Author Franklin E. Wales is just full of surprises.
Every single time I read one of his books, I go in thinking it’s going to be about one thing, which it is for about ten pages. Then, once I’m hooked, the story usually takes a dramatic 180 degree turn somewhere else, and leads me into something I never seen coming.
Take his newest novel, Friend, for example. Going in, I thought that the book was going to be about a child’s imaginary friend who comes to life and starts hurting and/or killing anyone who gets in the child’s way. Reading the prologue, I smugly started to think I was correct. Then, page 17 viciously informed me of how wrong I was, and that I was in for one hell of a ride.
The book opens up with some teenage friends innocently messing with a Ouija Board in the town of Coral Beach, Florida. Now kids: we all know what happens when teenagers start messing with a Ouija Board, don’t we? Of course we do. Crazy stuff starts happening, and people start getting hurt or killed in various gruesome ways.
That’s when Wales’ novel takes that damned backwards turn. Now, we cut to four years in the future, where we find that the same group of friends as grownups, and that all of their lives have taken a horrible turn for the worse. One of them, Jacob, had run away from an abusive household, only to become a hustler on the mean streets of New York City, almost directly out of the film, Midnight Cowboy. Riding a motorcycle and packing a gun, Jacob is determined to save the sister he left behind. Aided by a newly-emancipated boy from the streets (who reminds Jacob of his young self) and a priest who is rapidly losing his faith, they find out that what came through that fateful night was no party game spirit, but something much, much more. Something that threatens not only their lives, but their immortal souls. This novel subtly goes from a talking spirit board prank to the epicness which rivals The Stand.
Wales is a master artisan of the macabre. No other author comes close to disturbing me to the point of sleeplessness. Friend proves no different. There were a couple of scenes that would not stop playing through my head, and the visuals were so real, so disturbing, that I lay in bed, listening to the alarm clock hum, waiting for that moment when it was to go off. I would like to note that this also happened to me after reading the first chapter of Booger (after just becoming a new father), and Deadheads: Evolution gave me nightmares about zombies cornering me in a dark alley. I swear, Wales knows how to tap deep into my subconscious fears and grab hold, not unlike a leech feeding off my innermost fears.
What makes Friend much better than most standard fare is that there is never a dull moment. Even at two hundred and fifty pages, there is something crazy happening on every page. I guarantee that you’ll be hooked from the moment you start that first paragraph.
The cover, as bizarre as it is, was done lavishly by artist Jodi Adams,. Trust me when I say that it will make total sense later in the book! I could not think of a better way to depict the cover, nor could I think of a more deserving artist to do the job. Kudos!
Mr. Wales prefers the term ‘Storyteller’ over the moniker, ‘Author’, and I truly understand why. He is not some hack, writing for a quick buck, or trying to get a shock scene in on every page; he’s actually creating a world. One where we actually feel for the characters. One where we, like it or not, are brought into, and interact with the people who live there. For example, I consider myself an atheist, not believing in deities or demons, but when you are pulled into Wales’ world, you cannot help but believe, if even for even a little while. His style is just as good as tribe elders, who would weave stories beside the fire, before the days of television and movies. His stories are so rich, you could dip your bread into them before dessert, just to get every last drop of flavor.
Finishing Friend, I immediately wanted to hear more about this quiet little Florida town, and would love to see Wales base more of his stories there, kind of like the Castle Rock of the south.
If you hurry, you can purchase Friend in paperback now at Amazon for the low price of $9.50 – after next week, it will go to its normal price of $15.00. Here’s the link:
I rate this novel 5 out of five stars.
You can visit the author’s website here: