Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: Smooth as Makers Mark
Almost all of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is backstory; the novel is only bookended and punctuated with present action. For purposes of characterization, it works fine. Most of the backstory is devoted to characterization, and the characters are believable and highly sympathetic. If you’re the kind of reader who wants to know your characters deep down, you’ll love Crooked Letter Crooked Letter.
Structurally, there are a few key story questions that keep the reader wondering. What happened between the protagonist and his former friend that caused the present day rift?
The story is constructed with a blink spot—the identity of a young girl’s boyfriend on the night she was murdered. I’m calling it a blind spot because the author doesn’t make it a compelling story question, which I think shows admirable restraint. (Having the reader asking the wrong questions would have diluted the strength of the more compelling, literary, character-motivation based questions.) However, when Franklin fills that blind spot, he provides a great ah-huh! moment, and cements the reader’s trust in the all-sensing, all-knowing authority of the author. You’ll know you’re reading a master of the craft.
There is no doubt Franklin is a master. In spite of my gripes, which result from personal preference, I read the novel in two days and enjoyed it. I was a happy reader because I’m usually incapable of reading bestsellers because they so often compel me only to get out a red pen and edit them. This was not the case with Franklin. He’s smooth as Makers Mark.
My gripes have to do with structure. I anticipated the answer to every single story question. Every one. Franklin telegraphs everything and the result was that I read to have my suspicions confirmed, instead of to be surprised. I’m confident Franklin knew he was telegraphing, and that his higher purpose was to write an in depth character study, not a thriller/suspense. As a character study, you won’t find one finer. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter will make you think, and it’ll make you feel. However, the novel probably won’t make you bite your nails.
My advice? If you want to see how an absolute master develops characters, then Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter will deeply satisfy. Franklin is perfect at creating compelling characters and revealing their thoughts, emotions, and woes in a way that keeps the reader involved. I’m looking forward to reading Franklin’s other work, particularly Smonk and Hell at the Breech.
Every state's got a gang of men with guns and tattered U.S. Constitutions stowed next to their dog-eared John Birch pamphlets. Bitching about government makes men happy, and in recent times, country folk have been fucking euphoric. Rumor was the boys in my neck of the woods were getting rowdy and ready to switch gears from talking to walking. I don't mind ten men at a hunting camp chucking bottles and blasting away. Any fella dumb enough to get drunk around a crew with guns half deserves a bullet. But I got a tip. One of the wives overheard talk of linking the local group with some radical faction out of Denver and marching with guns to Washington to take the country back from the jigs and the Jews. A sheriff can't truck with that, but in a county of twenty thousand, everybody knows everybody, almost. At least the men who would be of age and frame of mind to join such a group knew everyone else who might be. I didn't have anyone to put inside.
From the back cover…
Set in small town Wyoming in the 70s and unfolding in a single day, Clayton Lindemuth's debut novel,Cold Quiet Country, explores small-town corruption and the lengths some people will go to exact revenge.
With a deft hand and sinister eye, Clayton Lindemuth reminds us that the green, idyllic landscape of Middle America can suddenly become an ominous backdrop for violence and treachery.
Suspenseful, intelligent, and bold, COLD QUIET COUNTRY brings a new edge to the world of modern noir and readers will no longer be able to look upon rolling hills, pastoral fields, and picturesque barns without a sense of foreboding.
I look at Liz. At some point she's going to decide what she wants to do. She's in the house where it all happened, the refuge that was the site of her terror, at the hands of the man whose politics maybe included her in the town's ostracism. She's a cagey creature, this girl who doesn't know how to be a girl. She glances at me and suddenly I'm in Burt Haudesert's kitchen, at the table. Jordan's at my elbow and Gwen is opposite, and she's got that same stare as Liz does now. She's looking straight at the center of the table. Her jaw is set but her brow is soft. There's concentration in her eyes, but no anger or consternation. Her heart's probably beating like a rabbit flushed from the briar, but outward she's spaced out and for the life of me I'll never understand how a man can do that to a girl.
And there's Sunday. Speak of the Devil. The man at the head of the family, defending it.
He's three steps away but ten times stronger and faster than me. But there are more guns on my side of the battlefront. And frankly I don't give a shit.
"Liz, are you going to kill him, or what?"