Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Listened: "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" by Tom Franklin

Listened: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, 2010, Overdrive download.

Pretty decent but I don't know why it received as many awards as it did. I stayed interested throughout and when I was listening in the gym I paused a few times to focus on the story. But, I'm not sure if it is worth the multiple awards received.

Larry Ott is a loner by circumstance in rural MS. He was lonely as a kid and when in high school was suspected of murder after the disappearance of a girl he took on a date. Silas Jones is the local constable and has avoided Larry for the past 20 years. Larry is white and Silas is black and they were pals as kids. Secret pals. They never spoke at school and, once Silas moved away, they never hung out again. Race relations were not happy in late '70s, early '80s MS enough for black and white kids to hang out together at school.

Secrets come out as the story moves on. In the present day a local teen girl home from the U of MS has gone missing. Scary Larry is on everyone's suspect list. Silas got to know Larry pretty well and figures he's innocent of the second girl. Silas's own secret means he knows Larry is innocent of the first girl - but Silas has never said a word out loud about that.

Story follows from both Silas and Larry's POV. Larry is all alone. He has no friends and his only relative, his mother, has Alzheimer's. His car repair business has had no customers since he took over from his father about 15 years ago. He survives by selling off bits of the family's acreage to the local logging concern. His only interaction is with employees at KFC and the cashiers at WalMart. At one point Wallace Stringfellow - local boozer, user and loser - shows up and Larry seems to have a pal.

Silas is still famed for his baseball playing in high school and college. He's still called by his jersey number, 32, more then by his real name. He bounced around a bit playing baseball at U of MS, joined the Navy, was a campus cop in Oxford, and then took the hometown constable job. His mom is dead and he's mostly alone, except for a new girlfriend.

Things happen. Larry is shot in his home. Silas does seemingly unrelated police work. Flashbacks occur with Silas and Larry. Silas and his mom living in a dirt floor cabin on the Ott property. Larry coming out to make friends with Silas. Events, clues, and characters in the book tie up in the end.

Happy ending except for a massive dog bite, shoot-out, and dead Stringfellow.

1. Very good narration.
2. Not so much a crime novel as a story about two guys growing up in the post civil rights era South.
3. I never heard of spelling Mississippi by saying crooked letter for the S.
EDIT 4 November 2014. 4. In retrospect I think that this novel was pretty damn good. Franklin really takes you into the characters and the setting.  I read this three years ago and still recall quite a bit of the story and several notable events in the characters lives.

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