Rediscover: Straight Man

Lucky Hank, a dark comedy television series based on the novel Straight Man by Richard Russo, released the final episode of its eight-episode first season earlier this month on AMC. Bob Odenkirk stars as Hank Devereaux, chair of the English department at an underfunded Pennsylvania college. Hank, a bored creative writing professor and frustrated writer, contends with a myriad of personal problems amid a tumultuous academic environment--by the end of the first episode, Hank loses an English department no-confidence vote before accidentally being reelected as chair. The main cast includes Mireille Enos, Cedric Yarbrough, Diedrich Bader, Olivia Scott Welch, Sara Amini, and Suzanne Cryer, with guest appearances by Oscar Nuñez, Kyle MacLachlan, Chris Gethard, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Brian Huskey playing author George Saunders. Aaron Zelman, writer/producer of The Killing, and The Office alum Paul Lieberstein adapted Russo's novel and serve as showrunners.

Straight Man, first published by Random House in 1997, was inspired by Russo's experiences teaching at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Connecticut State University, and Penn State Altoona. His 2001 novel Empire Falls won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Russo has also written seven other novels, a memoir and short story collection. His latest book, Somebody's Fool, will be published by Knopf on July 25. Straight Man is available in paperback from Vintage ($18). --Tobias Mutter

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