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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 5, 2010
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Edgar Award-winning author Tom Franklin returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far—an atmospheric drama 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.
Q: Tell us a bit about your latest book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. How did you come up with the title?
Franklin: Title's a pneumonic device used to teach children (mostly southern children) how to spell Mississippi. M, I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, I, crooked-letter, crooked-letter, I, humpback, humback, I.
Q: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a bit of a departure from your previous two novels—Smonk and Hell at the Breech—in that it is set in contemporary times and the story line is a bit less dark. What inspired the premise for this novel and the departure from a more historical setting?
Franklin: I'd been wanting to write about a small town police officer, and I'd long had the image of a loner mechanic in my mind. When I put the two together, the story began to form. I used a lot of autobiographical stuff for Larry, the mechanic.
Q: A review in USA Today (for Hell at the Breech) stated that, “he also makes his characters rise up from the pages as if they were there with you.” …and this is certainly true in your latest novel. How do you approach the task of developing your characters and bringing them to life? Are the characters in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter based on anyone in particular?
Franklin: They're both a combination of different facets of different people, a conglomeration of fact and fiction. I usually try to just let them begin to do what they want to do, just put them in a situation and see what they do. When they begin to surprise me, do things I hadn't anticipated, that's when it's working.
But the character of Silas "32" Jones is very loosely based on the sole police officer of the hamlet of Dickinson, Alabama, where I grew up. This guy was actually the law in a nearby mill town, and my hamlet of Dickinson fell in his tiny jurisdiction. I've always loved the idea of small town cops, especially one who might be a kind of underdog to the police forces of nearby larger towns.
Q: In Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter your two main characters are anything but stereotypical—the young black boy goes off to college to play baseball and comes back to be the town constable and the young white boy is the accused murderer and the town outcast. What, if anything, prompted you to portray these characters this way?
Franklin: No real person is a stereotype, and I try to make my characters as real as I can. We're all a mess of contradictions and secrets, strangenesses and desires, and nobody's all good or all bad. We're all somewhere in the spectrum between absolute good and absolute evil. So I just try to find a character who's fairly normal, and put him or her in a fix and see how he or she negotiates it to see, as Kurt Vonnegut says, what he or she is made of. In this case, the story as I came to understand it called for Larry to stay home and Silas to leave. If it had been the other way around, I'd still work to make the characters unstereotypical.
Q: Without giving away too much of the story, what is one thing (emotion, thought) that readers can expect to walk away with after reading this book?
Franklin: It's a sad book, but it's full of hope. Hope is what I want a reader to leave with.
Q: Historically the South has not always had a positive image in other parts of the country. How has your experience growing up and living in the rural South shaped your talent as a writer? And have you ever felt the need to justify or redeem the South’s past in any of your works?
Franklin: I think growing up in the south made me the person I am, and the writer I am comes from that. So, yes, the south's made me the writer I am. It taught me to listen to the cadences and rhythms of speech, and to notice the landscape. It also has this defeated feel, a lingering of old sin, that makes it sweet in a rotting kind of way. Much of it is poor, much is rural, and that's an interesting combination, a deep well for stories.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Who are some writers, past and present, that you admire or have inspired you?
Franklin: I always knew I wanted to tell stories, one way or another. If I'd had a video camera in the mid 1970s I'm sure I'd be a filmmaker now. But I just had a portable typewriter, and so the stories I could tell were ones on paper.
Q: You are one of the most celebrated writers in the field, and have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, William Faulkner, and Elmore Leonard. What do you believe is the one thing that sets you apart from other contemporary writers in your genre?
Franklin: What sets me apart? I honestly don't know that I’m more "apart" from other writers of my generation. Landscape plays a large role in what I write, but that's true of many other writers. My stuff is set in the south, but that's true of others as well. I don't know, honestly.
Q: As a professor of English, what is one piece of advice that you would share with aspiring writers?
Franklin: Read, starting with the classics. Read all the time. If you don't read, you won't ever be a writer. Also, write. This seems obvious, but it's amazing how many "writers" don't write very much.
From Publishers Weekly
Franklin's third novel (after Smonk) is a meandering tale of an unlikely friendship marred by crime and racial strain in smalltown Mississippi. Silas Jones and Larry Ott have known each other since their late 1970s childhood when Silas lived with his mother in a cabin on land owned by Larry's father. At school they could barely acknowledge one another, Silas being black and Larry white, but they secretly formed a bond hunting, fishing, and just being boys in the woods. When a girl goes missing after going on a date with Larry, he is permanently marked as dangerous despite the lack of evidence linking him to her disappearance, and the two boys go their separate ways. Twenty-five years later, Silas is the local constable, and when another girl disappears, Larry, an auto mechanic with few customers and fewer friends, is once again a person of interest. The Southern atmosphere is rich, but while this novel has the makings of an engaging crime drama, the languid shifting from present to past, the tedious tangential yarns, and the heavy-handed reveal at the end generate far more fizz than pop.
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You get a monitor, the parent screen and control, an adaptor to charge each, and an instruction manual. I found this straightforward to use, and even my son picked it up quickly. I set up the monitor in my son's room, and liked the colour visuals in daylight, and the fact that it switches to night vision in low light conditions. The monitor and parent control come already paired, so once both are turned on, it starts broadcasting to the screen images from your child's room. You can adjust brightness, play melodies through your controls, speak to your child and also hear them (the volume is clear enough for a conversation though not overly loud. )
The temperature gauge also seems fairly accurate, not too bad.We live in a three-storey townhouse, and didn't have a problem picking up the signal from the very bottom of the house, the range is fine. I could carry it around on the attached clip.
When fully charged, the battery lasted more than 3 hours after my son went to bed, I could then see how long he took to fall asleep. I then charged it overnight whilst keeping the monitor on, so I knew when he was awake (and what he was up to!) in the morning.
We even said ""good morning"" to each other over the monitor.The whole comes in a nice presentation box, if purchasing for a new parent. Definitely useful for the youngest of babies as well as slightly older children, it perhaps isn't the highest quality in visuals, but for the price I'd say it's absolutely fine.The music option may not be to everyone's taste, but the other features are great for two-way communication and reassurance. With thanks to the manufacturer for the sample product.
The base is advertised to connect to four cameras (for different angles) but there's nowhere to buy extra Smilism brand cameras. The company seems to be nonexistent outside of Amazon as well. -1 star
I recommend this product 100%
There is also a detailed instruction leaflet with both written and pictorial guidance. The box itself has a lot of information on including various safety conformity marks. The Camera/transmitter is mounted on a flat stand with a small ball joint fixture that enables you to position it wherever you want to get a clear picture of baby. There is a small microphone and a speaker set into the back of the unit. There are also hanging slots on the back should you prefer to have this wall mounted.The lead attaches to a mini USB port on the back of the unit and there is ample cable length.The Monitor has a small pull out stand on the back as well as the speaker.
The cable again plugs in to a mini USB port on the side.On the front is the monitor screen with a small row of lights above that show that the unit is plugged in and charging. On the screen you can clearly see signal strength/volume/temperature and battery indicator showing level of charge. Below the screen you will find the operational buttons to control all the features including volume and brightness as well as a mic button to enable two way communication.The menu button then allows you to select your preferred settings for temperature and should you want more than one camera you can change from one camera to another. It also has an ECO mode that allows you to control the sound activation sensitivity.
It is early days and so we cannot comment on longevity but should I have any concerns I would certainly come back and update this but for now I really cannot find any fault with this at all.
As a caretaker for a 94 year old family member with dementia, this video monitor allows me to observe my father-in-law from any room in the house with a crystal clear picture, even when his room is completely dark. With the volume on maximum, I can even check his breathing!
In the first 24 hours of use, I was able to catch him tugging on a medical device and intervene before any harm was done.
Am considering buying a second unit as a back up, just because I can't imagine being without one anymore.
The cons: my house is old. There are exactly two outlets in my sons room, so to get the correct angle to see his whole crib, the monitor has to be across the room. A longer cord could have helped this. (It is 7 feet, but that’s just not long enough for our set up). If outlets aren’t an issue at your house you’d likely have no trouble with this.
Set up was straight forward and extremely simple. Literally plug and play once you get it in the location you need.
Will update if anything changes.