Linda Frank never anticipated becoming a fiction writer.
“I had some jobs with local, weekly papers, including a Jewish newspaper in Denver a long time ago,” Frank said. “And I did PR and marketing, but most of my career was in financial services in the securities business.”
So, Frank said, “writing fiction was kind of a new thing.”
Today, Frank is the Milwaukee-based author of three books that share the protagonist Lily Kovner, “the Jewish Miss Marple.” The moniker comes from Agatha Christie’s amateur detective character Miss Marple, from her 20th century novels and short stories.
Based on real life
“She’s become my doppelganger or my spokesperson but not really an alter ego,” Frank said of Kovner, who shares some of Frank’s biographical details, such as having children living abroad, but not all of them.
Frank’s most recent book, “The Nice Little Blonde Girl,” released in September 2019. In that book, Kovner travels to Lviv, Ukraine, in search of missing artifacts. Kovner’s journey to Lviv leads her not just in the direction of the artifacts but also in search of her own relatives who may have survived the Holocaust.
The story, like much of Frank’s work, is based on historical fact and family history; her distant cousin was left in Lviv during World War II when her family moved to Palestine.
Frank and her husband, Eli Frank, are members of Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun in River Hills.
“I really feel I’m practicing Judaism through a number of the volunteer things I’ve done in my life, both political and nonprofit, in terms of the values,” Linda Frank said. “Tikkun olam becomes a cliché, but I really don’t think it is.”
Judaism is prevalent throughout Frank’s work in her characters and plots. For example, one of the missing items in “The Nice Little Blonde Girl” is a manuscript by a Talmudic scholar.
“I think there’s huge beauty in Jewish ritual items,” Frank said. “They’ve had kinds of value in the stories of things the Nazis looted, etc., but they don’t get as much attention as the big fancy paintings and things like that that everybody’s clamoring for the museums to give back.”
Frank is an active member of the Milwaukee Jewish community in a capacity that goes beyond her writing. She is on the board of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and is co-chairing an upcoming exhibit on Japanese internment during World War II. She is also a co-chair of the Wisconsin Jewish Democrats and involved with Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters in Milwaukee.
“I was instrumental in bringing that program here to Milwaukee in the 1990s, and it’s still a thriving program,” Frank said. “And I like to stay engaged with the children and families who were involved with that.”
Frank also advocates for immigration reform with the American Jewish nonprofit HIAS.
Right now, however, family is at the top of Frank’s mind.
“I’m just waiting for China to let us in so we can see our grandchildren,” she said.
* * *
About Agatha Christie:
Agatha Christie is a source of inspiration for local writer Linda Frank.
- Born in Torquay, England, in 1890
- The best-selling novelist of all time
- Best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections
- Wrote the world’s longest-running play “The Mousetrap”
Source: The Home of Agatha Christie.