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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom…
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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010)

by Tom Franklin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9252153,552 (3.96)254
  1. 20
    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: There is a similar poignancy to Larry Ott and Owen Meany as they struggle to find their place in their worlds.
  2. 20
    The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy (fuzzy_patters)
  3. 10
    A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne (aliklein)
  4. 10
    Citrus County by John Brandon (GCPLreader)
  5. 00
    A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash (sturlington)
  6. 00
    In the Heat of the Night by John Ball (VictoriaPL)
  7. 00
    Paris Trout by Pete Dexter (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both books take place in the south, though in different states. The underlying racial tone is very similar.
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» See also 254 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
If nothing else, the author has accomplished one thing with this novel – I have never felt such anger and disgust for a fictional character as I did for one of the characters here. The why is spoiler territory, so I’ll put that at the end of the review with a warning. But the fact that I felt so strongly speaks to the story and character building that the author has created here. He made these people live for me.

The beginning of the story is mostly action, and it is not until you get further in and the backstory kicks in that you begin to understand and care for the characters. As a result, the beginning is a slow read and I didn’t connect with the characters right away. Because it was also a bit sad, I was tempted to set the book aside. But then I became acquainted with the characters and I read the middle of the book almost to the end without stopping. I’ll admit I had trouble with some of the dialogue used. I’ve never so much as visited Mississippi so I can’t claim first hand knowledge, but I find it difficult to believe a character would be able to get through college without learning to construct grammatically correct sentences.

But overall this was an enjoyable read and I recommend it to those who like what is termed “literary mysteries”.


*** Spoiler Warning *** The following contains spoilers for the end of the book.

The character who infuriated me was Silas (32), once it was revealed he had known of Larry’s innocence all along. For him to sit on the information he had was (to me at least) unforgivable. And I mean that literally. He not only let a murderer go free, he sentenced a supposed friend (not to mention brother) to a miserable, friendless existence for over a quarter of a century. If you ask me Larry had a fairly miserable life even before he was shunned by the entire town as a rapist and murderer. And he was such a kind, innocent soul – he didn’t deserve to be treated as he was. I sincerely wanted to crawl inside this book and punch Silas right in the face. And I didn’t care he tried to do the right thing in the end. I didn’t care that he finally told the truth. I wanted him to suffer some kind of punishment, so it was all the more annoying to me when everyone treated him as a hero. Silas laying side by side with Larry in that hospital room, and all the people trooping in to see Silas, caring about Silas, saying he was a hero, don’t worry about work, you’ll still get your pay. Grrrr! What about Larry? No one cared about him, no one came to visit, no one cared he’d basically lost his way to earn a living. And all that was due to Silas.
( )
  dorie.craig | Jun 22, 2017 |
4.5 stars.


Franklin is an author new to me, and my first discovery of the year. His mystery set in rural Mississippi evokes the place wonderfully; every page is infused with the sticky heat and the resultant slow pace of life. The main character, Silas ‘32’ Jones (his nickname relating to his number of the baseball team at high school) is a black police constable in the impoverished county, who had moved to the area from Chicago as a boy, brought ‘home’ by his mother who had left when pregnant with him. Larry Ott was briefly his friend when they were children (although not at school, where black and white kids were separated by a gulf of socially-imposed segregation), but has been the local pariah for almost twenty-five years, ever since being linked with, but never convicted of, the disappearance of a girl he dated. When another girl goes missing, the community’s suspicion falls on Larry, and we begin to learn about the friendship between the two boys, how it started and ended, and of secrets that neither of them knew but profoundly affected both their lives.

This is neither a high-octane thriller or a tense noir-ish detective novel, but a meditation on prejudice within a community. The open racism of the boys’ childhoods in the early ‘80s poisons those on both sides, often building walls that seem all but impossible to break down. Added to that, the ostracism of Larry Ott on suspicion of being a murderer and rapist leaves him trapped in a slow, stagnating decline which seems to mirror the gradual decay of the community, filled with abandoned homes and closed businesses. Franklin uses many parallels in the novel, especially between Silas and Larry - for example, Larry drives the same thirty-year-old pick-up his father owned while the sheriff's office can only afford to equip Silas with an ancient, run-down truck for his duties. While not always subtle, the parallels are handled with a delicacy that means they are never clunking or heavy-handed.

One facet that is worth mentioning, which is of course vital to the book, is the treatment of skin colour. As most of the novel is seen through Silas’ eyes, the usual default of “white” is reversed, and more mention is made of the skin tones of the other black characters, while most white characters are simple “white” - again, a subtle but important reversal of the usual. This has been done many times before - and, indeed, is a common practice exercise for writers - but it is very well done, handled skillfully by the white Mississippian author.

All the characters are fully realised, sketched with sure strokes, products of their time and place, of experiences and actions that still resonate. Tom Franklin is a writer I will be returning to. ( )
  Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
I absolutely loved this book and I would highly recommend it. I will probably read it again to savour Tom Franklin's great writing.

I haven't read a lot of southern literature, so I don't have a lot to compare this to, but this novel was outstanding in its setting and characterizations. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was an immersion in the culture of the American South, starting in the late 70s then jumping forward 20 years.

It's part social study (plenty of racism), part crime/mystery, and very much a story of the human condition: loneliness, wanting to belong and the need for friendship.


( )
  LemonyT | Apr 21, 2017 |
This was the 3rd book I have read by Tom Franklin. He deals with a small town in southeast Mississippi in this story. It concerns 2 childhood friends who 25 years later confront the clash of the present and past. This book is a murder mystery but less on the mystery side and more the character development side. Franklin makes you feel the small town South of the past and the present in an excellent way. You can see the rusted cars, closed down businesses, and dysfunctional people unfolding. This book moved slowly but definitely picked up steam towards the end. Franklin is a very descriptive writer but he seems to do this so you can sense of the place about which he writes. This style can be difficult in a very long novel, but it works here. If you have not read any Tom Franklin, I recommend this book as a good introduction. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Mar 24, 2017 |
I love this book—the storytelling, the characters, the setting. ( )
  TBoerner | Mar 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
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.
added by eereed | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Sep 29, 2010)
 
added by lucy.depalma | editSCIS (pay site)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tom Franklinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barsøe, Søren K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I.

—How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi
Dedication
For Jeff Franklin
and
in loving memory
of
Julie Fennelly Trudo
For Jeff Franklin and in loving memory of Julie Fennelly Trudo
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The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.
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Black and white
secret kept, secret told
brothers to behold

(Sogamonk)

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"...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" --Publisher description.… (more)

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