cover image The Father of Hrankenstein: 4a Novel

The Father of Hrankenstein: 4a Novel

Christopher Bram. Dutton Books, $19.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93913-9

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. (Apr.)