Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Staff Review: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Book Cover

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

It is the late 1970s in the Mississippi woods when Larry Ott, a white country boy, and Silas Jones, the son of a single black mother, establish an unlikely and short lived friendship. Larry's brutal father and the social demands of the time and place drive them apart, and after Larry is suspected in the murder of a neighbor girl, Silas leaves town. Twenty-some years later, “Scary Larry” remains under suspicion, a social pariah, and Silas returns to town and a job as constable, nicknamed "32" for the number he wore during his college baseball-playing days. When another girl goes missing, Larry is automatically suspected. Silas, who knows more than he let on about the earlier disappearance, thinks Larry is probably innocent. As he sets out to prove it, he uncovers other secrets and is forced to confront his own demons and reconcile the past.

In Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Tom Franklin has written a tightly plotted and evenly paced mystery with fully realized characters. He displays a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and sharply renders Southern lexicon and turns of phrase. This and his keen attention to detail place the reader firmly in the humid, kudzu-covered South. Readers should be aware, however, that racism and violence play an integral part in the story.

A self-described "Southern writer," Franklin won an Edgar Award for the title story in his collection of short stories, Poachers, and has written two novels, Smonk and Hell at the Breech. Born and raised in Alabama, he currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi and teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi.

Maria - Community Relations

More about the book