Father of Frankenstein

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Overview

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 ...
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1995-04-01 Hardcover New New Item. Item delivered via UPS in 7-9 business days. Tracking available by request Ships from US. Please allow 1-3 weeks for delivery outside US.

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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this ingeniously imagined novel, Bram Hold Tight makes fiction out of the aged expatriate British filmmaker James Whale's last days. Whale, living in Hollywood and recovering from a minor stroke, finds life grotesquely refracted through his greatest creation, "Frankenstein" starring Boris Karloff, and its campy sequel, "The Bride of Frankenstein." His mind is a cutting room-floor jumble of olfactory hallucinations, nightmares and flashbacks to his working-class childhood, the sets of his horror movies and the gore-muddied trenches of WWI. Meanwhile, like unwitting furies, a sycophantic film student and Whale's ex-Marine gardener, Clay Boone, churn up his past and impel him to scheme a suitable grand finale for himself. In a wickedly disconcerting series of scenes, Whale directs a mad plot around the short-fused Clay, who, attracted by Whale's old Hollywood glamour but creeped out by his homosexuality, vaguely wants to extract the experience of a lifetime out of the famous figure-"combat, a love affair, a harrowing adventure, even a crime.'' With amusing cameos by Elsa Lanchester, Greta Garbo and George Cukor, Bram cleverly mines his material's potential from nostalgia and comedy to the grimmer secrets of carnal and charnel knowledge.
Ray Olson
Bram follows his large and impressive fourth novel, Almost History (1992), with something smaller and less impressive because deliberately obscure. He takes the last days of James Whale, the movie director responsible for the classic horror films "Frankenstein" (1932) and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), as his theme and reacts to the mysteriousness of Whale's death (his body was found in a swimming pool he hadn't used for years). Bram imagines that Whale, mentally confounded after a stroke, schemed to have himself killed by provoking a homophobic attack by his gardener, a husky failed marine whom the homosexual director found attractive. Flashbacks bring in some figures less recondite than Whale (Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester) but not with enough color to lift the novel from the 1950's roman noir doldrums into which, despite some interesting writing, it often falls. Whale's tiny fandom and those who keep track of Bram as one of the best gay novelists constitute this minor performance's natural readership.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525939139
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/1995
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Bram
Christopher Bram

Christopher Bram is the author of eight other novels, including Gods and Monsters (originally titled Father of Frankenstein), which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Bram was a 2001 Guggenheim Fellow and received the 2003 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    intense...

    Father of Frankenstein is an intense read. It focuses on James Whale (best known for his direction of Frankenstein and Bride Of) and his slow sink into dementia. His mind wanders from his adolescence and his first homosexual experience to his time in the trenches during WWI. His mind keeps bringing back unbidden memories of his Hollywood days and ghosts from the past. Then Whale's new gardener, Clay Boone, catches his eye. Boone, slightly homophobic, feels drawn to Whale and Whale's stories of his past. Their unlikely friendship is threatened at the climax when Whale's motives are revealed. This is a great look at mental decline and the effects it has on a person. This book is the basis for the movie Gods and Monsters. I would highly recommend both the book and the movie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2001

    Bram knows his 'monsters'!

    In ¿Father of Frankenstein¿ author Christopher Bram presents a mesmerizing account of the last days of Hollywood (and British) film director James Whale. Bram¿s book provided the basis of ¿Gods and Monsters,¿ a 1998 film which drew critical praise as well. Bram provides us with an insider¿s view of Whale¿s life--itself something of a horror story. His turbulent life--and lifestyle--haunted him until his death in 1957 (an ¿apparent¿ suicide). Of course, such things that Whale suffered were never publicized--or much acknowledged--while he was still alive. In this biography Bram seems to pull no punches, as he deftly presents the life of Whale that few outside Hollywood knew (his homosexuality, for instance), especially his background growing up in England, his experiences in World War I, and so on. Whether a fan of Whale (the classic films ¿Frankenstein¿ and ¿Bride of Frankenstein¿ still have a following!) or not, the reader can expect a mesmerizing read--something out of ¿Time¿ magazine and not the ¿National Inquirer¿! At times, however, it does resemble ¿People¿ magazine a bit, but Bram does not resort to catty sensationalism to carry the book. He gives us a very interesting--but not altogether revealing--look at Hollywood in the Thirties.

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