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Tales the Devil Told Me

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**2022 World Fantasy Award Finalist**
**2021 Foreword INDIES Silver medal for Short Stories**
**One of Largehearted Boy's Favorite Short Story Collections of 2021**

"A marvel of storytelling filled with delicious surprises." - Sharma Shields

What if Captain Hook gave up marauding and took a gig at the Post Office? How did Hamlet's uncle Claudius become such a rat? What might happen if a plastic surgeon fell for Medusa? If Moby Dick could write a letter, what would he say to Ahab? The answers to these and many other questions can be found in TALES THE DEVIL TOLD ME, winner of the 2020 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction.

These twelve stories examine the possible lives of such classic literary villains as Professor Moriarty, Shere Khan, Rumpelstiltskin, Polyphemus, Mrs. Danvers and others, while illuminating the consumptive nature of love, the crushing weight of isolation, the false promise of beauty, and the power of storytelling itself.


"With empathy and wit, Jen Fawkes explores the inner lives of reviled or marginalized characters—from Rumpelstiltskin’s desire to nurture a child to Medusa’s struggles with dating to the heartbreaking backstory of the witch who devoured Hansel and Gretel. In re-imagining characters displaced from their own stories, sabotaged by their own wild pasts, Fawkes offers welcome revisions to the familiar stories that have made and unmade us."
—Amy Bonnaffons, author of The Regrets

"What a clever, mercurial, metaphorical, topsy-turvy book of imaginings Tales the Devil Told Me is. By subverting our notions of notorious villains, Jen Fawkes has conjured a magic talking mirror whose words reveal our collective humanity and vulnerability. This is a marvel of storytelling filled with delicious surprises."
—Sharma Shields, author of The Cassandra

"Nimble, wired, savvy, unpredictable, playful and poignant, the slant-tellings and narrative shortcircuitings that constitute Tales the Devil Told Me remind us with every story that literature is ever passionately intertextual, every piece a kind of thank-you letter to all the others that have informed, reformed, and deformed it."
—Lance Olsen, author of My Red Heaven

"Tales the Devil Told Me takes our most memorable literary villains hostage and unhinges everything you thought you knew about them. Humorous and heartbreaking, these tales will have you laughing, crying, and questioning the worlds of our literary classics."
--Sequoia Nagamatsu, author of How High We Go in the Dark

"In Tales the Devil Told Me, Jen Fawkes plumbs the depths of fairy tales and literary classics with equal ease, extending storylines beyond the bounds of the originals or giving rich and complex voices to formerly minor characters. Whether she is inhabiting the stepson of a reformed Captain Hook or the dour housekeeper of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, she moves with such creativity, skill, and confidence that you leave the tale marked by the indelible version she has created, feeling that, at last, you know the real story."
—Anjali Sachdeva, author of All the Names They Used for God

190 pages, Paperback

First published October 5, 2021

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About the author

Jen Fawkes

4 books37 followers
Jen Fawkes is the author of MANNEQUIN AND WIFE (LSU Press), a 2020 Shirley Jackson Award Nominee and winner of the 2020 Gold INDIE Foreword Award in Short Stories, and TALES THE DEVIL TOLD ME (Press 53), winner of the 2021 Silver INDIE Foreword Award in Short Stories and finalist for the 2022 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.

Jen's debut novel is forthcoming in 2024 from the Overlook Press, an imprint of Abrams Books. Her work has appeared in One Story, Lit Hub, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, Best Small Fictions 2020, and other venues. She is the winner of numerous fiction prizes, from Salamander, Washington Square Review, and others. Jen lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and two cats named Tessio and Clemenza.

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5 stars
29 (74%)
4 stars
5 (12%)
3 stars
3 (7%)
2 stars
1 (2%)
1 star
1 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews
Profile Image for Jen Fawkes.
Author 4 books37 followers
July 12, 2021
This book was my MFA thesis project, and each of its twelve stories is a love letter to literature.

Before beginning each piece, I first reread and studied the text(s) that inspired it. For each, I endeavored to find a brand-new access point into a well-known tale; over time, I have come to see that this is how every piece of writing works.
Profile Image for SmallPressPicks.
28 reviews3 followers
July 3, 2021
This inventive story collection considers the full emotional and motivational scope of famous villains from literature and myth, often illuminating the personal histories and tragedies that may have engendered their villainy, or, with time, sparked a desire to turn over a new leaf. The result is a nuanced and emotionally engaging immersion in the at-times-fantastical, yet eerily plausible, worlds of the stories. For my review of the book, see https://smallpresspicks.com/tales-the....
Profile Image for Luke Rolfes.
Author 5 books9 followers
June 13, 2022
Super fun re-telling of popular stories from the villain's perspective. Highly imaginative, superbly written, and witty.
120 reviews14 followers
April 1, 2023
This was really great! I have a hard time giving short story collections 5 stars, but this one came close. There were some definite 5-star stories in here, including "As You Can Imagine, This Makes Dating Difficult" and "The Tragedie of Claudius, Prince of Denmark."
Profile Image for Heather Newton.
Author 9 books32 followers
October 7, 2021
This is a beautifully written collection, highly literary with exquisite humor. The stores reminded me at times of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and also Andrea Barrett's short stories (Ship Fever and others). Reading the author's unique take on minor and marginalized characters will make you want to go back and read or re-read the original texts on which they are based. Highly recommend.
2 reviews
December 20, 2021
The stories in TALES THE DEVIL TOLD ME reimagine well-known works of literature and myth - including HAMLET, REBECCA, and MOBY-DICK - from the POV of the villain. Once you've read these stories, you'll never see the originals in the same way again. Jen Fawkes's second book of stories is as intriguing and impressive as her first.
Profile Image for Darrin Doyle.
Author 7 books41 followers
November 29, 2021
What a beautifully brutal, surprising, funny, and original collection! Can't recommend this enough.
Profile Image for Sheri.
106 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2022
Loved the new take on older stories. Very well written.
Profile Image for Rachel Swearingen.
Author 4 books47 followers
March 22, 2022
Jen Fawkes is so inventive. In Tales the Devil Told Me, she reimagines fairytales, myths, and even Hamlet. Always entertaining, in this collection, Fawkes gives new life to age-old villains, often inviting them into contemporary times. I especially liked her retelling of Rumpstiltskin and Captain Hook. The latter stayed with me long after I finished the book. The unexpected turns in these tales delight.
Profile Image for Jan Stinchcomb.
Author 20 books32 followers
December 4, 2021
It's easy to see why this won the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction. Twelve exquisitely skillful tales, perfectly written, focusing on villains you will recognize but probably haven't thought of in quite this way before. If you care about the short story, if you are a practitioner of the form, you can't afford not to read this book.
Profile Image for Christina Rosso.
Author 3 books47 followers
November 17, 2021
This book will make you rethink many of the tales you grew up reading. It will make you laugh and cringe and ache. It is beautifully written and biting.
Profile Image for Jonathon Von.
346 reviews31 followers
May 11, 2023
Beautifully written recontextualizations of older stories. Confident, lovely prose dances across the twists of tales. Classic villains become complex characters; Captain Hook and King Claudius become longing romantics. Snow White, The Arabian Nights, and The Jungle Book transmogrify into dreamlike mediations of masculinity, loneliness, jealousy, and parenthood. Not entirely consistent, some may be a little long, some a little short, but others are just right. Compared to the author's first collection Mannequin and Wife, I think this is more literarily ambitious. But I may have favored the dreamlike ambiguity of the former and this was a little more cut-and-dry.
Profile Image for Guy Choate.
Author 2 books17 followers
December 5, 2022
1. "Tigers Don't Apologize"
2. "Demerol, Demerol, Benzedrine, Schnaps"
3. "Never, Never"

I probably would have appreciated these stories more if I were more familiar with the works that inspired them. I'm a poor student of classic literature.
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews

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