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Smonk or Widow Town Paperback – Bargain Price, November 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
E.O. Smonk is an ugly, unwashed, murdering rapist who has terrorized the small town of Old Texas, Ala., for years. In 1911, the town summons Smonk to stand trial, and a nonstop blood-orgy of brutality and destruction is the result in Franklin's gloriously debauched second novel (following Hell at the Breech). After Smonk's goons assault the Old Texas courthouse and kill the town's menfolk, reformed former Smonk associate turned lawman Will McKissick pursues Smonk. Meanwhile, a posse of Christian deputies chase teenage whore Evavangeline through the Gulf Coast, but the girl is a skilled killer, too, and the trail of her victims spans the region. McKissick follows Smonk's trail out of and back into Old Texas, while Evavangeline drifts into the town, where all the children are dead except McKissick's 12-year-old son and the widows lay out their dead husbands on their dining tables. The town's sordid past, about to be exposed, involves a rabies-ravaged one-armed preacher, a rabid dog named Lazarus the Redeemer, incest and a church full of dead boys dressed in Sunday best. Fast-paced and unrelentingly violent, Franklin's western isn't for everyone, but readers looking for a strange and savage tale can't go wrong. (On sale Aug. 22)
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“fast-paced and unrelentingly violent...readers looking for a strange and savage tale can’t go wrong.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Maintaining the dark tone of his excellent first novel, Franklin goes for the gothic in [this] weirdly fascinating tale” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Franklin’s talent for the completely offbeat and outrageous illuminates a world that is at once vibrantly alive and completely human.” (Times-Picayune (New Orleans))
“An edgy, quirky, bawdy look at the days of cowboys and shootouts, Smonk is the real deal.” (David Milch, Creator of Deadwood)
“I am amazed at Tom Franklin’s power” (Philip Roth)
“[Smonk] mixes William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Deadwood’s David Milch, Franklin pulls off a unique Western saga.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“A David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino codirection of Deadwood . . . a world where not one person knows an iota of goodness.” (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review)
“Part western, part Southern gothic, yet wholly original, this is a beef jerky of a story […] full of flavor” (Tampa Tribune)
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This is dark fiction. I have yet to find a cowboy noir quite this layer, quite this complex. I laughed while reading it, fully aware that I should be ashamed. This is a twisted voice in fiction and one that should be revisited. Easily my favorite of the Tom Franklin books, who for a while, felt like the heir apparent to William Gay and Cormac McCarthy. Since there is no other book like SMONK, I will have to read it again and again.
Smonk started out with a bang (literally) and the action never let up once. This is Tom Franklin's most vile and horrid book to date. Although Smonk himself is appalling and amusing at the same time, I found much more delight in other's stories about him - his history and superstitions. But my favorite character was Walton, the leader of the Christian Deputies, who as a northerner felt a personal mission to bring morality back to the South. Franklin created such harsh imagery that I couldn't help imaging the landscape in black and burnt oranges/reds: the scorched earth and dead dogs. The last portion of this book somewhat lost my interest as it morphed into a horror story of sorts with the dead children in the church and all the ray bees (rabies) being transmitted. Otherwise a solid book and not be missed by fans of gritty Southern literature.
Smonk is the story of Old Texas, Ala., a town on the edge of destruction. E.O. Smonk, a short, wide and grotesque man has rampaged his way across the country and has set up the center of his terror spree outside of Old Texas. And the people of the town have had enough.
Meanwhile, Evavangeline, a young orphan, is whoring and killing her way through the south, on the run from Walton and his gang of Christian Deputies.
Franklin is flawless in his execution of the quote-less style of dialogue in this novel. The reader is never left confused about who is talking, or what is dialogue and what isn't. He pulls off the style with fluidity and ease that very few authors before him have accomplished. Maybe there's something in the water in Oxford, Mississippi, the former home of William Faulkner and current home of Franklin.
It seems that Mr. Franklin has taken considerable heat for the level of violence etc. in this book. I believe this is in part unfair because as is often the case with these sorts of things the violence is intended more as a metaphor than anything else--unless, of course, you are really simple minded, and want to take everything literally, in which case you probably don't read books in the first place. Indeed, the whole story is really something of a dark tragicomedy. So don't bother with this book if you are an overly serious person. Upshot: if you're squeamish if you're a very serious person, look elsewhere. If not, I predict you will really, truly enjoy "Smonk."