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.