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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 5, 2010
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Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones, one white and the other black, grow up in lower east Mississippi, becoming friends as young boys in spite of every societal barrier preventing it. Developing a natural affinity, their relationship is nonetheless torn apart by the ever abhorrent racism that is sadly part of the culture of that area and of those times. Silas turns to baseball where he has University level talent while Larry remains at home, an introspective, reading type who has few friends.
One evening while Larry and Silas are both in high school, Larry is curiously asked by his neighbor, the attractive Cindy Walker, for a date at the local drive-in. One thing leads to another and Cindy is never seen again, leaving Larry as the obvious suspect. Never finding a body nor soliciting a confession, Larry is then forced to live a life of constant suspicion and turmoil. Inheriting a car repair shop from his father, he has no customers nor friends. Silas, meanwhile, returns from Ole Miss as town Constable, making it a point to ignore Larry, more from the way their friendship ended than anything to do with the Walker case.
Up to this point Franklin has wonderfully set the stage with careful and deeply rooted character development. Slipping between the past and contemporary events, he asserts Larry and Silas’s roles while shrewdly introducing support actors, all leading to the highlight of the story. Suddenly another young woman goes missing and the onus of guilt comes heavily upon Larry again. Silas, meanwhile, is somewhat circumspect and it is with this dramatic psychological mystery that the story then takes off. Old demons are uncovered and lost truths retributed in an amazingly wrought conclusion in which Franklin achieves satisfaction for all genres. I was particularly drawn to Franklin’s overall depiction of Larry Ott and his lifelong struggle…learning that much of it was auto-biographical, it is one that struck me deeply and has stayed with me in the days since I’ve completed this work.
A serious and, at the same time fun work of fiction, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” is simply a must read. Tom Franklin is masterful in all aspects of the novel and I’d wager that readers will look to his other works for more of his intriguing writing skills. I know for sure that I will.
Set in the South, small town, the language spoken adding to the atmosphere and sense of getting to know real people. I liked it very much and recommend it as brilliantly written, just this side of enthralling.
There are stories within stories in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter which makes it all the more interesting, and each of these sub-plots involves the main characters. Silas's mother, who is a single mother raising him in a cabin on the Ott property in poverty and Larry's father, who is gruff and detached from his son and wife make decisions that influence their children's lives forever.
Secrets are revealed and a few twists tie up the end, but it is a very satisfying story to read and a good story about friendship, love and truth. A highly recommended book.