13 May 2011

Imprint Friday: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

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.

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.
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.

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."
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was an Indie Next pick for October 2010. For more on Franklin, see his interview with Rebecca Roberts of NPR. For a reading guide, visit Harper Perennial’s website.

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.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter at an Indie
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter at Powell's
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780060594671


bermudaonion 5/13/11, 1:04 PM  

I couldn't believe it when this book first came out and people didn't know what crooked letter, crooked letter meant! I thought everyone learned that rhyme. I've heard this book is awesome and I can't wait to read it!

Nise' 5/13/11, 1:11 PM  

I enoyed this book and agree with you, the relationship between Larry and Silas had me glued to the pages.

Madeline Mora-Summonte 5/13/11, 1:23 PM  

I enjoyed this book, too. It feels quiet and slow as you read, but there's this heartbeat and sense of suspense beneath it all.

Martha@Hey, I want to read that 5/13/11, 1:52 PM  

I can't even say how much I loved this book. If it were simply a mystery it would have been a very good read but, it was so much more. This one was in my top three I've read in the last few years.

Helen's Book Blog 5/13/11, 3:24 PM  

I am reading this for a tour in a week or two and am really looking forward to it

Beth Kephart 5/13/11, 7:29 PM  

I confess to being one who did not know the term. Another great sounding book!

Carrie K. 5/13/11, 11:20 PM  

I just started this yesterday - and I'm already hooked!

Zibilee 5/14/11, 9:27 AM  

I am going to be reading this one before the month is out, and have to say that I am really excited about it after having read such great reviews all over the place. Such a great spotlight today!

Barbara 5/14/11, 10:02 AM  

This book has been on my wish list for months. I learned how to spell Mississippi that way too as a little girl in Illinois.

Beth(bookaholicmom) 5/14/11, 3:06 PM  

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is how I learned to spell Mississippi also in the Midwest. I am glad to hear the papaerback version of this book is coming out. I have been wanting to read this for sometime.

Julie P. 5/14/11, 8:20 PM  

This book is sooooo good. Literary mystery -- one of my favorite genres. It's a must-read as far as I'm concerned.

Alice Teh 5/15/11, 3:17 AM  

You've just reminded me to dish it out from my Kindle and give it a read. I still haven't finish the Okra Pick Challenge by Kathy. Sigh...

Molly 5/15/11, 9:51 AM  

My dad actually taught me how to spell Mississippi this way, and when I first saw this book it immediately grabbed my attention.

I am so glad that you enjoyed it and I definitely add it to my summer TBR list.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 5/15/11, 10:08 AM  

I was sort of underwhelmed by this but I did think it had some better moments. I was coming off of a few Tana French stories and I think the suspense seemed lacking BUT I did like it and I enjoyed the relationship between the boys/men.

Dorte H 5/15/11, 10:39 AM  

Crooked letter? I learnt something new there, and the mystery sounds really good.

Vasilly 5/16/11, 5:00 PM  

I didn't learn that rhyme growing up but it's funny that my kids did! I didn't know what "crooked letter" meant. This book sounds like something I would enjoy.

Kris 5/20/11, 5:02 PM  

I haven't heard of this one before but it sounds really good. I like that the characters and their relationship are strong and what stand out for you.

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