It takes a lot of guts to pin your first short story collection on a group of largely unsympathetic characters.

But that’s precisely what Kevin Fortuna has done in “The Dunning Man,” recently published by the New Orleans-based Lavender Ink.

And how did it turn out? Very, very well.

In this six story collection, featuring an eclectic cast of mostly Irish American and Irish characters, Fortuna takes us inside the minds of people we’ve probably all come across at some point but with whom we cautiously avoided making eye contact or extended conversation.

He is unafraid to dive head-first into characters who are less than standup – a guy self-medicating his way to meet a lady in Atlantic City while he convinces himself he’s better than everyone else on public transportation; a man helpless in the face of his locally powerful Hudson Valley clan and his track record for DUIs; an Iraq vet with violent but strangely moral impulses; a landlord who has no idea how to handle his tenants (who include a rap star, a tiger, Russian acrobats and a very crush-able blackjack-dealing mom).

Yet there’s (almost) always something oddly redeeming about these people – be it their complete transparency in spite of themselves or their utterly relatable belief that things can and will work out somehow, without you having to change anything about yourself.

Fortuna’s writing is fresh, intense, and intriguing, and “The Dunning Man” is a wonderfully bleary-eyed look at the contemporary Irish American experience. Don’t miss out.

The first $10,000 of net proceeds of the sales of "The Dunning Man" will go to Concern Worldwide US, a humanitarian organization that serves 27 of the world's poorest countries. Click here for more information about Concern.