Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
By Tom Franklin
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780060594664, 288pp.)
Publication Date: October 2010
Tom Franklin's extraordinary talent has been hailed by the leading lights of contemporary literaturePhilip Roth, Richard Ford, Lee Smith, and Dennis Lehane. Reviewers have called his fiction "ingenious" (USA Today) and "compulsively readable" (Memphis Commercial Appeal). His narrative power and flair for character-ization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.
Now the Edgar Award-winning author returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so faran atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the countyand perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades.
Tom Franklin is the author of Hell at the Breech and Poachers. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife, the poet Beth Ann Fennelly, and their three children. He teaches at the University of Mississippi.
The title of Tom Franklin's new book is Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. If you know what that means, then you can also probably imagine the Deep South small town, the legacy of racism and the economic despair that shape the characters. Guest host Rebecca Roberts speaks with Franklin about his novel, part crime drama, part coming-of-age story and part portrait of a small town largely left behind by the 21st century. More at NPR.org
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- The epigraph reveals the origins of the novel's title. Why do you think Tom Franklin chose to use "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter"? What significance does it hold for the story?
“A ripping good mystery, this novel also has depth and a subtle literary side, as the local area comes to life through the writer’s cinematic descriptive phrases and a large and colorful cast of supporting characters. Highly recommended.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“A new Tom Franklin novel is always a reason to get excited, but Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is more—a cause for celebration. What a great novel by a great novelist.”
“Long after the other 75 novels of suspense you’ve read this year merge in your memory, you’ll vividly recall this novel. Franklin has written not just a thriller of the first order, but a very fine novel, indeed.”
“Beautiful writing, a spot-on sense of place, wickedly funny dialogue, and an emotionally potent story charge this highly original, literary crime offering from master stylist Tom Franklin.”
“A masterful performance, deftly rendered and deeply satisfying. For days on end, I woke with this story on my mind.”
“[A] terrific new novel….If you’re looking for a smart, thoughtful novel that sinks deep into a Southern hamlet of the American psyche, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is your next book.”
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