2011 Gold Dagger Award
Tom Franklin uses his own humorous life events — but gives them a dark spin — in order to plot this suspenseful novel. Two teen boys, best friends as children, become estranged after a girl goes missing. Decades later, when another girl disappears, they confront each other as men: one a police officer, and the other under a lifelong cloud of suspicion. Franklin knows how to ratchet up the tension and dread, and this book is humming with both. He absolutely deserves his reputation as one of the best Southern Gothic writers today. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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 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.
"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." 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 writer's cinematic descriptive phrases and a large and colorful cast of supporting characters. Highly recommended." Library Journal (starred review)
"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
"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." Richard Russo
"[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." Washington Post
"A masterful performance, deftly rendered and deeply satisfying. For days on end, I woke with this story on my mind." David Wroblewski
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.
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.
In the 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals in a small town in rural Mississippi. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, black single mother. But then Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie and she was never seen or heard from again. He never confessed... and was never charged.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry lives a solitary, shunned existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has become the town constable. And now another girl has disappeared, forcing two men who once called each other "friend" to confront a past they've buried for decades.
About the Author
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.