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David A Page

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Surviving Frank
by David A Page   

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Publisher:  Five Star ISBN-10:  0786256346 Type: 


Copyright:  August 2003

A young detective pushes the limits of his imagination and his sanity as he's pulled into a supernatural world by his werewolf partner.

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Surviving Frank
Five Star
Surviving Frank

Frank was famous in Boston for his expert investigative skills, his unorthodox techniques, and the fact that he was a werewolf. Known as “The Loose Cannon,” he had caused his share of destruction and chaos in his quest to rid Boston of crime. Unlike your everyday werewolf, Frank had what doctors termed “Inverse Lycanthropy,” a complete reversal of the Werewolf effect, giving him a half human, half wolf appearance, and a rotten temper all of the time.

Ryan was human, promoted to detective by Internal Affairs. His first assignment was to investigate Frank. Posing as the werewolf’s new partner, wrestling with his own guilt and insecurities as a cop and as a spy, he had to assist Frank in a murder investigation while simultaneously gathering evidence against him.

As Ryan and Frank search for answers, they discover that the governor could be the next target in a string of murders. With the politics of Boston hanging in the balance, the partners must tolerate one another long enough to find the killer before he can strike again…

Professional Reviews

Analog Science Fiction Fact
We know Five Star for its recent spate of collections, a number of which I have mentioned here. Now it’s getting into originals, and one of the first is David A. Page’s Surviving Frank. The gimmick is a world where werewolves are real, caused by a virus. Frank, a Boston police detective, managed to get his infection treated almost in time–he doesn’t turn into a wolf every full moon, but he’s half wolf all the time. Tall, hairy–in fact, his friends call him Hairy–toothy, lapping his booze from a dog dish with his name on the side. He’s got a temper, too, and his last dozen partners have all met untimely ends. You might not think losing one to a safe falling out of the sky would count against him, but Captain O’Leary wants to prove Frank is unfit to be one of Boston’s finest. So he promotes Rookie Ryan to detective on condition that he will be partner thirteen and get the goods on Frankie.

Ryan isn’t at all sure there any goods to get. As far as he knows, Frank is a good cop. But Wuffie doesn’t want another partner–he’s a lone wolf, of course–and Ryan feels he has to prove himself. Their first case is a murder in the city library. The Rookie spots a fresh clue or two and concludes that someone is plotting an assassination, but Frank pooh-poohs the idea. The quest for more clues introduces Ryan to a few fantastical elements of the city–such as the Trashcan People who inhabit the maze of medieval alleys behind the modern facade–as well as an enticing journalist who begins their relationship by exercising some impressive martial arts on his bod. That changes, of course, and in due time Ryan and Frank crack the case.

A fun tale, well worth a few hours of your time, but one thing did bother me: Page goes to some trouble to introduce a fantastical element–the werewolf–and insist that it wasn’t fantastical at all. Just a virus, ma’am! Skiffy to the nines! But then he brings in definite fantastical elements (the Trashcan People are only one) that aren’t really necessary; at least, they could easily have been replaced with non-fantastic equivalents. There is thus an uneasy mixing of genres. If Page can bring that under control, his next book should be worth a look.

Harriet Klausner
Boston residents think of homicide detective Frank T. Wolfe as a hero because he puts vicious felons behind bars though his peers and superiors think he is a loose cannon. Frank, Hairy to his few friends, hates criminals with a passion and as a werewolf with superhuman senses and strength, he brings specials weapons against those who walk the wrong side of the law. Unfortunately for Frank, he caught a mutated form of the lycanthropic virus and is always in a half human half-wolf form.

Police Officer Ryan applies for a detective position. He is offered the promotion if he partners with Frank, something he doesn't really want to do. The werewolf lost twelve partners in six years and although none can be linked to deeds done by Frank, Internal Affairs wants to prove he had something to do with their deaths. Ryan accepts the assignment because he admires Frank and knows he is truly a hero. On their first case together involving a dead librarian, a series of book store robberies and an assassination attempt, the two partners find they complement each other as they try to take down the mastermind who is behind all the crimes that make up this case.

SURVIVING FRANK is a tongue in-check police procedural horror novel starring a caring protagonist who has adjusted very well to his handicap. He acts like a tough macho man but has his vulnerable moments and his partner recognizes them for what they are. Ryan genuinely cares about the werewolf and if he can find a way of SURVIVING FRANK, he thinks they will make a strong crime fighting team.

Wigglefish (Killian Melloy)
Look out! David A. Page unleashes his new novel on an unsuspecting world. A hybrid of supernatural and super-funky, the horror/comedy/ cop adventure Surviving Frank is a droll trawl through historic Boston like no other, breezily skewering local politics while celebrating the city and its denizens. Rude and reckless, the characters embody Beantown in all its full-color paroxysms and paradoxes.

The story begins in an abandoned warehouse, where Frank "Hairy" Cuzo, a Boston P.D. detective, discovers a pair of cops who have been pummeled and plastered with lemon meringue pie. Two weeks after this mysterious attack, one of the assaulted cops — a young fellow identified only as Ryan — receives a promotion to detective, but it's an advancement with strings attached. In return for his elevation in rank, Ryan is expected to spy on his new partner, seeking incriminating evidence to prove the police captain's theory that Ryan's freshly assigned counterpart is responsible for the deaths of twelve partners over the last six years. The first twist? Ryan's new partner is none other than Frank Cuzo, better known as Frank T. Wolfe, the same detective who found him unconscious in the warehouse. The second twist? Detective Frank "Wolfe" Cuzo comes by his various nicknames by virtue of the fact that he is a werewolf. Not the garden-variety werewolf — nothing so tame — but rather a mutant werewolf, one who remains in semi-beast form on a permanent basis. Nor is Frank's feral nature only skin deep. The police captain who recruits Ryan as Frank's personal spy claims that the werewolf cop is a menace despite his celebrity, and there are ample moments when Frank seems determined to prove his nemesis correct. It doesn't help that Frank is distrustful and resentful of Ryan, playing tricks on him and calling him "Rookie."

In spite of it all, Ryan clings to his faith in Frank. Unwilling to believe that Frank is a killer (he is a top cop, despite his hirsute appearance, property-damaging police methods, and generally cranky disposition), Ryan blends his assignment with an agenda of his own: to prove that Frank is innocent of his partners' deaths. But before he can prove anything, Ryan needs to help Frank solve a killer case of library theft, not to mention stay alive despite the lethal curse that afflicts the wolf's colleagues.

Page has taken a standard, though carefully crafted, plot and embellished it with a rich and comic assortment of outlandish adventures. Ryan and Frank pursue clues through inner city labyrinths, mystically cloaked Italian restaurants (don't ask what's on the menu for the lunch special), and Boston's own peculiar brand of politics. Each strange encounter brings the bickering partners closer to cracking the case, but Ryan's view of the world — what he considers normal, or even possible — will never be the same afterwards. (And remember, this is a world-view where the existence of werewolves, while exotic, is considered old news.) From the red-brick architecture of Boston's North End to the gas-lit precincts of Back Bay and the windswept desolation of Government Center's plaza, Ryan and Frank undertake a journey through the hidden recesses of the night and the city. Page's idiosyncratic imagination supplies left-handed surprises and plenty of guffaws throughout, but beneath it all is a cunningly put together scheme that — as one sinister and vaguely diabolical figure warns — might very well spell the end for both Ryan and his huge, furry colleague.

In his approach, Page provides a twisted new take on the horror genre. Though some might not appreciate the book's sense of humor (it is absurdist and sometimes taken to extremes), those willing to let go and laugh will have a fine time. Page succeeds in bringing his characters, and his readers, to a tilted perspective from which even the familiar seems mysterious — and the mysterious somehow becomes familiar. The dynamics at work among Page's characters are vibrant, too, as Page delights in the reversals and ironies made possible by the ludicrous nature of his story's fundamental underpinnings: Frank, the seven and a half foot tall wolf-man, pets his human pal on the head, orders him to stay, etc., but at the end of the day laps up his Jack Daniels by the bowl. Then there are the various triangles Page introduces, not the least of which is the fiery three-sided morass that develops between Ryan, a hot-babe journalist called Violet, and Frank, who trades jibes with Violet at every opportunity. Together with the buddy-movie vibe that springs up between the wolf and his Rookie, the love-hate-love thing the boys have going with the girl gives an already bouncy book an even more frantic kinetic energy.

Quick in the reading, easy to like, Surviving Frank goes down as smoothly as the pastries Frank gobbles while careening through Boston traffic or engaged in a full-on battle royale, armed with salad bar utensils, against foppish heavies. In short, this book is a howl.

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