Fran Friel’s “Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book since I first heard about its conception. Months ago Fran let everyone (possibly the whole world) know about the anthology she and Apex Digest editor Jason Sizemore were creating. And here it is in all it’s splendor…

The glossy cover of Frans book, resting atop my laptop.

The glossy cover of Fran's book, resting atop my laptop.

Notice I already had a bookmark in it.

I received it Monday, although I didn’t check the mail until after midnight so it was really Tuesday. And I just about screamed in joy when I saw the little key in my box that meant I had a package in the big boxes. I knew exactly what it meant.

I ripped the package opened and drooled over the book before I even left mail room (as I think of it). Cradling it gently in my arms, I hurried home.

Now, I could continue for pages about how I just stared at it, still in complete disbelief that I actually know someone who’s published a book. Not just that self-published, check me out kind of published. A for real, approached by an editor published. And I know her! I’ve been talking with Fran online (although I look forward to the day I get to cross paths with her at a convention.. somewhere…eventually) for a year now and she’s a wonderful person. Sweet as honey, gentle as a bunny. (Hey, that rhymed!) And so humble. I tell this woman that she’s an inspiration to me and what does she say?

Shanna – You’re one very talented lady. Inspiring you is an honor and something akin to inspiring an already blazing sun to a lasting supernova.

Poetic, humble and most especially, flattering.

See what I mean about the sweet as honey bit?

Once I got over the delectable joy of knowing and being friends with someone with their own book, I dived in head first. Or nose first, really, since it went right between the pages and my hubby had to pry the book away from my grasping fingers.

The first tale in this collection is called “Beach of Dreams.” It was born in a flash fiction office at Zoetrope Virtual Studio where horror writers meet in friendly competition. Fran has a talent for painting scenery with words. Her vivid imaginary world comes to startling life on the page and you’re sucked in, unable to set the book down for fear it would disappear. The story begins in a crazy frenzy, thrusting you into a strange culture and an even stranger occurrence. Filled with terrifying tense and painful moments, it comes to a heart-rending conclusion. Then you truly understand the meaning behind the title.

That story is followed by a tale I was around to witness the birth of last year. It’s a short diddy entitled “Gravy Pursuits.” And if I remember correct, she won the flash fiction contest that week for her satisfying tale. She gets the point of the story across with out a single horrible image and in such a sweet, kind way that the conclusion will make you put the book down, look at it and then ponder how a nice lady like Fran can write something like that.

Eleven other stories entice and delight you on your trip through Fran’s fiction. She takes you back to her favorite town, Eastville, Virginia, several times–through a pirate’s tale, a mysterious contract and finally you arrive at the supreme destination. The title novella that started the whole darn thing: “Mama’s Boy.”

In 2006, this novella was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. The Stoker Award is the highest achievement a horror writer can achieve (realistically speaking; not many tales of horror are going to be winning the Pulitzer prize…for now). It has before been bestowed upon well known authors as Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum, Stephen King, Bentley Little, Richard Matheson and Peter Straub. While she didn’t win, she was one of the final five selected for the Long Fiction category. It’s an amazing achievement and she deserves every accolade thrown at her. (So throw some more!)

When I first “met” Fran last year and learned this awe-inspiring fact about her, I was gnawing at the bit to read “Mama’s Boy.” Even though it had been made into a stand alone book by Insidious Publications, I was unable to secure a copy. It had already sold out.

Then fortune shined down on me.

And to my utter delight, I can honestly say “Mama’s Boy” was everything I thought it would be and more. It will work your nerves in an awful way that, as others have said before, will make you want to scrub down in a hot shower when you finish reading. But in a completely good, dirty kind of way. She paces the story so well, giving you just enough information to keep you hooked–but not enough for you to predict the ending. You might think you have the whole thing figured out, but you probably won’t have it all figured out. (Unless you’re gifted with that kind of ability, then you might. But I guarantee you’ll still enjoy reading it.)

“Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales” is a collection of stories that will stay with you for years to come. (I’m sure not going to forget it for a while. A long while.) So stop by Apex Book Company and pick it up now.

To learn more about Fran, visit her internet Lair at

5 responses to “Fran Friel’s “Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales”

  1. Oh, girlie, you make me blush. I’m SO happy you enjoyed the collection and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint you after all the waiting.

    Thank you so very much for writing an extraordinary review. I’m truly blessed to have you as a friend.

    Many Gratitude-Filled Hugs,


  2. Fran, you are very welcome. And thank you for putting links to this post everywhere.

    Erik… you should have seen me. I got the email that it was being delivered on the 9th and I checked the mail every day (heh, even Sunday, though I knew better). My husband just kept laughing at me.


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