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Title: The Father of Frankenstein
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About this title
James Whale, the elegant director of such classic horror films as"Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein, " was found at his Los Angeles mansion in 1957, dead of unnatural causes. Christopher Bram, whose social insight and wit have earned him comparisons to Henry James and Gore Vidal, explores the mystery of Whale's last days in this evocative and suspenseful work of fiction. Home from the hospital after a minor stroke, Whale becomes convinced that his time is nearly over. Increasingly confused and disoriented, he is overwhelmed by images from the past: his working-class childhood in Britain, lavish Hollywood premieres in the 1930s attended with a nervous lover, meeting Garbo, parties with Elsa Manchester, Charles Laughton, and Elizabeth Taylor, nightmares from his own movies. Handsome ex-marine Clayton Boone, an angry loner who is Whale's gardener, becomes the focus of a fantastic plot Whale devises to provide his life with the dramatic ending it deserves. Bram juxtaposes the worlds of two very different men, James Whale and Clayton Boone, deftly shifting between the complex mind of an English exile full of experience and sardonic humor, and that of an American whose attitude toward Whale moves from disgust to fascination to a final shock of disbelief. Suggesting influences as diverse as Sunset Boulevard and the works of Christopher Isherwood, "Father of Frankenstein" is a rich yet cutting look at fame, mortality, and hidden desire. Often praised for his singular take on history, culture, and sex, Bram has surpassed himself with this ingenious new novel.Review:
This novel--the basis for the critically acclaimed 1998 film Gods and Monsters--re-creates the last days of film director James Whale, who was found dead in his swimming pool, an apparent suicide, in 1957. Bram offers sharp insights into the darkly comic sensibility that infuses Whale's two most famous films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, as memories of an impoverished English childhood, the trenches of World War I, and Hollywood studios compete for space in a mind whose defenses have been weakened by a stroke. Written in the fluid present tense of a cinematic treatment, Father of Frankenstein is a powerful evocation of an era before Hollywood celebrities could proclaim anything but domestic heterosexuality to the outside world.
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