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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!