Antiheroes have always enjoyed popularity in literature, provided they maintain a certain balance between their virtues and flaws. The protagonist (if he may be called that) of Tall Tales of Felony and Failure has very little in the way of virtues, and an abundance of flaws, including drunkenness, lying, stealing, malingering, and casual murder as a tool of convenience. He's about as distasteful and reprehensible a man as you could never wish to meet. He's also thoroughly likable and engaging. Even as he and his friend, Tom, go about their business and exemplify every nasty trait one should avoid, you can't help but root for them. This is a buddy-road-trip-adventure story turned on its head, smashed to bits, and then reanimated with misanthropic glee.
Tall Tales unfolds quickly. The reader is immediately thrown into the plot, one that frequently seems to be one thing, and then is revealed to be another. With less skill, this would be chaotic and difficult to follow, but the author, Warren Haustrumerda, tells the story with vivid and nimble precision. As with most antiheroes, Cranston Staigne has some mitigating factors in his past. His tragedies, both small and great, are gradually and deftly revealed. It would be a disservice to give away the plot, and the style defies an exact label, but I will say that it reads like a collaboration between Henry Miller and Philip K. Dick. If that doesn't sound like something you want to see more of, there's something wrong with you.
However, this novella is not without a couple of problems. It has been poorly proofread and contains several typos. These were not enough to spoil my reading pleasure, but it is aggravating to see such a lack of care in publishing. The far more egregious issue, one that in my opinion is unforgivable, is the ending, or lack thereof. Apparently, the editor chose to chop off the end of the novella. This all but ruins the story, and it makes for a thoroughly unsatisfying and disappointing conclusion. If I had read the story as it is published with only that non-ending, I would not recommend the book to anyone. It's far too disappointing to have a story that enjoyable end so ignobly. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to communicate with the author and was given the final chapters of the novella, which Haustrumerda calls the "Extended Edition." This re-attachment of the actual ending saves Tall Tales. The ending as the author intended it is appropriate and satisfying. It also leaves room for a sequel, a notion that makes me very happy and hopeful.
I give the chopped edition 2.5 stars, but the "extended edition" gets a solid 4 stars.
Tall Tales of Felony and Failure