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Gods and Monsters: A Novel

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  690 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Previously titled Father of Frankenstein, this acclaimed novel was the basis for the 1998 film starring Sir Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave, and Brendan Fraser. It journeys back to 1957 Los Angeles, where James Whale, the once-famous director of such classics as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, is living in retirement, haunted by his past. Rescuing him from his too-vivi ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 2nd 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1995)
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Francis Williams
Aug 10, 2014 Francis Williams rated it really liked it
A moving and perceptive novel that takes as its protagonist a real person, Hollywood director James Whale, who died in the 1950s forgotten by Hollywood but not by legions of horror movie fans. The novel is multilayered and complex and deals with the theme of the artist who can no longer practice his art: abandoned by the film establishment, Whale can no longer make movies, and a stroke has destroyed his ability to sketch and paint. Bram skillfully interweaves themes of Whale's life with those of ...more
Paul
Sep 16, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This is an excellent book. It is written beautifully with splashes of cinematic touches that, of course are mini-pastiches of Whale's own work. It is artfully done and although it probably bears little resemblance to the actual last month of Whale's life, sometimes literature speaks greater truth than journalism. Bram's prose is elegant, artful, and truthfully I was looking for clunkiness given some of the melodramatic subject matter, but didn't find it. Overall, I thought it was touching and a ...more
Julie
Oct 29, 2007 Julie rated it really liked it
Close look at psychological breakdown. Very interesting to take a look at 1950s Hollywood!
Rod
Feb 18, 2010 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rod by: rschepper@gmail.com
Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram 1995 read in Feb 2010
A novel using James Whale the real director of Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein as the main character. This fictional account of the directors last days was the basis for the movie, “Gods and Monsters”. I read this after reading Mr Bram’s non-fiction book of essays, Mapping the Territory. I was so taken by his clear and precise writing, I knew I would enjoy anything he wrote. And I was correct. He is also a great story teller
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Russell Sanders
Sep 27, 2015 Russell Sanders rated it it was amazing
Christopher Bram, in Gods and Monsters, has created a beautifully poignant novel that tells of a friendship between famed movie director James Whale (Frankenstein; Bride of Frankenstein; Show Boat) and fictional character Clayton Boone, Whale’s supposed yard man. Some of what’s here is truth; most of it is invented. But Bram creates a lovely relationship between a aging and dying gay man and a young man who sees Whale’s pain and, though not gay himself, is sensitive enough to provide the support ...more
Joel Fishbane
Like author Peter Straub, I read most of this book in one sitting, a true compliment considering how restless one can get on a hot summer day. Reading this book so soon after Doctorow's Homer and Langley, I couldn't help but draw parallels, not because of the subject matter, but because both books create fictional versions of history that are true to the spirit of people involved if not the actual facts. Here, Mr. Baum's focus is the final days of James Whale, best remembered as the director of ...more
J.D.
Apr 14, 2015 J.D. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that are very rare to me in that I liked the ending of the movie better, except for the totally tacked on epilogue-ish bit where we see Boone with his son and wife--that does not even exist in the book. Overall, the movie was a very faithful adaptation of the book and I enjoyed the extra details the novel provided, it made it engrossing without ever slowing down the pace. Then the next-to-last chapter was rushed, especially toward the end and I was left quite disappoin ...more
Scott Pomfret
Jun 07, 2016 Scott Pomfret rated it really liked it
Originally titled "Father of Frankenstein" and subsequently changed to "Gods and Monsters" to match the movie version, this novel is a subtly charming rendition of the last two weeks of the life of James Whale, director of horror flicks Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (as well as many others). At this point in his life, Whale has just recovered (somewhat) from a stroke and is living alone in his mansion. After making the acquaintance of his young, butch, former Marine yardman Clayton, Wha ...more
Taylor P
May 29, 2015 Taylor P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This true-life-saga-turned-novel is deeply affecting and impeccably crafted. I was most personally impressed by the nuanced portrayal of what it was to be gay in the trenches, what it was to be gay in the early golden years of Hollywood, what it was and is to be gay when the world around you refuses to treat you justly, and at the same time how wealth can be both a means of escaping the conundrums and the doldrums and a means of entrapping you further within them. Its LGBT themes aside, the nove ...more
Bill Wallace
Imagining the final days of director James Whale as a gay horror movie. I saw the film adaptation, Gods and Monsters, a few years back, so the story here seemed familiar enough but the book has a somewhat different focus and spends more time on Whale's memories of his glory years in Hollywood. I liked some chapters very much but found myself almost skimming pages in others just to get through them, mostly due to a repetition of ideas and themes that I wasn't interested in. The book's two chief v ...more
Jason
Jul 24, 2007 Jason rated it it was amazing
Overtly gay? Yes. Entertaining? Sure. But what got me reading and reading this book was my sudden fascination with James Whale and the Frankenstein movies. Okay, most of this never really happened. But it's easy to believe it could have. Christopher Bram, I applaud you.
Randal
Dec 13, 2008 Randal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay, favorites
This book, the basis for the film "Gods and Monsters," was a delightful read. I found it engaging with good character development that was complex but not overly so. I saw the movie before I read the book and was impressed at how true the former was to the latter.
Tom
Jan 12, 2016 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! I had watched the film version years ago and always meant to read the book. The appearance of Ian McKellen in another Bill Condon film this summer, MR. HOLMES caused me to go back and fullfill that wish. I am so glad I did. I loved this book. Christopher Bram captures the time period perfectly and the added depth of character in both the James Whale and Clayton Boone makes the book a perfect companion to the film. It's no wonder it was an Oscar nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay. Thi ...more
Michelle Taylor
Sep 16, 2007 Michelle Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite people. He was one of only a few people that I knew when I first lived in NYC and he gave me such a unique view of his city.
Eric Diesel
Feb 19, 2008 Eric Diesel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the books that made me want to write again.
Chris Laskey
Jan 06, 2016 Chris Laskey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
2nd read. A fine novel that captures a time period and a set of lives and breathes life. Bram writes with such a feeling of truth in his cast that one feels he was there experiencing it all. Despite it being a fiction the book really creates a very real set of people in particular the ruminations and anguishes of Mr. James Whale towards the end of his life. At times comical as well as heartbreaking. The events towards the end is slightly off and it feels somewhat forced - especially as so much o ...more
John
Mar 17, 2010 John rated it it was amazing
A favorite writer at his best.
Gmh357
Nov 05, 2008 Gmh357 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
his best work so far
Sistermagpie
Oct 03, 2013 Sistermagpie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, american-lit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David
The second half of this book was much better than the first half. FATHER OF FRANKENSTEIN imagines what the end of movie director James Whales' life was like. James Whale directed THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. It was certainly written with a reverence and nostalgia for classic Hollywood as BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is considered his crowning achievement and Mr. Whale's life is still within a glamorous Hollywood elite including a scene with an Elizabeth Taylor cameo.

The first half of the book sets up the
...more
Jenny
Oct 18, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a fan of old horror films, I very much enjoyed this glimpse into James Whale's life and, ultimately, his death. It was exciting to look in on the moment when Elsa Lanchester was transformed into the Bride of Frankenstein, and to hear Greta Garbo tell Whale that she wished she could've been his monster's bride. Since this book is a fictionalization, I don't know how or if these things actually happened, but I like thinking of them the way they are written here.

I thought the author was very su
...more
Kathleen O'Nan
Dec 24, 2015 Kathleen O'Nan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this under the new title "Gods and Monsters." Had a hard time finishing the first 40 or 50 pages but then it really took off. A wonderful look at the "old Hollywood" through the eyes of the historical character, James Whale and the fictional characters, Clay and Maria. This once highly acclaimed director is now a forgotten "nobody" in Hollywood. To add injury to this insult, he is ill and old. This look at the last days of his life are a wonderful psychological study.
Sean Kinch
Mar 02, 2015 Sean Kinch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel, in many ways an homage to classic Hollywood, has cinematic touches throughout, including crisp, present-tense scene settings and sharp, quotable dialogue. Though Bram is categorized as a gay writer, and Whale himself has been theorized into a gay icon, the central problems here are cognitive decline and traumatic memories. A book that makes you want to see what's showing on Turner Classic...and read more Bram.
Joanna
Jan 23, 2014 Joanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book makes one ravenous for more biographical information of Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, and so many others who are mention and peppered throughout the pages of the book. Although it's a novel about director James Whales'last weeks prior to his suicide, it resonates with a sadness for a man diminished by his body's illness and aware of life's, fast approaching end. One can only wonder what James Whale's life was like at this time. Fearful of another stroke, his memories see ...more
Psykeactiv1
Aug 04, 2015 Psykeactiv1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
finishing this book tonight.. i felt the sorrow of his life, and the relief of his death.. such a good book showing how behind every smile, may be a suicidal sadness unfathomable to those who prefer to skim the surface of the hearts of others..
Carl Lehnen
Mar 08, 2015 Carl Lehnen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I put this off because I had such fond memories of the movie, but the book added many new dimensions. I don't know if I found the friendship entirely believable, but I enjoyed watching it develop, and the writing was wonderful.
Steven Schreier
May 04, 2014 Steven Schreier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though the protagonist is not terribly sympathetic he is so well defined and alluring one can not help feeling pity, much like the creature he created on the big screen.
Sean
Dec 20, 2010 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A moving and humane book about a great cinematic hero, James Whale, director of Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and Showboat. This book, which formed the basis for the movie Gods and Monsters, gives us a wonderful, somewhat vain and irascible character wrestling with his own declining powers. Though having a clear gay perspective, it treats all it's personalities, whatever their sexuality, weaknesses or proclivities, with the dignity that allows them to be difficult and t ...more
Michael Stewart
Dec 10, 2013 Michael Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This wonderful novel has one toe in "Hollywood" fiction and one in the annals of "queer" literature: the author is gay as was the real life director James Whale. This novel is the basis for the wonderful film GODS AND MONSTERS that weaves a relationship between the real Whale and the fictitious landscaper Clay Boone. A career that was largely forgotten and the strata of memories of the ailing director near life's end are two of the main threads, with the third thread being the backstory and the ...more
Jeff
Jul 22, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved it! I have read it several times. There is just something about it that moves me to the core.
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Bram grew up in Kempsville, Virginia. After graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1974 (B.A. in English), he moved to New York City four years later. There, he met his lifelong partner, documentary filmmaker Draper Shreeve.

Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein, about film director James Whale, was made into the movie Gods and Monsters starring Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser. Bill Condo
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