Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter garnered major critical acclaim when it debuted in hardcover last year. If you haven’t read it yet, I have some good news: The Harper Perennial paperback will be available next week. Franklin’s novel offers something for everyone: literary, mystery, character-driven, and beautifully written.
Here’s the publisher’s summary:
In the 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals in a small town in rural Mississippi. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, black single mother. But then Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie and she was never seen or heard from again. He never confessed . . . and was never charged.If you don’t know where the title of the book comes from, don’t worry, I didn’t either. Apparently it comes from a rhyme that schoolchildren use to help them remember how to spell the state Mississippi. "Crooked letter" stands for the letter S. I take that as a good sign because (as I’ve written here many times), I love a southern setting. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter oozes with Deep South ambiance and dialogue. Despite the fact that Franklin doesn’t necessarily like being categorized as a southern writer (see his NPR interview), I can’t help but think of him that way.
More than twenty years have passed. Larry lives a solitary, shunned existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has become the town constable. And now another girl has disappeared, forcing two men who once called each other "friend" to confront a past they’ve buried for decades.
I don’t have to relate to or even like the characters in a book, but I do have to have a sense of who they are and I have to believe they could be real. In that regard alone, this novel is a winner. In fact, the mystery part of the story is not necessarily center stage: the stories of Larry and Silas are what grabbed me. Add to this deeper themes such as race, friendship, and betrayal, and you have a don’t-miss read.
Here are some other thoughts:
- Spinetingler magazine noted "Franklin’s ridiculously assured way with setting and characters. The author somehow manages, without ever bogging down the page with description, to really make you feel the Deep South heat, to get you in tune to the rhythm of small town life in Chabot."
- David Langness, writing for Paste magazine said "Franklin’s latest novel works not only because of its characters and their believability and depth, and not only because of its deadeye social realism. It works because of the poetic and controlled way the writing plays out on the page and in the mind of the reader."
- Caite from A Lovely Shore Breeze wrote "The dialogue is excellent, the author’s ear for the rhythm of southern speech feeling perfect. The story is very good, even if I must admit that for me it lagged a bit in the middle. . . . I think it is a book whose story and characters will stick with you long after you finish the last page."
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.