Synopses & Reviews
“The classic trifecta of talent, heart, and a bone-deep sense of storytelling….A masterful performance, deftly rendered and deeply satisfying. For days on end, I woke with this story on my mind.”
— David Wroblewski
“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.”
A powerful and resonant novel from Tom Franklin—critically acclaimed author of Smonk and Hell at the Breech—Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells the riveting story of two boyhood friends, torn apart by circumstance, who are brought together again by a terrible crime in a small Mississippi town. An extraordinary novel that seamlessly blends elements of crime and Southern literary fiction, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a must for readers of Larry Brown, Pete Dexter, Ron Rash, and Dennis Lehane.
"A ripping good mystery, this novel also has depth and a subtle literary side.... Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Edgar Award winner Franklin renders luminous prose and a cast of compelling characters in this moody, masterful entry." Starred Review Booklist
"The classic trifecta of talent, heart, and a bone-deep sense of storytelling.... A masterful performance, deftly rendered and deeply satisfying. For days on end, I woke with this story on my mind." David Wroblewski
"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" Washington Post
“Long after the other 75 novels of suspense youve read this year merge in your memory, youll vividly recall this novel. Franklin has written not just a thriller of the first order, but a very fine novel, indeed.” Richard Russo
“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.” George Pelecanos
“A new Tom Franklin novel is always a reason to get excited, but Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is morea cause for celebration. What a great novel by a great novelist.” Dennis Lehane
“A ripping good mystery, this novel also has depth and a subtle literary side, as the local area comes to life through the writers cinematic descriptive phrases and a large and colorful cast of supporting characters. Highly recommended.” Library Journal (starred review)
Long-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
February 2015 Indie Next Title
An ABA's Winter/Spring 2015 Indies Introduce title"A promising debut...the lyrical landscapes and the emotional weather are in place." --John Williams, The New York Times
"Impressive...[a] tough, honest novel by a surprisingly wise young writer." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Hulse evokes the Montana landscape in lyrical, vivid prose...[she] is a gifted wordsmith with promising dramatic instincts." --The Boston Globe
"The assured rhythms of the language convey grace, restraint, insights, power, and beauty. Black River transcends its setting and the circumstances of a few people in a small Montana town to say something true and enduring about violence and families, and grief and compassion." -- Los Angeles Review of Books
"Transcending its genre-fiction setting, Black River is a powerful meditation on faith, family and redemption set in present-day Montana."--The Guardian
"This first novel pulses with dramatic tension and emotional resonance... Hulse’s story is lyrical, elegiac and authentic. Watch for it on best-of-the-year lists." -- BBC Culture
"This top-of-the-line modern American Western debut explores the themes of violence, revenge, and forgiveness with a sure hand...From the bluegrass theme to the Western rural setting, Hulse handles his story like a pro."--Publishers Weekly, starred and boxed review
"Heads up—Hulse is a smart writer, able to reveal her character’s gut-level emotions and trickiest self-manipulations. Comparing the author to Annie Proulx, Wallace Stegner, or Kent Haruf is no exaggeration. Her debut is bound to turn readers’ hearts inside out and leave them yearning for some sweet, mournful fiddle music." --Library Journal, starred review
"Hulse debuts with a stark, tender tale about one man's quest for faith and forgiveness...By making Wes' suffering so palpable, Hulse makes it even more moving when, in the novel's final pages, he achieves something he's been seeking for a very long time: grace. Profound issues addressed with a delicate touch and folded into a strong story populated by wrenchingly human characters: impressive work from a gifted young artist." --Kirkus, starred review
"Hulse clearly loves Montana, and her own fiddle playing and knowledge of horses shine through the novel. She maintains suspense and manages to avoid the clichés of redemption stories in this assured debut." --Booklist, starred review
"Black River tackles themes of Old Testament proportion—the inheritance of sin, deliverance and damnation, good and evil. Its characters wrestle with their pasts and each other; their collisions are filled with rage, miscommunication, and occasionally the wistful hope for a second chance. With an empathic touch, this sophisticated debut illuminates how fine a line there can be between vengeance and redemption. This is a story you won’t forget.”
—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone
"The prose in S.M. Hulse's debut novel Black River mirrors the Montana land in which it's set: spare, powerful, and dangerous. This is a novel about love born from violence, about families torn apart by tragedy, and about a community that must take a long, hard look at its past if it's ever going to see its future. Like Kent Haruf and Larry McMurtry, S.M. Hulse knows the landscape about which she writes, and she understands the hearts of those who live there."
—Wiley Cash, author of the NYT bestselling A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy
"Hulse writes with great clarity and precision, her language a celebration of rigor and intensity, and with such awareness of human rage and love—and fear of love—that her novel Black River feels like a river itself, teeming and unexpected and driven. She has an amazing sensibility for creating the understated, the emotionally-pressurized, the contained-and-explosive, the unsaid-and-impossible-to-say. One of the great joys of reading this novel is watching how she manages this—and how her perfect balance allows her deeper and deeper insights into the ways that people, especially men, negotiate their love for, and their fear of, each other and themselves."
—Kent Meyers, author of The Work of Wolves
"Like her forbears Kittredge, Proulx, Carlson, Hulse examines the mountains and rivers of the west, its implacable beauty, and makes the landscape her own. In Wesley Carver she has made a mountain of her own, fashioned and then refashioned by the forces of memory, bitterness, and finally, forgiveness. A wonderful debut by a welcome new voice."
—Ehud Havazelet, author of Bearing the Body
"A lovely austerity infuses this story of damage and redemption, and makes it glow. Hulse is a wise and compassionate writer who understands the tricky and heartbreaking borders between principle and rigidity, justice and revenge. Her debut novel is provoking and memorable."
—Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover and My Russian“Black River is one of the best debut novels I've read in a long time. S.M. Hulse is a smart and sensitive writer, utilizing strong, clean and evocative prose to tell us of Wes Carver, a man who is wrestling with the world and himself, haunted by an old horror, tattered family bonds, a wife who is dead but not gone.”
—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone, The Maid’s Version, and others
“Black River is such a vivid, compelling debut novel. S.M. Hulse is an astute guide to an implacable western landscape of grief, violence and redemption.”
—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins, The Financial Lives of the Poets, and others
"I loved this book…Jonathan Miles can write, and here hes written a wonderful book, and theres no one I would not urge to read it….This is the work of a fluid, confident and profoundly talented writer who gets more fluid, more confident and seemingly more talented even within the book itself. As it progresses, ‘Want Not so assuredly accumulates power and profundity and momentum that I read the last 200 pages without pause." - Dave Eggers, New York Times Book Review
"[a] shrewd, funny, and sometimes devastating new novel….What WANT NOT does best, though, isn't plotting but portraits of humanity: the small epiphanies and private hurts of every person whose life, like the detritus they produce, is as beautifully mundane and unique as a fingerprint. A-" - Entertainment Weekly
"Panoramic...For readers who relish extravagant language, scathing wit and philosophical heft, Want Not wastes nothing." - Kirkus, STARRED "With forthright wit and stunning intimacy, Miles doesnt hesitate to broach the uncomfortable consequences of unchecked abundance and desire. The result is a wild tangle of high-octane, entertaining prose, an astonishing leap for this accomplished novelist." - Booklist "Before you gird your loins and stuff your birds for Thanksgiving, spend some highly rewarding hours with all the trash and waste in Jonathan Miless new novel, WANT NOT." - Bloomberg
"outrageously funny" - Ron Charles, WashingtonPost.com
"Whether youre a chronic hoarder or a censorious neatnik, make room on the shelf for this terrific new book from Jonathan Miles called “Want Not.” Best known for his first comic novel, “Dear American Airlines,” Miles is back with a complex, often hilarious, ultimately moving story about who we are and what we discard — subjects that have always been more intimately linked than we care to admit. “Want Not” is — someones got to say it — the best trashy novel of the year....Even as “Want Not” paws through the bones of pre¬history, the wasteland of our modern economy and the ashes of the future, Miless elegant and thoughtful voice suggests that all is not lost. The novel may begin with prickly satire, it may dig deep into Americas disposable lifestyle, but it ultimately pivots to scenes of surprising tenderness. Despite our extravagant waste, despite our carelessness with each other, despite that temptation to despair that everything is flotsam and jetsam, Miles offers a heartfelt affirmation of human value. Thats what makes this a novel to hoard." - Washington Post "What is extremely apparent...is Jonathan Miles extraordinary talent. Where so many writers are impressionists, Miles is more of a photo realist....Miles presents such fully developed characters, you come to know their essences." - New Jersey Star Ledger
"When prompted to offer up a pithy description of life on Planet Earth for future generations, one might be tempted to filch a line from a character in Jonathan Miles'second novel: 'We came, we saw, we trashed.' With a title like WANT NOT you'd think its author, if not the book's characters, might agree. But what makes Miles' new book (after the much lauded DEAR AMERICAN AIRLINES so luminous and so resonant is what it asks instead: Or did we?" - The Oregonian "WANT NOT, the sophomore effort of Jonathan Miles, author of the much-praised comic rant of a novel DEAR AMERICAN AIRLINES, does not disappoint. WANT NOT leaps nimbly from topic to topic, each sentence providing a miniature window into its author's energetic and wide-ranging mind: from freeganism to conspicuous consumption; from Manhattan's Alphabet City to residential New Jersey to the backwoods of Tennessee; and from neighbors with nothing but geographical location in common to sisters who share nothing but blood….Sitting down with WANT NOT is like finding yourself opposite the most interesting person at a dinner party. It pulls you in immediately; makes you shake your head in wonder and delight at your new companion's wit, originality, and compelling turns of phrase; and, best of all, surprises you into laughter." - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"rapturous prose [and] the blend of ideas and characters...result in a novel thats sharp and occasionally breathtaking." - Time Out New York
"With a large set of people to get to know in the novel, and all of them compelling, Jonathan Miles delivers his second novel WANT NOT with a great big smile. Funnier than ever the author, acclaimed for his DEAR AMERICAN AIRLINES, loves to go off on a tangent and wander along with just his prose as a tiny flashlight in the woods. - Edge Media
"This is a novel with a strong point of view, but its far from a polemic. Miles is as funny as he is observant, and he allows us to laugh at ourselves as he forces us to look at some of the more unattractive aspects of humanity. This is a hard novel to pitch in a few sentences, but its an easy one to recommend. Simply put, its one of the best of the year." - BookRiot
"With a light Midas touch, Miles turns all the glut and ache of late America into pure gold. If you're in that soul-hunt up the food chain and down the dial for something more satisfying than the hollow abundance of our contemporary lives, read this book. It is warm, complex, comic, honest, and never flinching. Want Not wastes not a word, while its pleasures are endless." - Joshua Ferris, author of The Unnamed and Then We Came to the End "In this powerful, blisteringly funny novel, Jonathan Miles makes a startling discovery: We are what we throw away. It's in our castoff goods, edibles, chances and people that our authentic selves are revealed; or, as one of his many memorable characters puts it, 'garbage [is] the only truthful thing civilization produced.' Miles mines the depths of waste so artfully that by the end of this extraordinary novel, we're left with the suspicion that redemption may well be no more, and no less, than an existential salvage operation." - Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk and Brief Encounters with Che Guevara "Want Not, Jonathan Miles brilliant and original take on a culture-ours-that mindlessly seems to squander all that is dear, is as witty as it is mind-blowing and eye-opening. The combination of high-octane prose and Miles' compassion for his characters make for a novel that stirs the collective conscience. A clear-eyed, exuberant entertainment." - Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life and A Day at the Beach
Tom Franklin's extraordinary talent has been hailed by the leading lights of contemporary literature — Philip 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 characterization 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 far — an 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 county — and 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.
In a small Mississippi town, two men are torn apart by circumstance and reunited by tragedy, in this resonant new novel from the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Hell at the Breech.
A former prison guard and talented fiddler returns to his Montana hometown to bury his wife and confront the inmate who, twenty years ago, held him hostage during a prison riot.
A tense Western and an assured debut, Black River tells the story of a man marked by a prison riot as he returns to the town, and the convict, who shaped him.
When Wes Carver returns to Black River, he carries two things in the cab of his truck: his wife’s ashes and a letter from the prison parole board. The convict who held him hostage during a riot, twenty years ago, is being considered for release.
Wes has been away from Black River ever since the riot. He grew up in this small Montana town, encircled by mountains, and, like his father before him and most of the men there, he made his living as a Corrections Officer. A talented, natural fiddler, he found solace and joy in his music. But during that riot Bobby Williams changed everything for Wes — undermining his faith and taking away his ability to play.
How can a man who once embodied evil ever come to good? How can he pay for such crimes with anything but his life? As Wes considers his own choices and grieves for all he’s lost, he must decide what he believes and whether he can let Williams walk away.
With spare prose and stunning detail, S. M. Hulse drops us deep into the heart and darkness of an American town.
From the critically acclaimed author of Dear American Airlines, a compulsively readable, deeply human novel that charts the course of three intersecting lives—a freegan couple living off the grid in Manhattan, a once prominent linguist struggling with midlife, and a New Jersey debt-collection magnate with a new family and a second chance at getting things right—in a thoroughly contemporary examination of that most basic and unquenchable emotion: want.
A compulsively readable, deeply human novel that examines our most basic and unquenchable emotion: want. With his critically acclaimed first novel, Jonathan Miles was widely praised as a comic genius “after something bigger” (David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
) whose fiction was “not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding” (Richard Russo, New York Times Book Review
, front cover).
Now, in his much anticipated second novel, Want Not, Miles takes a giant leap forward with this highly inventive and corrosively funny story of our times, a three-pronged tale of human excess that sifts through the detritus of several disparate lives—lost loves, blown chances, countless words and deeds misdirected or misunderstood—all conjoined in their come-hell-or-high-water search for fulfillment.
As the novel opens on Thanksgiving Day, readers are telescoped into three different worlds in various states of disrepair—a young freegan couple living off the grid in New York City; a once-prominent linguist, sacked at midlife by the dissolution of his marriage and his fathers losing battle with Alzheimers; and a self-made debt-collecting magnate, whose brute talent for squeezing money out of unlikely places has yielded him a royal existence, trophy wife included.
Want and desire propel these characters forward toward something, anything, more, until their worlds collide, briefly, randomly, yet irrevocably, in a shattering ending that will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
With a satirists eye and a romantics heart, Miles captures the morass and comedy of contemporary life in all its excess. Bold, unblinking, unforgettable in its irony and pathos, Want Not is a wicked, bighearted literary novel that confirms the arrival of a major voice in American fiction.
About the Author
Tom Franklin is the award-winning and New York Times
bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
, which was nominated for nine awards and won the Los Angeles Times
Book Prize and the prestigious Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger Award. His previous works include Poachers
, whose title story won the Edgar Award, as well as Hell at the Breech and Smonk
. The winner of a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, he teaches in the University of Mississippi's MFA program.
Beth Ann Fennelly has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and United States Artists, as well as a Fulbright grant to travel to Brazil. Her honors include the Kenyon Review Prize and three inclusions in The Best American Poetry. She has published three volumes of poetry as well as a work of nonfiction, Great with Child. She directs the University of Mississippi's MFA program, where she was named the 2011 Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
Beth Ann and Tom live in Oxford, Mississippi, with their three children.