Franklin Flyer

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Overview

"Nicholas Christopher follows the remarkable life of Franklin Flyer - a restless young inventor named after the train on which he was born - through the tumultuous years of the Great Depression, into the Second World War." "Raised by his suffragette aunt, at various times a vagabond and tycoon, Franklin travels across the U.S.A. and around the globe, seeking adventure and enlightenment, charting his fate by pursuing the unexpected." "He encounters a glittering cast of characters: among them Rita Hayworth, Josephine Baker, OSS founder "Wild Bill"
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A brisk, vivid blend of history and imagination, Franklin Flyer brings to life an American hero as unforgettable as his times.

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Overview

"Nicholas Christopher follows the remarkable life of Franklin Flyer - a restless young inventor named after the train on which he was born - through the tumultuous years of the Great Depression, into the Second World War." "Raised by his suffragette aunt, at various times a vagabond and tycoon, Franklin travels across the U.S.A. and around the globe, seeking adventure and enlightenment, charting his fate by pursuing the unexpected." "He encounters a glittering cast of characters: among them Rita Hayworth, Josephine Baker, OSS founder "Wild Bill" Donovan, and a host of political zealots, opportunists, and dreamers thrown together in a world on the brink of collapse." With each new invention - devices that help to revolutionize everything from early television to the technology with which the Allies respond to the Axis powers - Franklin makes his mark. Gaining fame and fortune, he also suffers terrible heartbreak, and through numerous transformations discovers that a man's own life is truly his most difficult, and rewarding, invention.
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Editorial Reviews

<i>L.A. Times
The novel's…action [is] freighted with fatality and symbolism…[Franklin Flyer] is an exemplary young American of his time: bright, talented, handy with his fists, an inventor and a patriot.
BOMB Magazine
Using crisp, vivid and charged language, Christopher creates a series of colorful tableaux through which the eponymous hero glides like a double agent in a thriller.
Washington Post Book World
Christopher is a writer of remarkable gifts; he weaves fascinating and esoteric material into a story where such diversions never seem out of place.
Advocate and Greenwich Time
At 317 pages of swift-moving prose, [Franklin Flyer is] a work of historical/period fiction, a spy novel, comic book, comical jaunt, love story, spiritual quest and an inventor's tale.
New York Times Book Review
Hip, sexy . . . a novel in which anything can happen . . . Mr. Christopher is a superbly lyrical and descriptive writer.
New Yorker
Satisfying as the storytelling is, the deeper pleasures here stem from the author's imaginative and idiosyncratic scholarship, by means of which the uncanny is made to seem commonplace and the commonplace unfathomable.
Toronto Globe and Mail
Christopher is North America's García Márquez; Borges with emotional weight. . .This is one of those rare books that, by connecting with the stars, catches you in its web.
Chicago Tribune
Extraordinary . . . a dizzying, dazzling ride . . . an elegant, idiosyncratic work of art.
Publishers Weekly
If Graham Greene collaborated with the creator of Dick Tracy, the result might read like this quirky, whirlwind tale of ordinary men contending with a worldwide Nazi conspiracy. Christopher (A Trip to the Stars) starts things off in the 1930s, whenFranklin Flyer, a young American inventor and adventurer, signs on as interpreterfor an expedition into the Argentine outback to hunt for deposits of zilium, a miracle metal. Returning to the States, Flyer is involved in numerous scrapes until he ends up working as an illustrator for Otto Zuhl's pulp empire. With the money he makes from one of his inventions, Flyer buys out Zuhl, whose friends one of whom he recognizes from the zilium expedition turn out to be a bunch of Nazi sympathizers.He is smitten by Zuhl's secretary, Persephone Eckert, who is weirdly stocked with esoteric Egyptian lore. However, as the low, dishonest decade nears its end, Flyer has no time for minor mysteries: U.S. intelligence has recruited him to break up the zilium ring. He ends up in Marseilles, where among the crowds of refugees he meets a former lover, Narcissa, and learns he has a daughter. Flyer gets them out of France and is then given the most dangerous assignment of his career. This one should go over well with readers of WWII espionage novels, but Franklin who's like a smart Forrest Gump will appeal to a broader audience, too. (Apr. 2) Forecast: Christopher's successes as an accomplished poet, novelist, essayist and editor make him a critic's favorite. Comparisons to another playful period adventure, Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, could help booksellers handsell Franklin Flyer to those not yet in the know. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
After the complex but elegant A Trip to the Stars: the story of young inventor Franklin Flyer (named for the train) who meets the likes of Josephine Baker. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Huge chunks of 20th-century history are handled with elliptical finesse in Christopher's fourth novel (following A Trip to the Stars, 2000): an episodic picaresque with bits and snatches reminiscent of Doctorow's Ragtime, Millhauser's Martin Dressler, Purdy's Malcolm, and Woody Allen's Zelig. The eponymous protagonist (so named for the train whose wreckage he survived as an infant) is first seen in 1929, when, aged 22, he likewise escapes the fats of many ruined by the stock market crash. Thereafter, we observe Franklin during the years 1930-42, as his dreams of becoming an inventor and acquiring great wealth ("to prosper, to do good, to explore") take him to several continents, astonishing adventures, and relationships with several enchanting women. In Antarctica, he weathers a storm at sea and is rescued by a Norwegian freighter; in Buenos Aires, he protects a teenaged tango dancer from her abusive father-just before joining a mountaineering expedition in search of the valuable metal zilium (which will be coveted by Hitler's scientists). Franklin moves on to Alabama, and a lingering infatuation with black blues singer Narcissa Stark, then forms various bonds with socialist guru Justinian Walzowski and pulp publisher Otto Zuhl, while dallying romantically with multiple partners and pursuing a briefly glimpsed mystery woman who may be named Anita Snow. The threat and outbreak of war engage Franklin in covert work for OSS chief "Wild Bill" Donovan, and a plethora of international intrigue and espionage seemingly deployed to illustrate the truth of the principle Franklin had derived from Marcus Aurelius: that "nothing ever disappears, it's merely transformed." Much of this sophisticatedhoo-hah is highly enjoyable, but it whizzes by too quickly: the story's calculated hit-and-run structure distracts almost as much as it entertains. At one point we're informed that "Franklin felt as if events-history itself-had been speeded up to a lunatic pace." So will the reader.
From the Publisher
“The novel is stacked with outrageous, larger-than-life characters…None of them, however, is as colorful as Franklin himself.”—Seattle Times

“A special novel…Christopher’s blending of fact and fiction is admirably seamless…A book that the reader will wish had a few—no, make that quite a few—more pages.” —Denver Post

“If Graham Greene collaborated with the creator of Dick Tracy, the result might read like this quirky, whirlwind tale of ordinary men contending with a worldwide Nazi conspiracy.” —Publishers Weekly

“A tale of journey, loss and rebirth…a story full of charm.” —New York Times Book Review

“The novel’s…action [is] freighted with fatality and symbolism…[Franklin Flyer] is an exemplary young American of his time: bright, talented, handy with his fists, an inventor and a patriot.” —L.A. Times

“Using crisp, vivid and charged language, Christopher creates a series of colorful tableaux through which the eponymous hero glides like a double agent in a thriller.” —BOMB Magazine

“A pleasure to read…Positively glow[s] with descriptive grace…A lovely investigation of ‘the only mystery worth pursuing,’ the metamorphoses of the human spirit, observed at both stillness and breakneck speed.” —Washington Post Book World

“Here is a happy surprise, a book that is highly entertaining, ingenious and a delight for the imagination…the writer constructs an old-fashioned romance in an entirely pleasing way. Nicholas Christopher leads us into a world that never really existed but for which we still yearn.” —Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey

“A lovely blend of fantasy and history.” —Booklist

“At 317 pages of swift-moving prose, [Franklin Flyer is] a work of historical/period fiction, a spy novel, comic book, comical jaunt, love story, spiritual quest and an inventor’s tale.”—Advocate & Greenwich Time, Connecticut

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385335454
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/26/2002
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Christopher is the author of four previous novels, The Soloist, Veronica, A Trip to the Stars, and Franklin Flyer, eight books of poetry, and a book about film noir, Somewhere in the Night. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

In this shimmering work of fiction, Nicholas Christopher follows the remarkable life of Franklin Flyer–a restless young inventor named after the train on which he was born–through the tumultuous years of the Great Depression, into the Second World War.

Raised by his suffragette aunt, at various times a vagabond and tycoon, Franklin travels across the U.S.A and around the globe, seeking adventure and enlightenment, charting his fate by pursuing the unexpected.

He encounters a glittering cast of characters: among them Rita Hayworth, Josephine Baker, OSS founder “Wild Bill” Donovan, and a host of political zealots, opportunists, and dreamers thrown together in a world on the brink of collapse.

With each new invention–devices that help to revolutionize everything from early television to the technology with which the Allies respond to the Axis powers–Franklin makes his mark. Gaining fame and fortune, he also suffers terrible heartbreak, and through numerous transformations discovers that a man’s own life is truly his most difficult, and rewarding, invention.

A brisk, vivid blend of history and imagination, Franklin Flyer brings to life an American hero as unforgettable as his times.
Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

Statement on Franklin Flyer for BOLD TYPE
by Nicholas Christopher

Franklin Flyer synthesizes themes from my previous eleven books of fiction and poetry and my one nonfiction book, a study of film noir. There are certainly noir elements at work in this new novel.

Franklin Flyer follows the life and adventures of a young American inventor during the Great Depression and the onset of the Second World War. Named after the train on which he was born in 1907, Franklin Flyer is raised by his suffragette aunt, a very modern woman for her day. His mother is an itinerant, down-at-heels Shakespearean actress who dies young; his father a shadowy soldier of fortune whom he never meets. Franklin Flyer himself drops out of Harvard, where he excelled at chemistry and baseball, and over the years works as a ship’s carpenter, an expedition guide in the Andes, an interpreter, a laboratory assistant, an illustrator of pulp magazines, a publisher, and an OSS agent. Over the course of the Great Depression, he rises from vagabond to tycoon. A fervent antifascist, he encounters, and locks horns with, rabid members of some of the fascist movements on the rise through the 1930s: the Romanian Iron Guard, the Spanish Falangists, the British Fascist Party, the German-American Bund, and the Mexican Sinarquistas.

Franklin Flyer
spans a crucial arc in U.S. and world history, beginning on the day the stock market crashes in September 1929 and concluding soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Franklin’s life is a journey marked by unexpected — and illuminative — transformations. He crosses paths with a widecast of characters, including Rita Hayworth, Josephine Baker, OSS founder “Wild Bill” Donovan, radio pioneer David Sarnoff, and a host of fellow inventors, political zealots, eccentrics, and dreamers thrown together in those tumultuous times. He drinks cocktails with President Roosevelt, attends the 1939 World’s Fair as a distinguished guest, and watches Lou Gehrig’s last World Series game from front-row box seat at Yankee Stadium. His inventions run the gamut: a self-patching automobile tire; a paint-shaking machine; a cathode-ray tube that revolutionizes early television; and, most significantly, some of the wartime technology (night-vision goggles, submarine sonar) the Allies employ against the Axis powers.

Franklin Flyer is emblematic of his times, a picaresque hero in the tradition of Tom Jones, Roderick Random, Don Quixote, and Augie March — novels that take us on simultaneous journeys, into the hero’s soul and the teeming world that surrounds him. Only when these respective journeys become inextricable can our hero discover who he truly is. Such is the case with Franklin. His world is, for the most part, the sprawling, industrialized metropolis of the Depression years — Chicago and New York — from which he makes significant forays into the harshly segregated Deep South, revolutionary Buenos Aires, and European cities like Athens, Marseille, and Milan that have fallen under the heel of the Axis powers. All of these places are breeding grounds for the noir sensibility that will fully take hold in American culture in the ensuing decade, as a style and a means of expression, in film noir, bebop jazz, hardboiled fiction, and the paintings of Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Franz Kline. Prohibition, gangsterism, drug running, social disorder, and political fanaticism are staples of the noir universe; and all of them, to varying degrees, fed into the imaginative vision that informed my narrative of Franklin Flyer’s life and times.

Franklin’s encounter with racists in Alabama, Bund enforcers in Manhattan, and Axis agents abroad; his glimpses of corruption in high places; his dealings with unscrupulous “America First” millionaires who only thinly disguise their affinity for Nazi Germany are all noir elements that change the course of his life. Franklin’s stormy love affair with Narcissa Stark, the black doctor’s widow who becomes a famous singer, takes him into the nascent world of blues recording, race records, and black nightclubs in Chicago in the early thirties. Franklin also falls in love with a budding fashion designer (and press agent to the discoverer of bubblegum) named Pamela LeTrue, an Egyptologist, Persephone Eckert, who becomes a movie studio executive, and an unusual OSS agent, Agnes Davelle. The netherworld of Egyptian mythology, which he explores with Persephone, is another noir element in the novel, as is the very different netherworld of modern espionage, in which he becomes an unlikely player at Agnes’s side. The birth of the modern U.S. intelligence service — the OSS — during the crucible of the Second World War is one of the darkest byways in the labyrinth of Franklin’s life. A millionaire himself at the time he is recruited, he becomes one of “Wild Bill” Donovan’s “gentleman agents,” traveling in and out of the Axis countries at great risk to himself and others, including Agnes, a courageous and resourceful woman from whom he learns some hard lessons about pain, sacrifice, and the geography of fear.

Franklin Flyer is an inventor in the deepest sense of the word. In the end, these four women lead him to the crucial understanding that, with good fortune and tireless effort, in the end his own life must be his most difficult, and rewarding, invention.

ØØØ


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2012

    Lilypaw

    Here

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    To hazelstar

    Go to res one two med cats want to join.

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    Posted October 15, 2012

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    Mapplepelt to hazelstar...

    I would honnorably love to be your mate bows

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    No trainee result three.( im not calling you trainee im saying tats the place)

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