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Frank's Shadow
We leave shadows, not footprints. Newlywed Danny McKenna’s honeymoon ends abruptly when he learns his father has died, uncannily, on the same day as his hero, Frank Sinatra. Returning home to his knotty Irish American family, Danny is confronted with a painful truth—while he knows everything about the famous singer, his own father is a mystery. Tasked with giving a eulogy for a man he hardly knows, Danny sets out to uncover his dad’s past—an immigrant’s tale of mid-twentieth-century America and the harsh realities of WWII lived in stark contrast to Frank Sinatra’s famously extravagant life. Along the way, Danny’s own demons nearly destroy him as he struggles to accept his father’s deepest secret—a journey that takes him into the heart of darkness before he learns to live in the light. Fame, family, and forgiveness are among the many themes in Doug McIntyre’s debut novel, a story full of vibrant scenery, gripping characters, humor, and profound moments of self-realization. Frank’s Shadow is a deeply (sometimes darkly) human story wrapped in the trappings of a delightfully gritty love letter to New York City’s less glamorous neighborhoods.
In this occasionally shocking but endlessly honest and heartfelt literary fiction debut, McIntyre transports readers into a sweeping chronicle of one man’s seemingly prosaic life. Daniel McKenna knows all there is to know about Frank Sinatra—but when his own father, Frank McKenna, passes away on the same day as the illustrious singer, and Daniel’s asked to give the eulogy, he faces the crippling reality that he hardly knew the man. What begins as a quest for his father’s truth, however, spirals into a journey of self-destruction and discovery, as Daniel is forced to reckon with his family, himself, and a stranger from his father’s past.

As in many of the best literary fiction novels, McIntyre’s work aims a microscope at its troubled protagonist, relentlessly exposing flaws and confronting prejudices head-on, without sacrificing reality for fancy. Standout scenes include Daniel’s alcohol and Ativan-induced stupor at his father’s funeral service and a young adulthood run-in with law enforcement—an experience that causes him to wonder, as he looks back on it, if it was actually his attempt to “[put] me out of my misery.” Readers will undoubtedly relate to Daniel, at his best and worst moments, due to the palpable humanity McIntyre injects into him via powerful prose and excellent voice curation.

Even at its most dramatic and played-up, Frank’s Shadow keeps its feet on the ground and delivers a first-rate, incisive, even inflammatory character study that will hook readers from beginning to end. McIntyre, a New York native, paints the New York City of 1998 with a kind of vividness born of authenticity, highlighting its charms and harms in ways that connect Daniel to the place and time, further immersing readers in this engrossing story. Daniel’s pursuit of his own deliverance is earnest and unrestrained, candidly portrayed as he searches for the deeper meaning in his father’s life. This is a triumph of dramatic literature.

Takeaway: An incisive character study set to the throbbing backbeat of ‘90s New York City.

Comparable Titles: Mary E. McDonald’s Small Town Empire, Steven Lomske’s On the Bank of the Chippewa.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: NA
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A