Book Title: The Weston Files – collected stories from Hank Garner
Author: Hank Garner
Publication Date: March 4, 2018
Available on: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Weston, Mississippi is a mysterious and magical place. On the surface, it looks like your standard bucolic small southern town where everybody knows everyone. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll find strange things lurking. Sometimes it’s unimaginable, sometimes it’s unexpected and sometimes it’s downright creepy. But everything you find in this collection will entertain and enrapture you with their tales.
After an introduction about the author and an explanation about the setting and background of Weston, jump into the collection starting with:
“The Witching Hour” – Alicia is a fake fortune teller who learned the art of her profession through her grandmother. Fleecing clients of their money, someone unusual comes into her parlor who knows more than they should. Who is this client and how does she know so much? This is a fantastic introduction into the world of Weston with an unexpectedly suspenseful story that reaches a satisfying conclusion and answers to your questions. And I had many questions as I read it.
“Keena’s Lament” – In ancient times, Armaros is a Watcher, who is almost immortal. Skeptical of humanity and the way they perceive reality, he discovers a little puppy, which he names Keena. But when a flood scours the earth, what will happen to them? A majestic tale, wonderfully told, about their special bond and how they weather it, dropping tantalizing clues about what’s really going on here and concluding with a very appropriate and beautiful ending. The Watcher’s fascinating history discovering the joys of having a best friend with him in his travels are emotionally powerful and very affecting.
“The Visitation” – A man in a roadhouse, who was dismissed as a crackpot years ago, spins a yarn to a young but hungry journalist named Josh. When the narrator was a child when a mysterious hitchhiker named Marcel was invited to help around their farm. But Marcel is not what he appears to be and holds many secrets, which could have ramifications for all mankind! This is enveloping and engrossing storytelling at its best from the first page to the last and didn’t let me go until it reached its astonishing and completely unanticipated ending.
“Eve’s Children” – Dr. Lexi Danvers has done much archeological research into the origins of the human race and is about to unveil unequivocal proof of her surprising and unusual findings to the world. But the news she must share doesn’t sit well with the public, as it blurs the line between science and faith. But when her opposition does something drastic, her convictions about her research are put to the ultimate test. An enthralling tale that successfully blends all these concepts together in fascinating and imaginative ways that held me spellbound with its storytelling.
“The Hereafter” – Daryl is an ambitious but skeptical television reporter sent across America debunking local superstitions and his segments are extremely popular throughout the country. When he reaches his next destination of Weston to investigate a haunted swamp, the locals share the terrifying tale of the ghosts roaming there. But what does he truly expect to find there and is it a hoax? A lighthearted romp that eventually takes dark and disturbing turns into spine-tingling territory and unimagined, eye-opening terrors that shock you by the end.
“Siren Song of the Mississippi Queen” – Will is a mariner who cares deeply for his sister Gabby, who is living alone and hears voices calling her to the ocean. But she’s not taking her meds and Will is having difficulties taking care of her full-time. But what happens when she’s no longer able to resist the voices? This story completely wrecked me, leaving me spent after investing in a brother who cares for his mentally ill sister, their family history, their shared love of the sea and for one another. The connection to old folklore of the oceans adds depth to this enigmatic and emotional tale.
“Dreamer” – A young adult has strange but vivid dreams about crimes being committed downtown by a man in a hoodie and when he wakes up, he finds that they’ve come true! But who is this shadowy robber and why is our protagonist seeing these things before they happen? It’s a conundrum that involved me deeply as the mysteries piled up and his state of mind became more frantic whenever he tried to solve the problem. I enjoyed the little clues, got frustrated when the plans to catch the man in the hoodie failed and was mesmerized by how the dilemma got worse until I got blindsided by the final few pages. It also features a main character whose shoes you walk a mile in and feel the strange and bizarre occurrences that he does. Told directly from the point of view of the dreamer, this storytelling method immersed me in its tale and made me want to keep turning the pages.
“Writer’s Block” – Stu is a bestselling novelist, trying to conclude his trilogy of books, having ended book two with a cliffhanger, his hero stuck in a literary limbo. Stu’s not sure how he can follow up his story and he has a deadline looming. Looking for inspiration, he powers up an old typewriter and writes up an outlandish little story to see if it will help. But when this story comes true the next day, he cannot believe it. What he does next with this unusual typewriter is humorous and unpredictable, leading to a thoughtful and touching ending that left me with a big smile on my face. By the way, if you want to read more about Stu, pick up the full novel about him, which tells the rest of his story: Writer’s Block: a novel. I highly recommend it.
Each story includes commentary about the origin of each tale, what the author’s thoughts were and even their inspirations. There are even a couple of instances where the author suggests music and playlists to listen to for that particular story. These thoughts give additional depth to it and what led to its creation. This kind of peek behind the curtain of the author’s process was welcome, enjoyable and insightful.
This entire collection is a truly delightful journey in perfectly capturing the idyllic life of a small town and its calm lifestyle with much hiding underneath its pleasant surface. Each story is a sparkling tale filled with personality and gentle charm. The eeriness of Weston and its darker side demonstrates that something is not quite right hiding underneath the surface. It’s a mystical town where literally anything can happen and does, but it’s also filled with magic, faith along with some weirdness too.
Add in these wonderful and whimsical characters who are fleshed out human beings whom you might meet on the street, everyday folk like you or me. Combine this with their urgent situations that grow ever direr on multiple levels the further you read and you’ll find, like I did, that each tale is a full and sumptuous meal in a small short story package. The situations I read here are grounded by real people facing unusual and fascinating circumstances. Each one is intriguing and poignant, stirring your emotions with their potency.
This is a truly flawless and fantastically satisfying collection filled with bold imagination that highlights the authors wonderful writing talent.
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Hank Garner include “The Pandora Codex – Oliver Webber, Book 1” and “World Domination: A Supervillain Anthology – Superheroes and Vile Villains, Book 2“.