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Hooked

I have to admire a writer who attempts to take on the adult male sexual psyche. As a 52-year-old male myself, it’s still a mystery to me. John Franc, however, has attempted such a feat in his new novel, Hooked. Franc’s tale involves the bonding of a group of middle-aged men who meet socially two or three times a month for poker or drinks. They are white, successful, and of course, bored as hell. Their wives are the proverbial soccer moms though still “hot” according to the husbands. They have children, are married and have the potential to be pillars of their community.

I have to admire a writer who attempts to take on the adult male sexual psyche. As a 52-year-old male myself, it’s still a mystery to me. John Franc, however, has attempted such a feat in his new novel, Hooked. Franc’s tale involves the bonding of a group of middle-aged men who meet socially two or three times a month for poker or drinks. They are white, successful, and of course, bored as hell. Their wives are the proverbial soccer moms though still “hot” according to the husbands. They have children, are married and have the potential to be pillars of their community.

Their town (which is unnamed) has legalized brothels and here is where the fun begins. The men are drawn to the women, to the obscure addresses that seem to be known only by men on the same mission. They are timid at first, as if having gone full cycle back to the adolescent angst of teenage dating. In time they gain confidence and the brothels become a regular activity. They are now men with something on the side, a little variety to spur them through middle age. Perhaps it is their final nod to the mystery of the new, of sex, of illicit romance. The narrator explains:

It was all an escape, it was all a journey, it was all discrete from the rest of your life, discrete and discreet, until one fine day when you would be found out. And then? And then?

The row house ticked around you, it was its own bomb waiting to explode in your face and blast you into the land of shame and isolation. You were sick, we were sick, we all seemed to be getting this bug, this incessant desire for pleasure without personal cost, for pleasure whenever and however and in whatever color and shape and tone we wanted.

The husbands struggle with their own rationalizations and the arrangement continues until one member succumbs to guilt and confesses all to his wife. The admission causes his spouse to flee with their children to a destination unknown, a disappearance so final that in time the confessor is suspected of foul play. The ensuing investigation splinters the group into individual introspections about family, love and life. Franc’s novel, in time, almost becomes a psychological thriller. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but you will want to follow this story’s path to the end.

In prose that is vivid and precise, John Franc renders his tale in a contemporary, poetic, stop-time portrait. Probing a theme that has endured countless colonoscopies since man first discovered erections, he avoids clich

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