Paying tribute to a brilliant doctor, irreverent troublemaker and much-loved friend whose life was shortened by Multiple Sclerosis at age 59 is a wonderful premise for a book. Unfortunately, good ideas and good intentions do not always translate into a solid read.
What Philip van Eeden delivers in this slim narrative about the misadventures of Franky is a mishmash of random vignettes that seem more the tales told at a local pub than a polished work for publication.
The stories he includes have the makings of a rollicking memoir: the drunken misadventures in college, a love of Jimi Hendrix and all things rock and roll, the cheerful defiance of authority. But the foundation is missing. It is as if readers are strangers who happen upon a conversation and are expected to catch up. The author never fully identifies Franky (presumably the accomplished urologist F.J. Allen cited in the references) nor even the geographical location. Also unclear is his relationship with the main character. Were these his memories or the reminiscences of Franky’s cohort, Josh Dewar?
There is a lovely dedication from Dewar: “If he could Franky would be relaxing, lighting a cigarette and having a good chuckle at this attempt at showing what a character he was and how many people he influenced to enjoy life and be happy. He is missed.”
Sadly, it is an attempt that falls short.
The writing – what there is—is lively and colorful, just as the man it highlights. Yet the stream of consciousness style greatly detracts. If this is to be a true tribute, readers deserve for Franky to be flesh and blood and not just a punchline for those who knew him. Who was he? Was his wild spirit ever tamed by adulthood or his disease?
Franky appears to be a remarkable character. But the author needs to do the work of crafting a legitimate narrative for others to feel for his friend as he did.
Also available in hardcover.