Four American Tales: A Quartet of Evocative Stories about Love and Loss, Struggle and Ambition from the 1950s to the Present Day

Wichega – an atmospheric tale of childhood’s dreams and nightmares; A Hundred Ways to Live – crime and punishment on the road to nowhere; Ballbusters on Parade – an unconventional parable of life in adult entertainment; Uncle Mort – an unexpected bequest leads to marital problems.

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A World of Hopes and Fears on the Wrong Side of the American Dream …

  • Great Characters

    Sweet Pea is drawn to the dark lake beneath the highway her Daddy takes every day. But where does he go? And will the Wichega catch him?

  • Powerful Writing

    ‘She imagined its eyes looking down, watching her, watching everything that lived and breathed, that crawled and died upon the unforgiving earth.’

  • Intriguing Storylines

    A hint of Southern Gothic; small-time outlaws on the road; sun and sex in the San Fernando Valley; an empty house in rural Virginia.

What Readers Are Saying About Four American Tales

★★★★★ Jack Messenger’s first collection of stories throws up an eclectic mix of characters and situations, binding the tales together with themes of love and loss, struggle and ambition … Featuring mainly strong female characters who face challenges that could change their lives, this is a fascinating collection that demonstrates a talent for language and character. The ‘voices’ in each story are very different, which often signifies a highly talented writer. In this case, the author shows he can write intelligently and inventively in a variety of styles while still keeping his audience engrossed. It’s always nice to jump on the literary train at the start, and I’ll be looking forward to Jack Messenger’s next book with relish.

Amazon review

★★★★ Serious fiction that’s original and engaging.

Amazon review

★★★★★ These should be the next short stories you read!

Amazon review

★★★★★ Jack Messenger has written four wonderful short stories, evocative and intriguing, each with a distinctive main character who you’ll remember long after you’ve finished reading. Jack writes beautifully and is a master of the short story form. 

Amazon review

★★★★★ This is a fantastic collection from a really talented author … 100 per cent recommend this collection.

Amazon review

★★★★★ These four slices of vibrant Americana make me yearn for more of Jack’s stories. They are as different as four different kinds of pie … Each has the strength of tone and story that endures, and a main character whose struggles become ours and who lives with us beyond the page.

Amazon review

★★★★★ Each of the stories in this compelling collection works so well in its own right, while taken together the tales form marvellous variations on the theme of knowing, not knowing and fighting against knowing when the truth is unpalatable … a memorable collection.

Amazon review

★★★★ These four short stories by Jack Messenger perfectly capture the intimacy of the everyday mundane detail in all its gritty pathos. Each story has its own distinct voice: they could have been dictated and then transcribed from the character’s own words, and each vibrates deeply with reality: real people, real lives, real pain. I highly recommend this collection to fans of well-written and thought/emotion-provoking short fiction.

Steph Warren Bookshine and Readbows

★★★★ Interesting characters and stories. In the foreword the author indicates that one of his aims with the stories is to “provoke thought.” The stories certainly did that with me. They have characters and storylines that make you wonder, sometimes forcing you to read between the lines and, in doing so, making the story your own since your interpretation will be different than mine. A good, fast read.

Amazon review

★★★★★ On starting this collection with the first story, Wichega, I was immediately drawn in by the wistful, melancholic voice of Sweet Pea, telling her story so powerfully. This story is so evocative of memories, of sights and smells and sensations, that I almost felt that I was right there in the scene. This story is such an engaging way to open the quartet of stories. Messenger's writing is equally powerful and emotive in the other stories. The characters are developed richly, each having their own distinct voice and mannerisms that portray far more than what is told of them in the stories themselves. These stories, and the characters in them, are varied enough to keep the reader engaged and curious throughout the book. There is neither cliché nor repetition in the plots, characters and imagery delivered by Messenger. These stories are, without doubt, American in both style and setting, at different times reminding me of the imagery and eloquence of John Steinbeck. This is the first of his books that I have read, but I definitely hope to read more of his writing. I enjoyed Four American Tales very much.

Amazon review

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