Monday, June 10, 2013

#1-Tom Franklin Comes to Loveland

Monday, June 10, 2013
Okay, so this is something new for me...not the writing part or writing about READING, which I do an awful lot of. It's this very early, for me, attempt at social media and throwing stuff out to people who are not family or friends...currently. I'll be trying to link this with Facebook and an expanded profile that will not only be me, Ted Schmidt, but will also include this blog-- Stuff to Read and my hobby/ home business Longs Peak Book Company. I want to share Book Reviews I wrote, some dating back decades, some of books not yet published but from reading ARCs-Advanced Review Copy-- to whet a reader's interest. So we'll see how this goes. Here's something about an author who will be coming to Loveland CO in September.

Loveland Loves 2 Read, a division of the Friends of the Loveland Public Library will be hosting author and teacher Tom Franklin at the Rialto Theater on Friday, September 20. But you might be asking Who is Tom Franklin and why would I be interested in attending his program?

Tom Franklin, born in 1963 in very rural Dickinson, Alabama, schooled at the University of Southern Alabama-Mobile for his BA and at the University of Arkansas for his MFA, has developed a very respectable body of writing during the 14 years since his graduation. While his work career has included stints as a heavy equipment operator, a clerk at a hospital morgue and an inspector at hazardous material sites, he is now known as professor of fiction writing at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. And he is also known as the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Edgar Award, the L.A.Times Book Prize, the Golden Dagger from the UK Crime Writers Association as well as many state and regional writing awards.,

The four books that make up his bibliography are a very special foundation for his writing life. “Poachers”, his 1999 debut short story collection offers 10 tales of the South featuring a wide collection of dark characters. “Grit” presents a laborer in a sandblasting grit manufacturing plant who connives to usurp his supervisor and sell product “off the books” through a very wily co-conspirator. The plan blows up in many faces while “Alaska” presents a daydreamer by an Alabama pond scheming how he can get to the 50th state. Another story presents a petty criminal who rationalizes his felonies because he created a new name and personality for himself. All the stories lead to the title story about three teenaged brothers, orphaned and living very rough, working the rivers and swamps each night poaching everything and anything. Their path crosses a mythic game warden who seeks to settle scores. This story has been collected in both “The Best American Mystery Short Stories of the Century” edited by Tony Hillerman and “The Best American Noir of the Century” edited by  James Elroy.

“Hell at the Breech” published in 2003 is Franklin’s first novel set in his home Clarke County, southwest Alabama. Based on historical events of 1898 that he had heard growing up, Franklin focuses  his story on two brothers, Mack and William Burke, who are thrown into a gang of night-riders of the most violent rural evil-doers who seek revenge for the shooting of the leader’s brother. Balancing the gang’s murderous excess is the county sheriff, Billy Waite, who feels all of his 60 years, a drinking problem, and the pressure of political leaders who want to replace him with a slimy sociopath who has a history in the county.

“Smonk”, his second novel published in 2006, is an over-the-top Southern-Western gothic about the pursuit of a truly horrible rapist-murderer, E.O.Smonk, by lawman Will McKissik after Smonk’s jury trial ends in a murder-filled disaster. A parallel story moves to a collision course as a posse of “Christian Deputies” chase an equally murderous 15 year old whore across the Gulf coast into Old Texas, Alabama where Smonk is doing his worst. The biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah is retold in this 1911 Alabama horror story.

This brings us to the third novel and the one that Franklin and Loveland Loves 2 Read will be focusing on-- “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” which was published in 2010. Set in the 1970s and 2005 of the same small Mississippi town, the book introduces two boys on the verge of high school- Larry Ott, a reader and not very athletic son of two lower middle class white parents and Silas Jones the only son of a black woman who left the Chicago area to live in a cabin  owned by Larry’s father, a car mechanic. While the two boys found the racial barrier high at school, they formed a friendship based on hunting, fishing and running around the woods.

That ends when at 16 Silas is a successful high school baseball player, “32” his nickname, and Larry, a loner, finally has a date with a girl from down the road. The date is a disaster and the girl vanishes never to be seen again. Larry doesn’t confess, but without a body or any evidence of foul play the case dies, but the townspeople always suspect Scarey Larry.  Silas”32” on a baseball scholarship graduates from Ole Miss, but the only job he finds is as a sheriff’s constable back in his home town. And now 25 years later another girl, the daughter of the local lumber mill owner, goes missing and all eyes are on Larry. Silas”32” must investigate this second disappearance knowing something that happened in 1982 that no one else knows.
This prize-winning novel will be the focus of the Friday night event, but the story doesn’t end there. Saturday, September 21 will be the world premiere of Franklin’s new novel. “The Tilted World” which he co-wrote with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly, who is a poet and poetry professor at Ole Miss also. They will be here to share some poetry and the inner workings of a cooperative writing project as well as sign copies of their new book that won’t be released elsewhere until October 1st. Mark your calendar.