Book Talk: Mississippi mud
Larry Ott is a lonely man. He lives his life in rural Mississippi in the family’s home all alone. Amongst his dead father’s favorite chair and his forgetful mother’s knick-knacks, he sits and reads his horror books, keeping the place clean although he never has company.
It seems as if Larry’s 41 years have always been filled with loneliness. Being one of the only whites in his ’70s integrated schools, he remembers the nice things said to him by fellow classmates because it rarely happened.
Things were not any easier when his father was alive either. Larry’s natural talent for reading always put him at odds with the man known for his baseball abilities. Forget trying to help him at the garage where essential wing nuts seemed to fly from his sweaty hands. The best he could do for the family business was to keep the bays clean and the oil canisters filled.
Then there was the thing that happened 25 years ago. The one thing that makes him suffer the most. The reason boys taunt him late at night by tearing up the yard in their 4-wheel drives throwing beer bottles at the house. The motivation Chief Investigator Roy French uses to enter his home and search the property.
See, Larry is what law enforcement likes to call a person of interest. Some 25 years ago, Cindy Walker went missing. The last person to see her was Larry. She went to the drive-in-movie and just walked away from their date.
The nightmare is happening again. The Rutherford girl has been missing eight days and all eyes are on Larry. It does not help that the one friend he had growing up has moved back to the town but refuses to return Larry’s phone messages.
So begins Tom Franklin’s fourth novel titled, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.” Franklin currently teaches at The University of Mississippi where he lives with his poet wife, Beth Ann Fennelly.
I first heard of Mr. Franklin through my preacher’s wife while he was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at Ole Miss. Back in 2002 he was working on a little book and she was uncertain of his choice of careers. That book was “Hell at the Breech” and I do believe he has found his calling.