By Fran Friel

Reviewed by Garry Charles

In the introduction to Mama's Boy, James Newman states that Fran Friel is a writer to watch. He concludes his speech with:

'She's just getting started. Like the song says: You ain't seen nothing yet.'

In the first review of Mama's Boy, Nicholas Grabowsky claims that discovering Fran's work is like stumbling across a rare gem in a plain garden.

These shining statements are true but they now pose me with a problem. How can I describe just how good Mama's Boy really is when it's already been said?

Here goes...............

It's hard--no, it's impossible--to believe that Mama's Boy is Fran's debut novella. Upon reading the first chapter you will argue that this could not possibly be her first steps into the arena of longer writing. From page one this reader was grabbed by what appears to be the handiwork of a master storyteller.

I was guided through the multi-layered story within a story by Fran's amazing yet harsh vision of skill and style. As I was drawn deeper and deeper the look of horror on my face and the sense of amazement in my soul could not be ignored.

Firstly we are introduced to Frank (not his real name. That is for you to find out on your own). Our first glance at this deeply twisted character is only brief but, in that short space, he describes how it feels to kill another human being. He does so in such a matter of fact way that it will turn the blood pulsing through your veins to ice.

We are then drawn into the life of Rebecca; a beautiful, foundling Doctor who is given the task of unlocking the secret past of the burn scarred Frank.

From this point on Fran skilfully meshes past and present as Frank slowly, but surely, reveals his origins. This is real horror; a written essay on how one monster can create another from the clay that is humanity. Page by page we are taken on a trip through Frank's childhood and adult life and the matriarchal shadow that envelopes him.

Fran focuses on Frank and his Mother only. We are not shown how she came to be the way she is and the story is all the better for it. It's left to the reader to decide how many generations have suffered from parental abuse and it works well.

Towards the end Ms Friel even imbues a little supernatural horror into the nasty tale, a fantastic use of ghosts and visions to describe Frank's descent into utter madness. This is a well used trick that drives the spike of fear even deeper into the reader's heart.

Mama's Boy works on every level, and then some more. Never before have I read a work of fiction that left me feeling tainted, strangely aroused, sad and horrified at the same time. For this alone I applaud Fran's talent.

James Newman and Nicholas Grabowsky were right on the mark. Fran Friel is something special.

How special?

Well, you can forget about the new King of horror; Fran Friel is the new Queen and long will she reign. She may look like an angel, but this lady writes like the devil. Mama's Boy will live on in your memory long after the final page.

Fran, you fuckin' rock!!!!!!!

Mama's Boy by Fran Friel. Tpb, 100pp, $14.99 excluding P&P. Published by Insidious Publications and available from Shocklines

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