Challenge 597 Response
What Is Fanky?
with James Shaffer
“I Shot Sonny Battalion” appears in issue 597.
What kind of work does Franky seem to have taken on in later life?
At what point in the story does it cease to be a surprise that Franky is carrying a pistol and silencer?
[James S.] Franky is a hit man. I think the first feeling you get that it might be Franky’s chosen career path is from the small pleasure he gets from shooting Sonny the first time with his BB gun. It’s not only the pleasure he gets from taking the shot but the way he feels about the gun, how he feels “one with it.” Then his subsequent association with petty crimes and criminals will surely put him on the path to what he finally chooses to do with his life.
I feel the plot gives us enough clues to reach the conclusion about his career. When I read that Franky was a loner, had no wife or kids, travelled around the country and had “clients” who rented cars for him in assumed names, I was convinced he was a hit man. At that point, I wasn’t surprised he had a gun with a silencer.
I think the story is great, but then I’m a fan of noir and hardboiled fiction in both film and prose. I think this story falls into what could be called historical noir in that its setting and action are determined by chronological events that run from childhood to adulthood. It becomes a full-blown crime story in its final scene, where the life events depicted lead to that logical conclusion.
I think a few other ideas could be further explored. Did his first shooting of Sonny feel unresolved or unfinished? Did his killing of Sonny have anything to do with revenge?
[Don W.] Thank you, James. I’d say you’re quite right about the clues; readers can reasonably infer that Franky is an enforcer for organized crime. Therefore, we should not be surprised that he is carrying a gun and a silencer, to boot. But the clues themselves raise a question: Why not simply tell the readers what Franky is?
I’d say it’s a nice touch to understate what Franky does “for a living.” Depicting him as a swaggering goon, for example, would completely skew the readers’ perception of his motive for shooting Sonny Battalion the second time. The readers would see Franky as a casual killer, and that image of him would contradict the point of the story.
Franky’s recognition comes when he realizes he is faced with a crisis and has to take a stand:
I sat thinking about Sonny Battalion and took another sip of my beer. I thought about my dad and I thought about Albert dying on Omaha Beach. I thought about my own life and about that pitiful woman moaning in the back room.
Sonny had forced Franky’s father out of his bakery. Albert had died in WW2 so that Sonny could live. Is this the reward Albert gets? And has Franky’s own life amounted to much more than Sonny’s?
What is Franky going to do: slink out of Sonny’s bar like a coward? Turn his back on his dad, on Albert and the poor woman? Franky can’t clean his hands, but in this one case, at least, he can clear his conscience.
Copyright © 2014 by James Shaffer
and Bewildering Stories