An extraordinary novel containing thirteen short stories from various contributors in a framework by Ryan Bracha. The proceeds go to Alzheimer’s Charities. The day is May 15th and today Betty Peppercorn will bury her husband Frank. The strangers arriving for the funeral tell her about Frank’s life before they met and it is fascinating …
We all have someone with or close to someone with Alzheimer’s. We all know the effects – a human life torn apart with every memory that is missing. The most hurtful aspect of it is that those with Alzheimer’s are fully aware of what is happening and of their inability to stop the process. The disease is not a lethal one for the body but it is to the mind. When parents have trouble recognising their children and marriages of years are disrupted because of Alzheimer’s, that is simply devastating. We need to figure it out, need to find a way to a solution and to a dignified life’s ending. What are we when we have lost the ability to love, to remember, to look back on our lives? That is why I support this initiative for Alzheimer’s Charities.
As the dedication in the book makes it all too clear, most of us know someone who has (a family member with) Alzheimer’s. This is why authors and friends Mark Wilson and Ryan Bracha wanted to do something and their initiative led to this novel of stories, as they call it. A lovely initiative and a worthy cause. The goal is to raise money for Alzheimer’s Charities within the UK and also the US. Every six months another Alzheimer’s Charity is chosen to be the recipient of the proceeds of The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn. The first recipient is Alzheimer’s Research UK.
When you fall in love and get married – have a life together filled with loving moments and your love dies, all that is left are the loving memories of the things you did for love, celebrating the impact your husband had on your heart. Betty is Frank Peppercorn’s grieving widow and now is the time to bury him. They had been together for almost ten years and Betty thought she knew everything about his life – accepted that Frank never had many friends nor was at any time more than “the remarkable man excelling in being unremarkable.” As the day of the funeral goes on, Betty finds new insights into her husband and his life – and meets his friends, for the first time ever. Who was Frank? Come to his funeral and I will show you.
May 15 is “the day I recycled his (Frank’s) carbon,” says his widow Betty Peppercorn engraving the date in her memory. Frank sounds like the perfect husband, the man-in-the-middle who liked his toast just a golden shade of brown and who never raised his voice. There was one thing Frank excelled in: his passionate love for Betty, a “Jackson Pollock masterpiece” according to her. Now she has to say goodbye to him and people telling her it will get easier is not what she wants to hear. She wants to keep Frank in her thoughts. But then, one by one, the strangers appear, giving Betty an insight into Frank and his life before they met. A man who collects debts, an actor, having an affair with a ravishing Italian beauty, it is almost unbelievable that ‘their’ Frank is the same as Betty’s Frank! A Frank who listened to music (not with Betty), who danced the night away? Now we find all the hypocrite people around her, the ‘vultures’ Betty calls them, people who feed on drama and the sorrow of others, but there is nowhere Betty would rather be than with these strangers who provide her with so many, until now, unknown aspects of Frank.
When a best friend from fifty years ago approaches Betty, he tells her about his friendship with Frank and how he longed to have seen him once more. He also gives Betty something to cling on to and somehow, it provides a consolation against her grief. But the next contributor to Frank’s former life, or should I say, contributors, tell a completely different tale in which there is no solace to find for Betty. No wonder she is glad the next stranger, a woman, owes her life to Frank and explains to Betty how and why. The next storyteller receives no sympathy from Betty and thankfully for him, Officer Otis Marshall appears, anxious to share his past friendship with Frank with his grieving widow. Although Betty is quite upset after Otis has told his story, exactly why she experiences mixed emotions she is not sure. Then the next man is ready to tell his tale and she knows for sure, he is an enemy. His story adds to Betty’s grief but at the same time, it allows her to speak out which feels pretty good, she has to admit.
The Short Stories
Pieces Forgotten – Kevin Berg
A boy growing up with no goal in life. His father dies and he sees no alternative for his failed path to university but to drown it out in alcohol and drugs. It comes as no surprise that soon, he is out of work and in debt. The only way out is the army. Then something so gruesome and terrible happens so that his life spirals downwards, but then he meets Frank Peppercorn.
Paid with Interest – Dominic Adler
Paul hates his job as a debt collector. But he has no way out. Not unless he fancies some broken bones or worse. Now Frank Peppercorn is with him to show him how to collect debts. But nothing is what it seems to be …
Il Guanto Nero Uccide Ancorai – Jason Michel
We find Frank in Rome, at the cinema, watching himself on the big screen when he is approached by an Italian who asks him to feature in another film. He accepts the role of the villain and thereby meets the leading lady, the enchanting Arianna Bongermino. Is it a wonder they become lovers? The director barely speaks English and another beautiful actress is jealous of Arianna and eager to replace her. Somehow, things are rapidly going out of control and become dangerous.
The Ballad of Benny Baines – Paul D. Brazil
Apparently, Benny Baines is in trouble: his wife kicked him out for playing around. Even worse, for having kids with different women while she herself was unable to conceive. That hurts and now Benny sits in a pub awaiting a drink to drain away his sorrows. Then Frank comes in and the men have a heated dispute. What are they arguing about and how are they connected?
Franny the Tyranny – Robert Cowan
A man who met Frank fifty years ago relives the darkest days of his life when he was with his best friend Frank, the one who wanted to be different and who did not care about the world looking on. He spent the rest of his life searching for Frank.
Via Cua – The King of Nothing – Shervin Jamali
What horror took place in Vietnam? Do circumstances make a man prone towards primitive and barbarous cruelty? Find out in this tortuous tale of evil.
You Fucking Diamond – Martin Stanley
She had an abusive husband. Frank was their neighbour and could not avoid hearing the beatings. Until she could take no more.
Salt and Peppercorn – Ryan Bracha
Frank found a way to turn Salt into Pepper – or better said Peppercorn. How? To marry Elizabeth (Betty) Salt. We learn to know Betty, the grieving widow, and hers is no ordinary tale. It seems that Frank and Betty had more in common than they know. “Serendipity is working her magic” and it is simply touching.
No Safe Haven Here – Craig Furchtenicht
A marriage and a pregnant wife – you would think that life is good for the young couple, apart from the bullet holes in his body and their blood-covered clothes, that is. What is going on? A baby about to be born, a truck slamming into a hospital and much more … where does Frank come in?
Trivial Pursuit – Allen Miles
A man seeks an escape and finds it in toy trains. From then on, the attic is forbidden ground for his wife and children. Yes, he is getting obsessed with every addition and, with hindsight, he would have been better off not knowing … Now he does and Frank is somehow involved, whether he likes it or not.
Rum Slap – Alex Shaw
Frankie is down in Barbados, as a favour to his ex Jennie. Once he loved her but since then she had been married to another man. Now she wants the best divorce settlement she can get and that is where Frankie comes in. Or does he?
Chicken Neck – Jason Beech
A boy growing up with his mother as a single parent – a boy turned 18, sipping his first beer, ready to meet his father and to get to know him. Yes, Frank is the supposed father. Only Frank has no wish to meet someone claiming to be his son and this attitude baffles the young man. What will he do? What will Frank do?
Crafty Pig – Mark Wilson
Now, this is a story you will not see coming! Frank has a brother! Not just any brother – but it would be a shame to tell you or Betty. Why? You have to find out for yourself.
Wow. This is quite an exceptional book, almost impossible to review. I love the concept of the framework, such a great idea, Ryan Bracha. What a remarkable day and what a journey protagonist Betty has been through at the end of the book. When she sets out to bury her husband, she only knows that she buries but the carbon copy of him, his being is deep within her and in her thoughts, she finds his presence, he is with her still. Although the premise of a set of stories within a framework is hardly new (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales being the outstanding example) this is special because each story has a different author, contributor. Each story relates a part of Frank’s life and Ryan Bracha has had his work cut out for him to connect them in a way that speaks to the reader. There is a bit of dark humour in Jason Mitchell’s story as well as Ryan Bracha’s Salt and Peppercorn (this was quite unexpected!), and a plot twist in Dominic Adler’s tale. Some I found hard to fathom and kept me wondering like Craig Furchtenicht’s story, and the most shocking one was probably Shervin Jamali’s Via Cua. For me, the most touching ones were Mark Wilson’s moving story of the two brothers and Kevin Berg’s story, brilliant in its simplicity. An extraordinary collection of stories and a great initiative!
About the Authors
Dominic Adler‘s five years in the Army Reserves and twenty-five more in Law Enforcement inform his hard-boiled action thrillers. His interests include military history, technology, politics and the ethics of the 21st Century mercenary. Ryan Bacha is the Amazon bestselling author of eleven novels, a novella, and a collection of stories. Every book released is “pushing the boundaries of your taste and sensibilities.” Jason Beech writes crime fiction but occasionally likes to shake bones with a little horror and paranormal fiction. Kevin Berg has published his debut novel Indifference. Paul D. Brazill‘s books include Big City Blues, Guns Of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, A Case Of Noir, The Last Laugh and Kill Me Quick. Robert Cowan started writing after years of making music and songwriting, the Search for Ethan was his first novel and the second is Daydreams and Devils. Craig Furchtenicht‘s work generally spans the realm between drug-fueled crime novels, short horror and the absurd. Shervin Jamali has been writing for as long as he remembers and has published two books in 2016. Jason Michel is “the Dictator at Pulp Metal Magazine” and creator of the Blackhearted Beat podcast. Allen Miles is the author of two books. Alex Shaw is the author of the Aidan Snow SAS thrillers and the Delta Force Vampire series and a member of the ITW (The International Thriller Writers organisation) and the CWA (the Crime Writers Association). Martin Stanley is the author of the Stanton Brothers (six books) and of The Gamblers, a crime thriller set in Bristol. Mark (C.P.) Wilson is the Amazon bestselling author of ten works of fiction, one non-fiction memoir and of crime thrillers, among which Ice Cold Alice (my review).
|Ebook – Kindle Version||2052 KB, 289 pages|
|Publisher||Abrachadabra Books in association with Paddy’s Daddy Publishing (19 May 2017)|
|Paperback: ISBN-13||978-1546511144; CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (8 May 2017)|