Frankie Jones
by J. R. Klein

"And so the summer days turned shorter and the nights cooler and autumn arrived in Paris and the leaves changed color and spun to the ground like painted toy helicopters."

It’s the 1990s, not the 1920s, yet echoes of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises linger in the white spaces of Klein’s beguiling novel. Instead of disillusioned youth reeling from the horror of World War I and finding solace in the cafes of Paris and the bullrings of Spain, Klein writes of the disaffected upwardly mobile seeking answers in the restaurants of La Jolla and the cantinas of Mexico.

Frankie is born into poverty but gifted with grit and determination, plus a fine intellect and a winning personality. He works for his keep, self educates, even hop scotches the world on the savings he’s able to amass. Multiple assignations lead him from one corner of the world to the other. But when he leaves his potential true love in Boston for a journalistic assignment in California, the novel gravitates to its epicenter.

In San Diego, this virtual orphan perpetually in search of some sort of family, befriends a photographer and his wife. Their ambitions, struggles, search for meaningful lives and happiness, if not contentment, play out amid the humdrum of everyday work, the excitement of swimming with sharks, and the bravado of bar fights in Baja.

Klein has written a novel one doesn’t find anymore—as much exploration as exposition, it often raises unanswerable questions. His prose is lyrical and frequently sings, in a minor key, of the things we too often take for granted. Courageously non-genre, this novel is for people who love language, appreciate insightful perceptions on the human condition, and accept the realization that nothing really ends as long as life goes on.

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