Son Brian, who’s continued dad’s most famous saga (Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, 2002, etc., with Kevin J. Anderson), chronicles in endless detail the life of a writer who scaled new pinnacles in SF.
Born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1920, young Frank didn't have much of a childhood; he was forced to care for a younger sister as his parents descended into alcoholism. At 19 he got a job on a newspaper, at 21 he enlisted in the Navy, was dumped by his first wife, and received an honorable discharge without seeing combat after a grotesque accident in 1943. Back in the Pacific Northwest, Herbert wrote for newspapers and politicians, drove like a maniac, and in 1946 married Beverly Forbes, a psychic of Scottish descent. He treated their three children (Brian was the eldest) with a curious combination of angry neglect and exquisite cruelty. Whatever he did, he did with his entire being, from uprooting the whole family to live in Mexico to single-mindedly acquiring information for his work in progress. From his modestly successful first novel, The Dragon in the Sea (1956), he developed the Dune vision, which consumed him for the next seven years. Twenty-three publishers rejected the completed text before Chilton published a hardcover edition in 1965. Chronically short of money, Frank wrote stories and novels and eventually extended the Dune saga. Four Dune movie deals fell through before David Lynch in 1984 completed a nearly five-hour film, gutted to two (and doomed) by a studio power struggle. During all this, Brian slowly and painfully endeavored to understand his father and build a relationship with him; clearly, however, intimidation and hero worship lingered until Frank’s death from a pulmonary embolism in 1986.
Repetitious and flabby (Frank can't stay in a hotel without Brian telling us the room number), with the same Dune minutiae endlessly recycled. Nonetheless, a fascinating picture of this furiously energetic, driven, determined, sometimes childlike genius.