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Franklin, Tom

Franklin, Tom

PERSONAL:

Born in AL; married Beth Ann Fennelly (a poet); children: two. Education: Attended University of South Alabama and University of Arkansas.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Oxford, MS.

CAREER:

Writer. University of Mississippi, John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence; Sewanee University, Tennessee Williams Fellow in Fiction. Knox College, Galesberg, IL, former instructor.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Guggenheim Fellow, 2001; Edgar Award for best short fiction, for Poachers.

WRITINGS:

Poachers (short stories), Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Hell at the Breech (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.

(Contributor) The Alumni Grill: Anthology of Southern Writers, McAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2004.

Smonk, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of stories to periodicals and journals, including the Black Warrior Review, Southern Review, and the Oxford American. Contributor of stories to anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, New Stories From the South, 1999, and Stories From the Blue Moon Café.

SIDELIGHTS:

Among the ten stories collected in Tom Franklin's Poachers is a tale of a factory manager involved in an extortion racket, an exploration of small-town men's reactions to unfaithful marriages, and a story centering on the men at a bachelor party. The collection contains fiction that is "honestly and carefully executed" and "unflinchingly explores the pitfalls and dangers involved in making one's place in the world," indicated a Publishers Weekly critic. The volume addresses stereotypically defined male interests and is presented from a male perspective. Poverty, small-town life, and desperation are common elements in Poachers. "Knee-deep in the muddy woods of Alabama, Franklin's unhappy men live at the extreme edge," described James Klise in a Booklist assessment. Perhaps the most remarkable piece in the collection is the title story, a novella telling of three brothers, orphaned when their father commits suicide, who survive by poaching and, in defense of their livelihood, commit murder. As Klise commented: "The title novella skillfully evokes the impoverished community of its doomed main characters, three teenage brothers, hunted by a legendary poacher-turned-game warden." Comparing Franklin's dialogue to Ernest Hemingway, Denis Johnson, and Raymond Carver, the Publishers Weekly critic remarked: "While he may occasionally wax sentimental about life in the impoverished South, Franklin's style is often … laconic and simply spoken."

Franklin's debut novel, the 2003 Hell at the Breech, was, as IdentityTheory.com writer Robert Birnbaum noted: "based on real events that took place in the 1890's that pitted poor white sharecroppers against the landowners who controlled their fates." An accidental shooting leads to the sharecroppers and other poor and criminal elements forming the Hell at the Breech gang which terrorizes the citizens of Clark County, Alabama (where Franklin was born and raised). The legal apparatus, led by Sheriff Billy Waite confronts these marauders, and a period of chaos and violence follows. For Birnbaum this was "quite a story well told." While noting the that this novel is set a century earlier than his debut collection of short stories, Bookreporter.com critic Stephen M. Deusner found that "Franklin's sensibility for gritty Southern realism remains in tact [in Hell at the Breech] and in fact has become one of his defining traits as a regional author." Deusner went on to observe that with this novel "Franklin lives up to the promise of Poachers and establishes himself as an imaginative, intelligent, and important Southern writer." Further praise came from Booklist contributor Michele Leber, who termed Hell at the Breech "historical fiction at its best," and from a Kirkus Reviews contributor who concluded: "Historical fiction as smooth and relentless as the darkest Elmore Leonard. First-rate." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt this first novel was a "breakout work."

Franklin's 2006 novel Smonk is, according to Ken St. Andre writing in Library Journal, a "hyperviolent, hyperfilthy, hypersexual—though without being a smidgen erotic—tall tale of a Western … outlaw." At the center of the story is the strangely compelling rapist and murderer Smonk, and the teenage prostitute Evavangeline, who cross paths in a bizarre and violent manner. A Kirkus Reviews critic described the book as "horror and history rendered with gusto and buckets of blood." Ken Tucker, writing in Entertainment Weekly, found Smonk to be "a unique Western saga." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that "readers looking for a strange and savage tale can't go wrong."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 1999, James Klise, review of Poachers, p. 1577.

Entertainment Weekly, August 25, 2006, Ken Tucker, review of Smonk, p. 89.

Kenyon Review, January 1, 2007, Andre Bernard, review of Smonk, p. 3.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Hell at the Breech, p. 495; June 15, 2006, review of Smonk, p. 591.

Library Journal, June 1, 2001, David Hellman, "Mud, Blood, and Beer: Grit Lit Classics," p. 260; May 15, 2003, "Two Views of the South," p. 124; September 15, 2006, Ken St. Andre, review of Smonk, p. 47.

Publishers Weekly, May 17, 1999, review of Poachers, p. 56; May 5, 2003, review of Hell at the Breech, p. 199; June 5, 2006, review of Smonk, p. 32.

OTHER

Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (August 20, 2001), Adam Dunn, interview with Tom Franklin; (June 7, 2007), Stephen M. Deusner, review of Hell at the Breech.

Decatur Book Festival,http://www.decaturbookfestival.com/ (June 7, 2007), "Tom Franklin."

IdentityTheory.com,http://www.identitytheory.com/ (July 31, 2003), Robert Birnbaum, "Tom Franklin."

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