, so I decided to tackle Fact Check and More Probing Tales. Would I enjoy it as much and rate it as highly? Well, after losing myself in the musings and actions of the thoroughly engaging and colorful characters who people these “twenty-two aberrant” stories, the answer is a loud yes! Though sometimes challenging, what an entertaining read this was, and a happy distraction from the disheartening horror of the daily news. As an ex-pat Aussie, I laughed out loud identifying with Hanna as he was attacked by those bush flies determined to get into his eyes and mouth. But shortly thereafter, I was revolted by his description of cows, stuck in a filthy bog hole, being eaten alive by wild pigs. Later, in Indiana, I was captivated by the amusing ramblings of simple Toby Dawes, who doesn’t ask much of himself: he just wants to marry a prostitute who “popped his cherry”. Oh, the length to which he goes to make his desire a reality!

Through Hanna, I met several fascinating prostitutes, a pimp who considered himself a savior - see if you disagree after you read why - and the unforgettable Finian McFaddle who is outsmarted by an outsmarter. So funny! Then, every so often, Hanna shares his exchanges with his wife, Mary, who likes to ask him questions he has trouble answering just to bring him back to earth between his literary forays. She considers him a “literary snob”. How’s that for spousal support? Hanna’s ability to bring characters to life on the page is extraordinary. He is a brilliant raconteur and skilled writer despite what his wife and reviewers think, as indicated in his opening tale about Mason Trout who writes “for the literati”. Through Mason, I wonder if I learned what Hanna thinks of reviewers: “Reviewers are only failed writers. Do you think they’d be wasting time writing reviews if they were able to write books themselves?” Hmmm. Thanks a lot, James Hanna! If I didn’t enjoy Fact Check and More Probing Tales as much as I did, I’d be tempted to change my 5-star rating. Bah…whatever!

Pikasho Deka

Fact Check and More Probing Tales is a collection of twenty-two short stories by James Hanna. In a misguided attempt to mock one of his harshest critics, a pompous author writes a pulpy romance novel, turning his life upside down when it becomes a bestseller. A slave living in a dystopian society is brainwashed into sacrificing it all for his protectors. A wife realizes her husband is not who he appears to be after he shares his deepest desires over lunch. An altruistic pimp tries to convince another man of his good intentions and his bid to run for city councilman. A former probation officer recalls his exploits of being an urban cowboy, only to be left behind by his colleague. A baseball aficionado remembers the nostalgic memories of his favorite fantasy baseball player, much to the chagrin of his wife.

James Hanna pens a captivating collection of slice-of-life stories. Sprinkled with lots of humor and heart, Fact Check and More Probing Tales delves into the wide array of complexities that make up human needs and desires. With unconventional protagonists telling the stories in the first person, readers are given direct access to the headspace of some of the most colorful individuals you will ever come across. The book opens with "The Land Fish," where you will find yourself rooting for a snobby author and his hilarious tantrums. "A Good Pimp" is another one that balances comedy and the exploration of the unpredictability of human behavior to brilliant effect. An enthralling collection that I will highly recommend.

Shrabastee Chakraborty

Fact Check and More Probing Tales, the latest anthology from James Hanna, consists of twenty-two oddly quirky stories. Somewhere, an author known for his intellectual works dips a toe into writing popular fiction, only to receive an unprecedented response from the audience. A man’s simple attempts to order gourmet dishes turn into an endless adventure. In another story, a persistent stalker strives to get arrested and stay in prison at all costs. A man plays a deadly, never-ending game of poker with a ruthless character. A pimp unabashedly boasts about his good work, while a smut-writing pedophile remains unscathed even when serving prison time with some vicious inmates. A naïve boy with a bird perched atop his shoulders goes on hilarious misadventures.

As in his previous books, Hanna once again draws from his own experiences in criminal justice. There is no shortage of intriguing characters in his stories. While you could not always justify their questionable actions and blatant lack of moral compasses, you will be amazed by the tricks they had up their sleeves. To my amused disbelief, each prided themselves on their ideologies instead of pretending to be a better person. I loved how the stories never followed a predictable path and reached unexpected endings instead. Some tales, such as ‘The Lottery’ and ‘Strutting Hog’ took a sinister turn, while ‘Life as We Knew It’ and ‘Do You Do Hits’ made me laugh out loud. ‘The Tallyman’ and ‘The Keeper of the Abyss’ allowed me glimpses into the dark underbelly of the human psyche.

The use of subtle yet dark humor perfectly complemented the satirical writing. Thus, even when Hanna mocked the absurdities of the current social or political norms, the barbs were mild but thought-provoking. I admired how Hanna discussed sensitive topics with utmost ease and pointed to corrupt systems without flinching while maintaining a witty approach. I recommend Fact Check and More Probing Tales to any socially aware reader who wouldn’t mind occasionally peeking into the darker side.

Essien Asian

A writer with a twisted sense of humor, a prison warden in a love-hate relationship with the town whore, and a high-stakes poker game where the difference between winning and losing could be a bag full of money or a bullet in a back alley. These are just a few of the stories that make up James Hanna's Fact Check and More Probing Tales. Read along and discover how far a young man will go for love, the feeble nature of the crowd when it comes to resisting the plans of the government, and the inner workings of the mind of a gifted criminal who cannot resist toying with fate in this interesting collection.

Fact Check and More Probing Tales is an anthology of short stories by James Hanna with an almost twisted edge to it. The characters are diverse in terms of their background and motivation but remarkably easy to identify with. The storylines vary from the typical to the extremely unusual but they maintain the same underlying theme that these stories may be fiction but the events described can happen to anyone. A really good example of this would have to be the intricacies of getting a simple take-home meal order correct while dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic in Life As We Know It. Hanna has created a lovely compilation and crowns it with some riveting storytelling. I enjoyed reading this book and I daresay adventure genre readers will love it.

Bernadette Longu

In Fact Check and More Probing Tales, James Hanna has put together a collection of short stories relating to people he met on his travels and in his work. Hanna has written in such a way that the reader feels as if they are actually the teller of the story. The narrative is the type of conversation readers would have with themselves while traveling on a long road or just working at home on their own. The period that the author writes in varies so readers find themselves in the Covid-19 year. Then the reader hears about Bill Clinton and when Donald Trump was replaced by Joe Biden. The unusual and colorful characters that appear throughout the book, some more often than others, all play key parts in each of the stories told.

The reader will find that this book will capture their attention and each story needs to be pondered over once read before moving on to the next one. Fact Check and More Probing Tales by James Hanna is a book of short stories that will have the reader thinking hard about their own life and the decisions they have made and what point in their life they have arrived at. The book is very thought-provoking, as well as humorous in places, and sad. I found it to be inspirational as well as fun. I highly recommend that one should read it at least once if not twice. Thank you for a most interesting read, James Hanna. I enjoyed it tremendously.