Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: "Poachers" by Tom Franklin

If it was not for the brilliant novella that this book gets its title from, as well as the first actual story (it opens with a nonfiction anecdote from Franklin’s youth) Tom Franklin’s Poachers would be kind of a dud, although one that displays some flash and bang we would get to see in the exceedingly great Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. I guess I was more or less let down by what I thought this collection was going to be. I was expecting more of a Frank Bill or Donald Ray Pollock type collection that felt like a Flannery O’Conner story on crank, but in a lot of these stories, nothing really happens. It may be said that in O’Conner’s stories, things do not happen as you think they would, but Franklin is not that kind of writer, I expected these stories to be hard-bitten, with a sting that could make you jump out of your seat. I guess you shouldn’t let your expectations guide you by the nose, since they are bound to lead down the road of disappointment. But the two stories in this collection, which I like, are, in fact, very, very good. The first real story is called “Grit”, which deals with a morally defunct manager of a mineral quarry who, because of his ever-growing number of debts, is forced to become a literal slave to one of his workers who he has money owed to. It is both funny and infuriating in the way some Lansdale stories are. But the real gem in this collection is the title novella, about a group of three brothers, who have been known to illegally poach fish in an Alabama, come to find a new adversary in the form a mythic, almost ghost-like game warden, who puts them through the ultimate test of survival. If it was sold by itself, I would say get it, but even though this collection is not perfect, Franklin I still worth your time.
Rating: 4/5

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