Nebraska Book Awards winner
Troublemakers is an often hilarious, sometimes frightening, occasionally off-the-wall collection of stories about men living on the edge. From the streets of Chicago's southwest side to the rural roads of Nebraska to the small towns of southern Illinois, these men tread a very fine line between right and wrong, love and hate, humor and horror.
Each story is a Pandora's box waiting to be opened: a high school boy with a new driver's license picks his brother up from jail; a UPS driver suspects his wife of having an affair but cannot find any tangible evidence of her indiscretion; an unemployed man's life begins to unravel after he discovers a dead man in a tree in his own backyard; two boys spend Halloween with an older thug; a young college teacher's patience is tested by both his annoying colleagues and the criminals who haunt his neighborhood. In story after story, McNally's troublemakers lead readers to a place no less thrilling or dangerous than the human heart itself.
“John McNally is an electrifying writer whose stories burrow under the skin. His world becomes our world, his way of seeing, ours. Resistance is futile.” —Richard Russo, author of Straight Man
“I love Troublemakers. With a palpable reality breathing from every page, this book has tough people in tough spots. John McNally's writing is so good that the characters won't leave you alone, but will stay in your mind for days. Read these stories and you are entering the world of a brilliant writer.” —Chris Offutt, author of Kentucky Straight
“John McNally has that rare gift of achieving both humor and poignancy, and his ability to evoke the personal past in all its delicious detail makes one think of an American Roddy Doyle. ” —T. Coraghessan Boyle, author of T. C. Boyle Stories
“Troublemakers is, on every page, in every sentence, simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and absolutely heartbreaking. John McNally's work will remind you of the greatest stories you ever heard from your best friend, or your long-lost cousin, or the improbable barroom genius you end up next to at the end of the night, except they're even better: vivid and moving and eloquent and full of the kind of moral weight that reminds you what stories are for. He has things to tell, and he does so, beautifully. ” —Elizabeth McCracken
“The protaganists … are vivid, though hapless, the adolescents the most heartbreaking in their attempts to not only make trouble, but to make men of themselves. ” — Publishers Weekly
“The lives McNally depicts are dark, but the situations are consistently hilarious and, at times, filled with a quiet hopefulness. ” — Chicago Tribune
“These stories feature laugh-out-loudfunny, haunting and a slightly unsound cast of male narrators at the turning points in their rought and tumble lives. ” — Madison Magazine
“ The protagonists … are vivid though hapless, the adolescents the most heartbreaking in their attempts to not only make trouble, but to make men of themselves.”—Publishers Weekly
“The author has an exquisite feel for simple, everyday aches, the heartbreaking common cruelites that people swallow, dazed, barely missing a beat. As McNally's narrators–mostly uneasy sidekicks to the ‘troublemakers ’ of the title–bear witness to and absorb the shock of neighborhood events, readers are left a bit breathless and feel as though they are right there.”—Emily Lloyd, School Library Journal
“vibrant, haunting collection”—Don de Grazia, Chicago Tribune
“McNally has successfully painted a sullen comedy using a keen grasp of not how things should be, but rather how they truly are.”—Patrick Graney, Weekly Planet (Tampa, FL)
“ (the stories) grapple with the dilemmas of real men—sadistic boyhood friends, sexual urges, stale marriages, unwanted pregnancies, unemployment—but they do so in a way that cuts straight through the beer-guzzling, caveman stereotype and ends up with somethign far more complex and far more captivating.”—Kim Brooks, San Francisco Bay Guardian