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Poachers: Stories Paperback – Bargain Price, May 30, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, May 30, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, December 1999: As the editor of an annual series for Houghton Mifflin titled Best American Mystery Stories, I read scores, if not hundreds, of little magazines in search of the best crime fiction published that year. One story that came to light from the Texas Review was "Poachers" by Tom Franklin, which I thought was easily the most original and memorable tale of 1998. It went on to win the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and became the title of Franklin's first book, a short story collection of such distinction that it has already provided a shoo-in for spring 2000s Best American Mystery Stories of the Century.

"Poachers" is no ordinary tale of detection but rather a mood piece that will remind the reader of the best of James Lee Burke. Set in the swamps of the deep South, it is a riveting tale of three brothers who are so violent and amoral that they will kill anyone or anything in their path. One of their victims is a young lawman who was much loved, causing the locals to bring in their own hired gun, a game warden of legendary skill as a hunter of poachers. One by one, he tracks down the crazed brothers in a quest for justice.

The other stories in this beautifully produced little volume are also superb. While there is occasional humor, this is not a collection to read if you're in the mood for P.G. Wodehouse or Dave Barry. The dark woods and hollows and the unforgiving swamps and their inhabitants do not make for a sunshiny reading experience. As the old wooden sign in Poachers announces, "Jesus Is Not Coming." Franklin's first novel will be published in 2000 and I, for one, can't wait. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

These 10 honestly crafted and carefully executed tales of cottonmouths and skulking outlaws in the South unflinchingly explore the pitfalls and dangers involved in making one's place in the world. The collection's power arises from Franklin's reluctance to analyze its (often bloody) events. In "Dinosaurs," a waste inspector takes a huge stuffed rhinoceros as a reward for not closing down a gas station with several hazardous leaky pumps. In "Grit," a devious laborer at a minerals processing plant trades positions with his supervisor through blackmail involving gambling debts, only to see the scam backfire. The protagonist of "Triathlon," a man trapped in a decaying marriage, remembers fishing for sharks on the night before his wedding. Fantasy has its place, too, as in "Alaska," in which a rambling male voice describes an imagined trip to the Northwest that never gets farther than the shores of a pond in some unspecified Southern location; although little happens, the story's dreamy meandering is seductive. In "The Ballad of Duane Juarez," a man commits small crimes without guilt because he has given himself a fake name, and thereby a fake identity. The other stories in the book, however, only provide a tantalizing buildup to the chilling title story, in which a legendary and demonic game warden in a small Alabama town stealthily and privately punishes three youths who have murdered his predecessor. Franklin announces the arrival of the avenger with a sentence no more complete than "A match striking," and yet this is enough for a good scare. While he may occasionally wax sentimental about life in the impoverished South, Franklin's style is often as laconic and simply spoken as his characters' dialogue, sometimes close to Hemingway, but more often akin to Denis Johnson or Raymond Carver in its resonant ordinariness. Although some readers may balk at the virtual absence of women from these intensely masculine yarns, those who persist will be persuaded by their gruff grace. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688177719
  • ASIN: B003H4RCB6
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,758,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like O'Connor, Franklin has a perfect ear for Southern speech and uses it to hilarious and incisive results. Unlike O'Connor, his characters are doomed with nary a chance for redemption. Here he resembles Crews more, with characters at the end of their tethers, drowning their nihilism in sex, materialism, and booze, lots and lots of booze. In some cases they crave escape to somewhere better or different (like Alaska); in most cases they just don't give a damn. "The Ballad of Duane Juarez" seems most illustrative of this tendency; it is a terrifying tale in which the narrator gives in to the most primitive, scrounging impulses.
Other influences are apparent here, some non-Southern. One can see the presence of Cormac McCarthy, for instance, and his deliberate, blunt, unsentimental prose, or, inevitably, Hemingway's unmistakable minimalism. There is no magnolia-scented prose here; that would imply nobility and hope. Other reviewers have criticized Franklin because his stories often seem lopped off with their abrupt endings. I must admit that bothered me some too, until I realized that a nice, tidy, satisfying ending would be completely out of character with these Franklin's folk. Their restlessness and hopelessness end only when they die.
The celebrated title story impresses most, with its classic theme of survival and its combination of terror and pity. "Grit" comes in second, with its protagonist sucked into a scam and the charms of an exotic woman.
If you're looking for a happy ending, stay far, far away from this collection. If you want a glimpse into the desperate, funny, pathetic, hopeful, hopeless lives SOME white Southerners lead, proceed with caution.
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Format: Paperback
A collection of stories, all of which have a heart of darkness. We're talking plot, suspense, character - and alligators. Not for the faint of heart. Nothing charming or frothy here; just riveting tales of violence, drunkenness, death, craziness, and obsession. Superb - only don't read it right before falling asleep.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I did not grow up in Alabama, I was born into a hunting family. Making our daily pilgrimage through "the kudzu netted graveyard" that was our environs during hunting season, deer hunting was more than just a hobby for my family. It was a way of life, bringing a certain perspective to how one viewed the world at large. Even as a child I realized it was as if redemption could only be found at the bottom of a Budweiser or in the blood of a fresh kill (quasi-Biblical, yes?).

Like the author, I occupied a liminal position in this lifestyle. Though I preferred books to bullets, I became a seasoned hunter by the age of 9. And yes, I was privy to the ceremonial bloodbath that accompanies one's first kill, and as grotesque as the experience was, even as a youth, I came to understand that this blood, my kill, was my passageway to respect from my family and the community.

Given all of this and my love for evocative, razor sharp imagery, "Poachers" occupies a certain spot in my heart. Rich in characterization and spot-on images of a society in varying states of decay (either moral, physical, or environmental), each of Franklin's stories has something to offer. Of the collection of stories, my favorite would have to be "Blue Horses," which is understated in its language and structure but powerful in its aftertaste. It will linger with you for days, to say the least. I was also fond of "Dinosaurs". Beneath its hardscrabble prose, imbued with cigarette smoke and grease, lies the essence of true filial commitment.

Given this collection was Franklin's literary debut, I am impressed with what he offers. Each story is worth reading, and most worth reading a few times over. Don't let the genre of "grit-lit" scare you from this undertaking because underneath all the grit, there is something raw and true that must be said.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As the 20th century draws to its close, in the deep South the working poor and the country poor battle sadistic fate, debilitating heat, and soul-scarring routine. Some are resigned to simply endure, all in the service of maintaining the only existence they’re capable of imagining. While for others, the dream – no matter how improbable – is to just pack up the car and get going, get out, and get anywhere on nothing but collective wit and fumes, perhaps get as far away as Alaska and the rumored wealth awaiting them there.

But in this place with its entrenched poverty among a folk this degraded, when things can go bad, when dreams can go bust, they usually do. Spectacularly so. These stories from Tom Franklin are reliably violent, and suitably ill-fated, peopled with characters who, if they weren’t self-destructive it might be difficult to identify any other character trait they do possess. And yet this collection of faithless womenfolk, frugal hill-dwellers, skin and bones black poor, and colorfully named hunting dogs is somehow unsympathetic, the victims of being, perhaps, too carefully drawn.

Make no mistake, Tom Franklin can conjure up the bedraggled South – or at least how I imagine it must be – but too often the scenes that result have the feel of something created for the stage rather than the page. A hound dog by the fieldstone fireplace. The sound of raccoons scrounging in the garbage cans outside. Coyotes down at the pond hunting bullfrogs. The bullfrogs croaking in the mist. The toothless granny singing gospel hymns, her rocking chair thumping against the wide-plank pine floorboards. The divorcee granddaughter making grits in the kitchen while Junior shoots cats in the barn.
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