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Brief Reviews-Fiction3
by Virginia Beaton

ROBIN SKELTON`S puckish sense of humour is evident throughout his latest collection of fiction, Hanky-Panky (Sono Nis, 112 pages, $9.95 paper). The dozen short stories gathered here are an assortment of fables, tall tales, and just plain whoppers. Like an old-fashioned yarn-spinner, Skelton has crafted these stories to read like anecdotes that drinking buddies might swap in a tavern. Atmosphere and character development are held to a bare minimum; what`s important here is the plot. In these stories, bizarre elements intrude on ordinary lives, as the characters find themselves at the mercy of inanimate objects - a television, a secondhand suit -which suddenly display sinister control over their owners` lives. In the title story, "Hanky Panky," a man discovers that his VCR is possessed by a spirit that edits and censors television programs to suit its feminist and romantic sensibilities. Even more bewildered is the owner of a second-hand suit in `Making the Difference`: whenever he wears the suit, he is inexplicably driven to lie, cheat, and forge signatures. The more conventional short stories, which lack the fantasy element, tend to bog down and read like extended anecdotes. "Who Said Beatrix Potter?," for example, is a rambling and ultimately pointless account of chasing a rabbit through a snowstorm. Skelton`s tales are, on the whole, most imaginative and amusing when they are most outrageous.

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