Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin has been met with a steady stream of critical praise since hitting shelves in October, 2010. No stranger to the world of literary acclaim, Franklin has been acknowledged as an Edgar Award recipient and was selected as the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
With a background as a blue-collar, Southern Baptist from Alabama, Franklin spent years cleaning hazardous waste sites, cataloging bodies in a hospital morgue, and operating heavy equipment before becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. Perhaps that humble background is the magic behind Franklin’s ability to tell a Southern story, and tell it right.
In his latest novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which hit the NY Times Bestseller list shortly after release, Franklin takes readers to a small town where – at first glance – his characters seem stereotypical: a high school sports star who has returned to join the town’s police force, a creepy outlier who reads a little too much Stephen King, and a few abusive men who find pleasure in making others fear or hurt or both.
Throw in a missing girl, and this book could easily have fallen into the piles of countless Southern Gothics that never make anyone’s list of favorite reads. But it didn’t. Instead, it has become a can’t-put-it-down Read of the Month that has set the literary world abuzz.
What’s most surprising about Franklin’s ability to pull off a masterful telling of this gritty tale, is how the crimes play second fiddle to the character-driven narrative. He also delivers a welcome relief by providing readers a clever ending to the page-turner, something that doesn’t surprise Franklin fans who have grown accustomed to his refreshing originality.
While the story itself is unique, the style of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter can be counted as a classic Southern novel, not only because of the traditional plot structure, but because Franklin excels at crafting a clear and believable Southern setting. He takes readers deep into the familiar scenes of what could be any small town in the nation’s underbelly, where Coke machines and burger joints are frequented and where cops get called to pull a snake out of a mailbox.
In the midst of those every day scenes, Franklin explores typical Southern themes such as racism, classism, guilt, and innocence, all while creating characters that stay with the reader long after the book has been closed. In the end, Franklin proves once and for all he is a writer to be taken seriously, as fans of Smonk, Poachers, and Hell at the Breech have known all along.