I began work on Frankie Styne and the Silver Man in Norwich, in 1990, and it was inspired by both my interest in monsters and my living situation at the time: a terraced house, as it is called in England (row housing), with very thin walls. Most of these houses were built in the late nineteenth century as housing for railway workers and other working class people. Little thought was given to privacy, and just a single course of bricks and a skin of plaster divides one home from the next. I could hear a great deal of my neighbours’ lives – and they mine, no doubt, though I was fairly quiet, due to writing so much. It was sometimes hard to reconcile what I had overheard with our polite exchanges in the street or over the fence. I began with the characters, and they, especially former runaway Liz and her baby Jim, came quickly to life.
I plotted out the basics of the story on flip chart paper. Once I began to write (on my Amstrad PC with its grey screen and blurry green type) the story unfolded at a fair pace. I was soon deeply into themes that have always interested me: how people use language to connect (or don’t), how the mainstream culture deals with outsiders, what makes us human, the complications of sexuality, how we depend on stories to make sense of our lives, and so on. I had a lot of fun writing Frankie Styne. It’s a literary novel, but there are elements of horror and touches of speculative fiction throughout, and, to my mind at least, large doses of a dark humour. I write in both a realistic and a more fantastic mode, and in this novel, I was able to combine both. I was also able to pay homage to Mary Shelley and, less directly, Fay Weldon, two literary heroines of mine. Frankie Styne came out in the UK in 1992 to great reviews, but quickly vanished in the publishing upheavals of the time. I always wished it had had more of a life and so I was both delighted and just a little apprehensive when, over twenty years later, Bilbioasis proposed to publish it for the first time in Canada and the USA.
This meant that I had to read it. Reading my own books is something I, like many authors, tend to avoid. By the time a novel is complete, I virtually know the text by heart and am heartily sick of it. The passing of time helped with this. I read Frankie Styne and the Silver Man, and even though (or perhaps because) I am in by now in many ways a different person to the one who wrote it, I did enjoy it. Still, I had to ask myself whether it was it still relevant, and did it matter that the characters use landlines and watch television, that a crucial scene would have been different if Viagra had been invented, and so on? How much to revise? I’d written this novel, which features a mother and baby, before having children of my own, and while it was mostly well imagined, there were places where I had things to add, and there were several important scenes I wanted to improve, but I left the era and as it was, and decided I was not the best judge of the book’s continued relevance.
Early reviews, see below, have answered that question. I’m delighted that Frankie Styne and the Silver Man is now finding such enthusiastic twenty-first century Canadian and American readers.
Frankie Styne and the Silver Man is dark and funny, painful and uplifting, marvellously satirical but never cynical, and thoroughly invested with good faith. Kathy Page is a marvel. This is the very best book that I’ve read in ages, and if I read another half as good in the next few months, that will constitute an extraordinary literary year… Read more: http://picklemethis.com/2016/02/10/frankie-styne-and-the-silver-man-by-kathy-page/
“Page (Alphabet, 2014, etc.) builds layers of meaning into her exquisite writing. Her favored themes are here—the stark dichotomies of life, the power of language, the way the social system tries and fails to help people, and how saving grace can come from unseen places.” Kirkus starred reveiw
“Frankie Styne and the Silver Man by Kathy Page is a fantastic novel. Character driven, claustrophobic, and deeply weird, it has a haunting, discomfiting quality that lingers with a reader….” Read more: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2016/02/08/kathy-pages-frankie-styne-excellent-oddball.html
“Frankie Styne offers a terrific showcase of Page’s singular style (with its attractive high-low mixture of genres), quirky unexpected invention, and attention to the nuances of psychology. Mere words on a page, her creations linger in the mind long after the reading’s done….” Read more: Frankie Styne in Vancouver Sun
“Five years before The Post-Modern Prometheus aired, Page published her own twist on the Frankenstein story in her native Britain (Page moved to B.C’s Salt Spring Island in 2001), now published in Canada for the first time. In her novel, Page draws on similar pulp material – monsters; aliens; an unhappy, childless marriage – and takes her characters to equally dark places. What’s different is how Page’s monsters display a more complex relationship between inner and outer ugliness and find redemption in responsibility…. Frankie Styne still holds up almost 25 years later.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/book-reviews/review-new-fiction-from-gemma-files-kathy-page-and-more/article28743088/
“Kathy Page’s imaginative and crisply written Frankie Styne and the Silver Man is one of the creepiest novels I have ever read.” Largehearted Boy
“An amazing and unique read from beginning to end, Frankie Styne & the Silver Man by Kathy Page is a deftly crafted work of truly memorable literary fiction that is especially recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Fiction collections.” Midwest Book Review Bookwatch