Surprise is in store when, in the back of a strange used goods store, Josh finds an old Remington typewriter and a fedora with some very mysterious powers. As Josh embarks on his first novel writing adventure, he finds that his new hat has its own story to tell – of a time before history began – and is quite demanding of Josh’s attention. As the story consumes him, Josh’s life begins to unravel, and he soon finds he is unable to separate himself from the hat and the story. When the last page is written, Josh is left with more questions than answers…both about the story and his own life.
In many ways this is a book within a book, the story of Josh and his discovery of a magical fedora hat, and an old Remington typewriter, and the story that Josh (and others) write on that typewriter under the influence of the hat. The concept is an interesting and intriguing one, in many ways any writer would like a magical hat that helps them produce their next bestseller but this hat is not as straightforward as that. This hat becomes all consuming, taking over lives as it becomes contagious and pushing people to the edge.
As the book unfolds it tells the story of Josh, but also of the story that Josh is writing with the aid of his hat, hence there are two tales being told here. One is set in the here and now, and the other in another time, and possibly another place. This is an interesting plot device and the two stories play out during the course of the book. It does mean that neither are really told in detail as the plot shifts from one to the other, but it is a good idea none the less.
The book is a short one (under 300 pages), and the language simple and easy to read. However I was longing for something more descriptive, and consequently more engaging but this just wasn’t there in this book. I was engaged more in the inner book rather than the story of Josh, and often found myself wanting to get through the bits with Josh and back to the other story! I really wanted the author to have done more for both of the stories, for the development of the characters who were a little one dimensional and lacked depth. This didn’t happen however, and I feel that this was a missed opportunity by the author and a chance to engage the reader much more than I felt.
This was an interesting read, with a couple of strong plot devices. The story within a story works well, with the fedora and Remington typewriter driving both. In the story of Josh the hat and typewriter drive him and his friends like an addiction, which like other addictions takes over their lives. This results in the other story developing, being told, and the tale of the characters there developing, and some paralells developing between the two.
Overall this was a good read, I’d like to have seen more character development overall, and with Josh’s storyline in particular but the other story made up with this as there was plenty there.
3 out of 5 Stars – I liked it.
About the author:
U.S. born, Canadian novelist Chuck Waldron is currently working on his fourth novel, a thriller about an investigative blogger who uncovers more than he ever imagines…and has no idea what to do with his discovery.
His first novel, Tears in the Dust, is a mystery set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War in 1937. When Alestair Ferguson volunteers to fight in the International Brigade he doesn’t realize the true price he will have to pay. Chuck’s second novel, Remington and the Mysterious Fedora, is a quirky fantasy, a story about what happens when a young man sits at the keyboard of a manual typewriter and puts on an old fedora. When the fedora and its mysterious power begins to whisper a story to him, the young man has a strange adventure indeed. His third novel, Served Cold, spans decades and stretches from the countryside of rural Ontario to a quiet artists’ studio in Tucson, Arizona. With lots of murder and mayhem in between, the story is what happens when a long-standing feud erupts into hot-blooded vengeance.
Chuck wrote over thirty short stories before setting out to write novels that are affordable and entertaining. He has attended writing workshops in Iowa, Florida, Georgia and Ontario, Canada.
“I grew up,” Chuck said, “listening to my grandfather, an Ozark Mountain story teller, spinning tales of the caves on his farm, describing them as hiding places once used by the Jesse & Frank James’ gang. It didn’t matter if the stories were true or not. Those legends set fire to my imagination, creating images that emerged slowly over the years, finally igniting as my short stories and novels.”
Now, thirty-plus short stories and three novels later, ideas keep coming, with more novels under development. Do they share anything in common? Each has its own unique voice and tale to tell, yet, at their heart, his stories tell about the human condition – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Chuck adds, “stored images that echo in my writing include train whistles in the night, Norman Rockwell childhood scenes, U.S. Army memories, blue collar jobs, university, a professonal career, and finally retirement. Many of my images are drawn from this pool of memories: places visited, sights seen, and people met. The rest I filled in with my imagination: dreams of places yet to be visited, sights yet to be seen, and people yet to be met.”
His literary roots were planted in the American Midwest and thrived when transplanted – over thirty-nine years ago – to the rich, cultural soil of Ontario. He and his wife, Suzanne, spend their summers in Kitchener, Ontario and are warmed by a winter sun in Port St. Lucie, Florida.