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Smonk or Widow Town Paperback – Bargain Price, November 6, 2007
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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.
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.
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."
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.