Author Jeffrey S. Stephens has another captivating novel in FOOL’S ERRAND. Told in the first person by the son of Blackie Rinaldi, the storyteller is a young, single, advertising executive who recounts this gripping and humorous tale of family secrets through recalled stories of family dynamics. The author sets the scene through flashbacks of this large, picturesque, extended immigrant family in New York City grappling with identity and survival. The storyteller relates how, six years after his father's death, he receives a box of papers and mementos from his mother. which includes a letter written to him dated only months before Blackie was killed in an auto accident. His father died, leaving a mysterious legacy of a purported treasure he claims to hold the secret of a "bigger deal since the building of the Suez Canal". Blackie was “a mass of paradoxes”. He was a war veteran who made a decent living as a salesman but supplemented his income through illegal means. He was loud, gruff, and an opinionated gangster. A tough guy. An alcoholic. A dreamer.
Stephen's ability to present his characters as real people is evident. For instance, "Benny was shorter…, a cherubic guy with a round face, very little hair, a dark complexion, and an easygoing manner belied only by his reptilian gaze. His round chubby cheeks puffed up like one of those sculptures that symbolize the winds of summer and winter. Without his usual scowl, he could be a cuddly bear on a children's show.” Other characters are as colorfully presented. It's Stephens' hard-jawed characters, with their tough talk and scarred souls, who really make the tale come to life.
This novel is a haunting tribute to a misunderstood father in a dysfunctional, highly emotional family. Complexities of family dynamics, secrets, and lies are shared with humor. There are unforeseen consequences for all involved as they struggle with the advice, "great wealth or great difficulty."
In conclusion, our hero learns a lesson from the past: Blackie always said, "Straight shooters always win." FOOL’S ERRAND is a book filled with unforgettable characters and a tension that heightens with every chapter. Jeffrey S. Stephens writes with exceptional skill and eloquence. He is undoubtedly an author you should take note of.