Tom Franklin (author)

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Thomas Gerald Franklin
Born (1963-07-07) July 7, 1963 (age 58)
OccupationWriter, professor
Alma materM.F.A., University of Arkansas
B.A., University of South Alabama
GenreCrime fiction, regional fiction, mystery
SpouseBeth Ann Fennelly
Children1 daughter, 2 sons

Thomas Gerald Franklin (born July 7, 1963) is an American writer originally from Dickinson, Alabama, United States,[1] "a town of around 500 people in south central Alabama, near Monroeville, home of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee".[2] In a recent interview, Franklin reveals the role imagination played during his younger years as he grew up "playing with G. I. Joes and imagining their lives. Building sci-fi forts from cardboard boxes and bricks, drawing control panels on the walls, etc. I liked creating the forts more than I did playing in them. There was something wonderful about making something tangible, something others could see, participate in. Then I moved to drawing my own comic books. I loved comic books–Marvel, DC. I collected them and had a couple of thousand of them. I drew one sci-fi comic book (a rip-off of Space 1999 and BattleStar Galactica) that numbered up to like 24 or 25. I was serious about it. Then I started writing barbarian stories. I loved Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian and so wrote a lot of bad imitations of those."[3] Franklin was a marginal student; for example, in high school, he characterized himself as a "C student. Instead of reading Romeo and Juliet, I was reading Stephen King. I hated math, [and] failed algebra twice."[3]

After high school, Franklin worked his way through college, earning a B.A. at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile, Alabama, while "holding odd jobs at warehouses and plants, including a stint cleaning up hazardous waste for a chemical plant."[4] He completed his M.F.A.from the University of Arkansas, in 1998, where he met his wife, poet Beth Ann Fennelly.

He is currently[when?] an associate professor at the University of Mississippi.[5][6]

Writing career[edit]

Though some characterize Franklin as being a crime writer, his fiction is much more diverse, and he is best described as being a Southern writer, who is often compared to Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O'Connor.[4]

Franklin's first book is collection of ten short stories, Poachers (1999), the title story of which won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Short Story. In an interview for the website Mississippi Writers and Musicians, its author writes of the book as being " stories that address the injustice and irony that life can sometimes have as well as the corruption present in daily life. Franklin puts his characters in situations where temptation makes the line between right and wrong unclear at times."[3]

His first novel, Hell at the Breech (2003), is better described as being regional fiction. It is a fictionalized version of an actual violent feud in 1892 called the Mitcham War, that took place in Clarke County, Alabama, near the author's home.[3] In brief, its story is about "poor white sharecroppers against the landowners who controlled their fates. The story begins when young Macy Burke, a poor white teenage orphan, accidentally shoots a local merchant, Arch Bedsole. "Tooch" Bedsole, his cousin, uses this killing as a pretext to form the Hell at the Breech gang. This group of criminals and powerless poor white tenant farmers terrorizes Clarke County, murdering and intimidating its law-abiding citizens."[7]

Smonk (2006), like Hell at the Breech, is set in Alabama and like the previous title is a good example of regional fiction. A reviewer notes this second novel by Franklin is "a violent and savage tale of a murdering rapist who has terrorized the small town of Old Texas, Alabama, for years and his trial in 1911."[3]

Franklin's most acclaimed novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010), which won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award, is regarded as more than a crime novel. For example, Marcel Berlins, writing for The Times of London, England, notes that "Franklin's portrayal of small-town paranoia and racial politics is superb, as is his moving treatment of his main, damaged, characters.".[8] In addition, reviewer Rachelle Lasky Bilz, writing for Teacher Librarian, notes the novel is more than a mystery as it "explores racial tensions and the bonds of enduring friendships."[9] In an interview on National Public Radio, Franklin told the story of the novel's title, "It's how Southern children are taught to spell Mississippi - M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I.".[10] In brief, the novel, according to Publishers Weekly, is about "Silas Jones and Larry Ott have known each other since their late 1970s childhood when Silas lived with his mother in a cabin on land owned by Larry's father. At school they could barely acknowledge one another, Silas being black and Larry white, but they secretly formed a bond hunting, fishing, and just being boys in the woods. When a girl goes missing after going on a date with Larry, he is permanently marked as dangerous despite the lack of evidence linking him to her disappearance, and the two boys go their separate ways. Twenty-five years later, Silas is the local constable, and when another girl disappears, Larry, an auto mechanic with few customers and fewer friends, is once again a person of interest."[11] In writing of the work, reviewer Jonathan Dawson notes it "is a quite beautiful crime novel, sweltering with deep Southern menace, plotted with elegance and written in a melancholy tone that calls up echoes of Tennessee Williams at his most regretful, Southern best...[and is] a fine addition to American Gothic and an unforgettable novel of transgression and retribution that lingers in the mind long after the finish".[12] Furthermore, Franklin's prose shines in this third novel, being termed "luminous," "moody," and "masterful" by Allison Block in Booklist.[13]

Franklin co-wrote the novel The Tilted World (2013) with his wife Fennelly,[14] who have been praised as being "the king and queen of contemporary Southern literature".[15] Like all his other works, The Tilted World is set in the South. Here the setting is Mississippi in 1927, with the central event being the often forgotten Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Reviewer Teresa Spears offers praise of the novel, saying it "is as much a portrait of an era as it is a story of the South. It encompasses an America rebuilding after World War I, battling over prohibition, redefining ideas of race and gender -- an America as tumultuous as the Mississippi River swelling against the levees straining to keep it at bay... it is a story of renewal and redemption. The levees broke on Good Friday of 1927, making this historic event the ideal impetus for a narrative about the flow and resilience of living and of life beginning anew".[15]

Selected works[edit]

  • Poachers (1999) Short Stories, HarperCollins Publishers, Winner of The Edgar Award.
  • Hell at the Breech (2003) Novel, HarperCollins Publishers
  • Smonk (2006) Novel, HarperCollins Publishers
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010) Novel, HarperCollins Publishers, New York Times Bestseller, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Contemporary Mystery, U.K. Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award
  • The Tilted World (2013) Novel, co-authored with Beth Ann Fennelly HarperCollins


  1. ^ Ellroy, James; Penzler, Otto (2011). The Best American Noir of the Century. Mariner Books. p. 445. ISBN 9780547577449.
  2. ^ "Gale - Enter Product Login". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Tom Franklin, Mississippi writer from Oxford and author of Poachers, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Smonk, and The Tilted World". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Tom Franklin - HarperCollins Speakers Bureau". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Faculty". University of Mississippi Department of English. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  6. ^ "Tom Franklin". University of Mississippi. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  7. ^ "Tom Franklin - Identity Theory". 31 July 2003. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Gale - Enter Product Login". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Gale - Enter Product Login". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Unlikely Friends Color Novel's Deep South". Weekend Edition Sunday. 3 October 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  11. ^ "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter". Publishers Weekly. 257 (24). 21 June 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  12. ^ "A most dark Mississippi murder yarn". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  13. ^ Block, Allison (1 September 2010). "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter". Booklist. 107 (1). Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  14. ^ Franklin, Tom; Fennelly, Beth Ann (2013). The Tilted World: A Novel. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0230769004.
  15. ^ a b "The Tilted World: Review". UWIRE Text. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2017.