Tag: Mississippi

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Posted May 20, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom FranklinTitle: Crooked Letter Crooked Letter (Goodreads)
Author: Tom Franklin
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2010
Pages: 318
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When another girl disappears, suspicion falls on the suspect of a twenty year old missing persons case. Larry has been living a solitary life never being able to escape the whispers of suspicion, now another girl disappears, it is starting all over again. Old boyhood friend Salas is now in law enforcement and this new case forces both men to confront the past that they have buried for so long.

Tom Franklin lived in a small southern town in Alabama, and while struggling to make it as an author he went through multiple manual labour jobs and once worked for the city morgue. In 1997 he got his first break when his short story collection, Poachers was named Best First Book of Fiction by Esquire. Since then he has been having great success with southern crime novels, winning a few awards, including the Edgar Award (for Poachers, a short story found in the book of the same name) and The Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger (awarded for best crime novel of the year) for Crooked Letter Crooked Letter.

This novel has been compared to the works of Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy, so I went in to this novel expecting a good southern crime novel and this is what I got. Except there was a little more in this novel, while you have the elements you expect, I never expected the book to explore the idea of being misunderstood and isolation. From the beginning of the novel Larry is shot and yet he is sympathetic towards his mystery attacker. He even forgave him because “all monsters were misunderstood”.

The idea that Larry thinks of himself as a monster brings up some interesting concepts, which I really want to explore but that would lead to some spoilers. He even owns an old monster mask which is hugely symbolic when it comes to the concept of being a monster living within society. This mask plays a big role throughout the novel and what it represents within each scene it shows up in only served to increase my enjoyment in exploring Crooked Letter Crooked Letter.

The relationship between Larry and Salas is an interesting one; they were childhood friends living in Mississippi in 1970. Larry comes from a working class family while Salas is an African American, I was expecting a lot to do with racism around their friendship, being a southern novel but Franklin went a whole different route.  Instead he explored their changing relationship from kids to adults, with the pressure of the world and the suspicion placed on Larry. This was unexpected and it added a really interesting look into the two characters relationship.

M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I 

The title of this novel references an old American children’s song used to learn how to spell Mississippi and I’ve never heard of it. Being an Australian, it is odd that we were taught how to spell Mississippi as children as well; we were never expected to spell other American states so it seems weird. Though I was taught differently and I’ve found out my wife learnt it a different way to that too. Not really important to the novel except knowing where the book is set but it a interesting thought to have about the ways we learnt to spell this word.

This is a relatively morbid novel but I honestly was hoping for something as dark as The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (seriously I need more like this novel) but as far as melancholic books, this one is worth check out. Not only does it have some interesting themes that I think are worth exploring, I found the prose lyrical and in parts stunning. It is not without its flaws and I don’t want to go into those, for fear of spoilers but I still think highly of Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin; he seems to draw a lot from Cormac McCarthy’s style, so check it out.