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Scary, Man Reviews

A silver medal from the IPPY Awards:


Gold: Californios: A Surf Noir Collection, by Jeff McElroy

Silver: Scary, Man, by Jeffrey Hickey (CreateSpace)

Bronze (tie): The Condor Song: A Novel of Suspense, by Darryl Nyznyk (Cross Dove Publishing)

Two Performance Artists Kidnap Their Boss and Do Things With Him, by Scotch Wichmann (Freakshow Books)

5.0 out of 5 stars

'My name is Griffin Donnelly and my blood is O negative. I am a universal donor.'

September 26, 2013
This review is from: Scary, Man (Paperback)
For those readers fortunate enough to have read Jeffrey Hickey's previous two novels, MOREHEAD and THE COACH'S SON, the success of this his most recent foray into the hows and whys we as human beings relate to each other and to the world around us - this book so very aptly titled SCARY, MAN - will be no surprise. Although even with the fine after taste of Hickey's talent remembered from those first books will likely not prepare for the acknowledgement that here is a major American novel. It is simply that. Hickey more than most any other current writer - in the realm of Augusten Burroughs, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Sedaris - has mastered comedic writing, but the startling discovery is that Hickey is equally impressive and effective writing about contemporary mores, the manner in which the world has changed with the invention of social media, the changing perception of same sex people and altered rules and regulations that remain ahead of small minded people who simply haven't a clue what being unique is all about, and on and on. But to the story.

Griffin Donnelly (pause long enough to absorb the history behind the first name of mythological `griffins'...) is a storyteller in Marin County, California who lives with his comfortable wife Samantha and their only daughter Clare (Griffin had a vasectomy after Clare's birth). Griffin's income from his traveling very popular storytelling gigs around schools and clubs is inadequate to support their lifestyle so Samantha does day care. During an El Niño storm Griffin is stuck in Fort Bragg schools where a key incident (Griffin is relieving himself in the school restroom and a young boy walks in and stares at Griffin's voiding - nothing more) lets us know that all is not going to be a smooth ride in the pages to follow. Other incidents happen due to the impossible storm and are also fodder for a rumor mill that will last through the book. Rumor mongers infiltrate the Donnelley's' lives and Griffin's passion for making children happy and entertained is altered by an imposed week of being a cabin parent in a school camp, assigned to a group of difficult boys and complicated by what Griffin thinks might be a flirtation by a very popular and beautiful black teacher - until he discovers that he Is being used as a cover for that teacher's lesbian lifestyle. Camp abruptly ends when Samantha retrieves him because Griffin's parents are killed in an auto accident caused by Griffin's drunken father. Using an inheritance from his very distant parents our little family moves to Inverness, California -a small town with small people - and Griffin is left home to write while Samantha goes off to college to pursue her dream of teaching. Griffin's low self-esteem gradually becomes alcoholism and obesity and life must change in order to retrieve his exited wife and daughter. Griffin begins donating blood to help elevate his sense of worth, finds the process giving his O Negative blood satisfying and fascinating enough that he decides to write a book about it, called MY BLOOD. Life settles in a bit until Griffin learns that Samantha is bisexual and has been having away from home temptations with women, and in addition to this news they both discover on Clare's fifteenth birthday party that Clare is also a lesbian. How all of this turns out keeps the book potent until the final page - including a `scary, man' bout of atrial fibrillation for Griffin, a hope that his book MY BLOOD will be published only to be dampened by the powers that be refusing to allow him to interview people who have been recipients, and a ballast of ill will from small minds in town buoyed by making new friends with Clare's girlfriend's lesbian mother and her absentee Castro District gay father, etc, etc, etc.

This is a very long book (some chapters are long enough to be novellas) but there is not a page that could be edited out, so rich is the content and the manner of writing. While this review's summary may seem to give the whole story away all it truly does is touch lightly on a few of the highlights the Jeffery Hickey has sculpted into a masterful work. In a word it is brilliant - as prose, as social commentary, and as a purge for those buried feelings most of us have about issues we cannot control - or perhaps we just may be able to...Scary, Man! Grady Harp, September 13


Clarion Review
Scary, Man
Jeffrey Hickey

A story within a story; flawed, complex characters and taut, believable dialogue make this novel stand out.

Scary, Man tells the story of a good man whose life is dogged by nasty rumors of sexual deviancy, even after he moves his family to another town. Jeffrey Hickey carefully crafts a plot with believable dialogue and a pace that slowly builds to a satisfying conclusion.

Griffin Donnelley is a writer and storyteller. He adores his wife and daughter with a love that shines through even the scary tales he relates to classrooms of young children. These students delight in his voice abilities and connect with him on a fundamental level even he does not truly comprehend. He may be too nice, though, for he finds himself manipulated into babysitting a group of “tweenagers” at a rustic summer camp. Miserable and resentful, Griffin does his best to mentor the boys, although the beautiful young teacher he meets at the camp has her own designs on Griffin’s embattled reputation. Little does he know that his encounters at the camp will be the most important of his life.

The dialogue, especially the way Griffin talks to youngsters as more than just children, is taut and believable. For example, when asking a troubled fifth-grade girl to dance at the camp, sensing this is what she needs to heal, she tells him, “No. This is embarrassing. Go away.” To which Griffin replies, “Well, that’s a relief. I don’t want to dance, either.” This unexpected retort softens the girl, who relents and dances with the humorous adult. With that simple but profound act, the girl’s life is forever changed.

The author takes considerable time to put the diverse elements of his tale into place. But he pulls the threads together nicely. The story begins with a day in the life of a seemingly average guy and builds to one that tackles such heavy issues as as pedophilia, child abuse, alcoholism, marital infidelity, and homosexuality. The protagonist’s grappling with these social issues as several years pass is skillfully told, for Griffin finds that even people who commit reprehensible deeds may be more sympathetic than they seem. Griffin learns that he must acknowledge the harm caused by his own misconceptions and hurtful conduct before he can overcome the misbehavior of others.

The unique use of a story-within-a-story device is also noteworthy. Griffin seeks to publish a book titled My Blood, which would showcase the impact his donated blood had on people who received it. From the idea’s inception to Griffin’s dealings with the publishing industry and the duplicitous medical director of the blood center, the often frustrating life of a writer lends verisimilitude to Griffin’s struggles with money woes and alcoholism.

From the nadir of his personal and professional life, Griffin’s redemption builds to a satisfying conclusion. Scary, Man is recommended to those who enjoy the development of flawed, complex characters who must overcome adversity on many fronts.

Alan Couture


Five Stars out of Five

A MUST read

By The Book Lover's Attic on October 17, 2013
Format: Paperback

I can honestly say that this is one of the most relate-able books that I have read in a long time. Set in small towns in Northern California, scary, man explores the pitfalls of living where everyone knows your business, and they are all too happy to pass it along to others. If you have not been the direct target of rumors or bullying, you may at least know someone who has. Or have you been the perpetrator of such rumors? If so, watch out, Griffin Donnelley has had enough. It may have taken him most of this story to get up the courage to face his foes, but when he does, be prepared to grab a tissue.

I really enjoyed the whole book, but I must say that my favorite part of the book is where Griffin rediscovers his voice. It was written so well that I felt like it was my moment as well as his. Yes, I have read books that have moved me and brought me to tears, no doubt. But this book caused me to actually weep. I am not talking about one tear at-a-time trickle. I am talking about a flow of tears that couldn't be stopped. My eyes seemed to have sprung leaks and it actually felt really good.

If you are looking for a well-written book that is pulled right out of modern times, then scary, man is for you. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and most of all make you think about how gossip and rumors can bring out the worst and sometimes the best in people.


Five stars out of five

By AlexaD on June 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

This third novel by Jeffrey Hickey is a wonderful read.

It took me a while to finish this book -- I was about halfway through and enjoying it a lot when I got a flu that completely knocked me out for weeks (I thought I would spend those weeks in bed reading, but no such luck, I spent them sleeping), and then right after I recovered, I opened an iCloud account and my Kindle library promptly disappeared, necessitating a time-consuming customer service call to restore it. Whew!

In the meantime, Scary Man won a well-deserved Independent Publisher book award (IPPY silver medal for best in west coast fiction) last month, and I was very excited to return to it and read the second half. It did not disappoint.

The story starts out on an energetic note, with a bit of an adventure on a long, pre-dawn drive up a California highway, and introduces us to the protagonist Griffin Donnelley and his beloved family. The story is told from Griffin's very unique point of view, and focuses on his journey of self-discovery as life circumstances force him to both confront himself and re-invent himself a few times along the way.

The energy and momentum build throughout the book, and in spite of my own long (though not by choice) break midway through, it's very much a page-turner, as surprising revelations keep coming and readers will be eager to find out where each one leads not only Griffin, but also his wife and daughter.

The author presents a very robust, striking voice through his main character, who projects both strength and sensitivity, a strong sense of values, and, perhaps most importantly, courageous self-honesty that has the potential to inspire readers to look for the same in themselves. I always feel that good fiction elicits either greater empathy or self-awareness, and the very best, as in this case, inspires both.

But what sets the book apart especially is the sense of humor. There are moments of deep sadness in the story, juxtaposed with moments that had me laughing out loud. It's easy to both relate to and love characters who keep their sense of humor in the face of adversity, and going through Griffin's experiences with him is very enjoyable, as he always bounces back from adversity with humor and goodwill, learning and growing along the way.

Very highly recommended!


5.0 out of 5 stars

A Great Character Driven Story!

December 14, 2013
This review is from: Scary, Man (Paperback)

Where does Scary, Man rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
It is one of the best. The author is a talented storyteller. He is my favorite narrator on audible. The story is about a flawed but loving family, and how the community jumps to conclusions about a man who makes his living teaching and working with children. It is engrossing and well told.

What did you like best about this story?
I loved how real the characters are, especially Griffin. He is not a perfect man, but he shows the capacity we all have to change. I found it fascinating to watch how people start rumours and before long, everyone believes them. That is Scary, Man.

Which character – as performed by Jeffrey Hickey – was your favorite?
Griffin is my favorite character. He loves his family so much and would do anything for them., Although he has issues with other members of his extended family and his community, deep down he is a big old teddy bear.

Who was the most memorable character of Scary, Man and why?
I like how Claire shakes things up, but again, I have to talk about Griffin and how he accepted Claire and his wife for who they are. There is a memorable character at the end of the book, but talking about him would give too much away.

Any additional comments?
I could listen to Mr. Hickey narrate anything. He is a wonderful storyteller and does all the voices himself. Scary, Man is rich. There are many layers to it and anyone who loves character driven stories will love this book.


Four Stars out of Five

By Kim on October 14, 2013
Format: Paperback

If you're the kind of person who has been blessed with a charmed career and family life, never had to worry about money, and never been the brunt of small town gossip or office politics, you might not be able to relate to this book. But if you're like the rest of us, you will find yourself reflected back in the pages of "Scary, man."

The book's hero, Griffin Donnelley, at first glance appears to be a crass bull in a china shop, but underneath the bluster lies a sensitive family man who is just trying his best to solider through life. Sometimes tragic, other times humorous, "Scary, man" is unflinching in it's portrayal of Griffin's life as it goes from bad to worse and then back again.

Reflective of our society today when many are finding themselves recreating their lives and careers due to the struggling economy and technology driven landscape, Griffin in a man for the millennium-- a man who reaps both the hard knocks and rewards inherent in living an out of the box existence.

A fast read brimming with honesty that forces you to re-examine yourself, "Scary Man," is a book worth reading.

Five Stars out of Five

By David Fenton on November 12, 2013

Scary, Man is an exercise in an area we all walk in at certain times and in different ways, unless we haven't been living. But this story is put together with a great balance of victory, surprise, darkness and paranoia - propelled with a great sense of humor. The icing on the cake is Mr. Hickey's excellent ability to bring the characters to life in the Audible version of the book. Highly recommended!

Five Stars out of Five

By Lc on November 30, 2013

I ordered this book as an audiobook and it's the first audiobook that I have ever purchased. Wow. The narration by the author Jeffrey Hickey is about the best narration I have ever heard in a storyteller. What makes it so unique is that with the description of the different characters, as well as, the voice changes for each character, I can actually envision what they look like and what they feel. I feel like I'm watching a play although I'm listening to a book!
The main character, Griffin, is an interesting guy. At first, I wasn't sure I would like him but he grows on you with each of his experiences.

I'm not quite finished with the book but am really enjoying it and am looking forward to seeing what each of Griffen's adventures bring into his life!

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