Posted: November 27, 2011 in Book Awards, Southern States, USA

I finished reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter a truly memorable book by Tom Franklin yesterday. I think that for me to write much more than a few comments would be superfluous when you can read a couple of comprehensive superbly thoughtful reviews by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, and by Maxine at Petrona.

Set in rural Mississippi the main characters Larry Ott and Silas Jones were briefly boyhood friends. Silas Jones, son of a black single mother, is now the small town’s only law officer, whose main task is to direct traffic when the shift changes at the local lumber mill. Larry Ott, the child of lower middle class white folk, is now the town outcast, because 25 years ago he went on one date with Cindy Walker, and the teenage girl was never seen again. He survives by selling off plots of land, and sits day after day in his garage waiting for business that never comes. Now another white girl, Tina Rutherford, daughter of the mill owner has gone missing, and inevitably suspicion once again falls on Larry. 

Author Tom Franklin is a great storyteller, and this book which recently won the CWA Gold Dagger has everything; plot, characters, social comment, a wonderful sense of place, believable dialogue and a smooth narrative style. The back stories that make up a lot of the book flow smoothly out of the narrative as the reader learns more and more about the flawed characters. Perhaps we all have a little of Larry and Silas in us, and say “well that could have been me if this or that had happened”; and that is why this book is so gripping. 

This sounds very cliched, but I can only say this is a must read, even if you have never been anywhere near the American South. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter  is a moving story all about friendship, racism, fear of the other, cruelty, loneliness, redemption and  hope for a better future. It is more than a crime fiction book, a superb novel about that very difficult journey called life. 

“They’ll sink their teeth into anything you give em, try to make this a damn human interest story. I don’t know about yall, but I don’t want no humans interested in me.”  

  1. Maxine says:

    So glad you enjoyed this, Norman, I think it’s a very special book. I really like that quote at the end. And thank you for the kind comment about my review.

  2. kathy d. says:

    I think you got it. I loved this book for the reasons you mention and because Franklin does understand the complexities of being human and expresses emotions quite well. He got me to cry at Larry Ott’s alienation, his waiting for his friends. And then again, hope, as a possibility arises for a friendship regained.
    This book reveals another side of the human condition.
    Everyone I’ve referred to this book liked it so much.
    It should be a must-read in high schools across the country.

  3. Norman says:

    Maxine, I agree it is a special book, and your review was as always excellent.

    Kathy, I am glad I am not alone in thinking this such a moving book.I cry very easily now and was moved by some themes because they are prevalent in society today. Computers and social networks have sadly made it easier to bully and exclude young people from the in-crowd. But unlike so many dark and depressing books Franklin gave us a glimmer of hope at the end. I agree it should be required reading, it is almost a modern day To Kill a Mocking Bird.

  4. kathy d. says:

    From your website to the departments of education in all 50 states. We need a petition drive over here to get this book on high school reading lists — required reading, that is.
    It might even help to bring students closer together in thinking about each other’s feelings and developing empathy.
    My only sorrow is that I finished the book and eagerly await the author’s next one. I wish Silas and perhaps Larry were continuing characters.
    I cry in books or watching movies, but usually a mystery doesn’t get to me so much, but this one did.

  5. […] at Reactions to Reading, Beth at Murder by Type, Michael Carlson at Irresistible Targets, Norman at Crime Scraps, Keishon at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog, The Washington Post, Paste Magazine, Spinetingler […]

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