Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” as Want to Read:
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  31,816 Ratings  ·  4,220 Reviews
Tom Franklin's narrative power and flair for characterization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

Now the Edgar Award-winning author returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far; an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pal

Hardcover, 274 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by William Morrow (first published October 5th 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Steve I agree with Margaret. The language used by the characters is genuine, not excessive and does not detract from the compelling impact of the storyline.…moreI agree with Margaret. The language used by the characters is genuine, not excessive and does not detract from the compelling impact of the storyline. (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Ursula My sense was that there was no pivotal moment but that Silas' suspicion was confirmed by Ina verifying the timeline of events: Alice worked as maid…moreMy sense was that there was no pivotal moment but that Silas' suspicion was confirmed by Ina verifying the timeline of events: Alice worked as maid when Larry was just a baby but then she 'got herself in a family way' and had to leave. When combined with the remarks Ina makes when she hands the coats to Silas and Alice, Carl's obvious attraction to Alice and, more importantly, that he seems to owe her (the car, letting Ina and Silas use the hut etc), Carl becomes a key suspect. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 12, 2012 karen rated it it was amazing

it is totally okay to float old reviews when you suddenly have a picture of yourself and the author to attach to them. also, when you are bored. but only once a day. anything more than that becomes boring. or desperate.

one of the best books i have read, ever.

and exactly what i was looking for when i posted my query in my very own readers' advisory group. so, thank you, james, this is a perfect suggestion to the kind of book i was looking for. and i am going to immerse myself in tom franklin's ba

Gorgeous and dripping with emotion and ache...

This story OWNED ME from the opening page and LARRY OTT is among the most endearing, heart-wrenching characters I've come across in a long, long time. That I connected so well with both the story and its main character surprised me because, being born and raised in Vegas, my own life experience is so vastly different from both Larry and the town of Chabot, Mississippi, where the story takes place. I give heaping mounds of credit to author
Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern
M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I.--How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi

Tom Franklin

My wife's family is from Prentiss, Mississippi not far from where the action of this book takes place. When my wife's grandmother died a few years ago we went down for the funeral. This was my first time in Mississippi and I remember a couple of things about the experience. First, this is small town USA and there were two funeral ho
Sep 24, 2012 Nataliya rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nataliya by: Countless positive GR reviews
Oh, small-town, rural America, why must you scare me so? Why must this book, written about you, kill something inside me with every page? Why does it, and you by proxy, need to crush me with loneliness and sadness and desperation?

This is a profoundly sad book about sadness in life, which is sad. And I'm not even being a brat here when I say that. There's nothing about this story that's even remotely optimistic, even the quasi-hopeful ending is very sad, if you think about it.

And why wouldn't
Will Byrnes
Mar 23, 2016 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
Worst first date ever. Poor Larry Ott, the bookish kid, the weak one, a smallish white boy, the bully-target at school, takes out the girl of his dreams, returns home alone, and gets blamed for her presumed rape and murder. Decades later, ostracized by the town, living alone in the same house he grew up in, tending his late, abusive father’s garage, another girl goes missing and all fingers point his way. Did he or didn’t he?

But Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells of two twisted lives. As a ki
Jun 21, 2011 Kemper rated it it was amazing
The geeks may have seized a nice chunk of pop culture these days, but it’s too easy to forget that it wasn’t that long ago when reading and collecting comic books made you a bit odd. Long before remaking ’70s slasher films with as much blood as possible was considered mainstream entertainment, liking Stephen King novels or other horror books and movies might get your folks a closed door session with your teacher. Before Lord of the Rings made a gazillion dollars and won Oscars, you probably woul ...more
Mar 01, 2016 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nancy by: Kemper
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

It was Kemper's review that made me add this book to my shelf. It was Stephen's that made me rush to the library after work and grab a copy.

After reading Shine and Winter's Bone, I was hesitant about reading another depressing story set in the south, but I’m so glad I did.

Larry Ott had a tough childhood growing up in rural Mississippi. He was sickly and he had a stutter. He never quite fit in among his classmates, usually the butt of a joke or the target of a bully. Hi
Jan 20, 2017 Rebbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Poor Larry Ott. Worse things couldn't happen to a person less deserving person than he is. He's a beautiful soul whose wings have been clipped; he's damaged and hurting after a lifetime of being ridiculed, being thrown to the wolves, being falsely accused of a horrific crime.

And yet he doesn't lose his sweetness or optimism, even after his only childhood friend, Silas, ditches him out of fear of losing his own newfound popularity. Silas has to accept how poorly he used to treat Larry while they
Jul 15, 2013 Jason rated it liked it
I want to be clear on the 3-star rating, folks. I liked this book. I swear. I just don’t believe it lived up to the potential I arbitrarily ascribed to it when I saw on the shelf of my local Stop & Shop’s aisle 7.

Guys, I can’t review books anymore. I don’t know if “reviewer burnout” is a real thing or if I’m just miserable because it’s only the second week of July and I am going to die from this heat, or if I’m rip roaring drunk (which I somewhat am), but I came home from visiting some frien
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 14, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Jeffrey Keeten
It’s got a lot of heart, dark and dramatic with ambience in spades, does a great job depicting rural Mississippi. "A few paved roads and a lot of dirt ones, a land of sewer ditches and gullies stripped of their timber and houses and single-wides speckled back in the clear-cut like moles revealed by a haircut."
The point of view alternates between Silas Jones & Larry Ott, flashing back to their boyhood friendship - a friendship that ends when Larry is suspected of murder. Now Silas is back in
Jun 14, 2012 Lawyer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: If Franklin writes it, I read it
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: Thoughts following a second reading

"The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house."

Read that first sentence. What? It doesn't grab you? Keep reading. It's like that long slow climb up to the peak of that first drop on the roller coaster. Hear the click of the chain pulling you to the top? After you hit the top, you're in for a ride.


First came this mean little collection of a novella and
Diane S ☔
May 10, 2015 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
The descriptive and narrative power in this book is what hooked me. Rural Mississippi, two boys, one black, one white will become entangled in each others lives for years to come. The amazing thing to me is I kept thinking that Silas, who is black grows up respected, very unusual in the south during this time, while Larry, who is white is treated as the towns albatross. Due to a missing girl years back and a missing girl in the present. Very strange mixture of characterizations and yet Franklin ...more
Guh! This book ... (flails helplessly) ... it is a gut puncher, heart-wrencher. Franklin is a poet, his prose sings, his characters walk off the page, and he puts the reader into a time and place that absolutely resonates with a vibrancy and brutal honesty all its own.

I was so sad -- so emotionally invested -- that I found the reading painful to bear at times. Franklin's descriptions of human isolation and loneliness are so raw and uncompromising I forced myself to take breathers between readin
Jan 22, 2014 Melki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hillbilly-noir
My son came home from school last week with his outrageously overpriced yearbook. A lot of people had a lot of nice things to say about him, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. One kid wrote something that struck me as particularly nice:

In a few years I see you with a house, wife, and babies.
They will be stupendous, and we'll still be friends.

What I liked, besides the kid's use of the word "stupendous," was the "still be friends" part.
Will they still be friends? Who knows? Like much o
Sep 17, 2016 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
M, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, humpback, humpback, i. That spells Mississippi if you're from the South, so they say. Not sure if I ever heard the humpback version before. The Mississippians in this book are probably not much like most folks you know, with highly dysfunctional families, a mean or absent father in every one, kids that are oppressed and depressed. Then we have snakes in mailboxes, preteens playing with guns, in a town where blacks are i ...more
James Thane
Aug 17, 2014 James Thane rated it really liked it
This is a very well done atmospheric novel set in rural Mississippi. The story is told in scenes that alternate between the 1970s and the present day. At the heart of the story are two men, one white, the other black, who for a brief period of time as boys were secretly close friends in a time and place where their friendship, if public, would have only brought them trouble.

The white man is Larry Ott, the only child of a lower class family. His father was a mechanic who seemed to have little pat
Two boyhood friends, now 'non-friends' in adulthood, are forced to face their individual bags of bones in their closets, when a serious crime strikes their small town in Mississippi. Thrown together, the skeletons screamed their stories to a world who refused to acknowledge their truth. Instead, the people around them preferred to believe their own versions and acted upon it all these years.

For Silas Jones, or '32', as he was known as a high school baseball hero, it could have been different if
Apr 26, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crooked Letter, the crooked lives we live. Those crooked thoughts that alter trajectories, oh if only someone—a friend, a parent, a community, a town—could reach out and position a person's marred ways of thinking. Oftentimes, it doesn't happen this way, not if one lives in a crooked town.

Imagine a life in ruins, simply because a person has been misunderstood. Imagine having a friend you could never publicly claim, a girlfriend you would always keep hidden, because of a small town's shortsighte
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is the first Tom Franklin book I have read and he is certainly a fine writer. Set in rural Mississippi in the late 1970's, this is a story of a friendship between loner, Larry Ott, and former high school sports star and local constable, Silas Jones or "32".

Back in high school, Larry, on his first date, takes a hot local girl to the drive-in and she never returns home. Although not charged with murder, Larry is ostracized by his community for the rest of his life.
Jan 27, 2012 Greg rated it liked it
I'm fairly certain that my reaction to books is dependent on things going on outside of the text itself. Certain books read at certain times of my life affected me in ways that I can't imagine they would affect me now. Other times the shit that is going on in my life makes me unable to give a book that I might otherwise really enjoy the kind of attention, or mood, or something that it really deserves.

Is this one of those books?


I see gushing reviews for this. And I went into expecting to
Jan 14, 2013 Bill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I didn't sleep well last night.

It was one of the very rare occurrences where I finish a book in bed without another one to pick up right away. You see, I hate being between books. When I finish one, I immediately choose another and begin it right away. But last night was an anomaly. Just the way things worked out.

So. Turning out the light immediately after finishing this left me
thinking about the whole thing for much of the night. I kept going over what it was that Franklin did that made me care
Richard Derus
Jun 03, 2012 Richard Derus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Rating: one grudging star of five

This review has been revised and can be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
Feb 07, 2013 Madeline rated it it was ok
Something I learned about myself while reading this book: I am incapable of reading books that include a murder mystery but don't focus on the mystery aspect.

Look guys, I love detective novels. I love seeing how an author puts together a crime, presents the circumstances, and shows us the investigation process while disguising the real solution until the moment they're ready to give us the answer. It's fun to read about mysteries, so when I get a book that features a mystery but tries to distrac
Dec 29, 2016 Annet rated it really liked it
Read this book in 2012, remember it's a great, have to re-read soon!
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Larry Ott's character in this book just broke my heart. I mean took it out and threw it on the ground and stomped it kind of broken. His character was a little bookworm who just didn't fit in with the other kids. When he dared to think he had a date with a cute girl and took her out she never returned. So his whole life has been "Scary Larry".

Silas is his one time black friend who is now constable in the town they life in. One time friends. But this story is of their friendship and the way we a
Doug H
Feb 05, 2016 Doug H rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
With echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men, this novel is a classic in its own right.

What makes a novel a classic? For me the answer is great writing, realistic characters, a good story and a social and/or philosophical message.

Great Writing

I'm not usually a fan of writing that uses colloquialism outside of dialogue (and sometimes it irks me even then), but Tom Franklin employs it so realistically in this novel that it became one of the things I admired about it. It's a very well d
Aug 04, 2011 Reese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Reese by: Kathy & Kristi
To write a review of this book, I had to consciously give myself permission not "to do it justice" because I'm not up to the challenge. Sorry -- especially since CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER puts the impact of injustice in the reader's face, belly, and heart. Besides injustice, Tom Franklin's novel is about finding missing pieces and putting them together, not about taking the whole apart. And so I won't explore pieces that scream "ANALYZE THIS" -- the novel's epigraph, its structure, the name ...more
Jun 10, 2012 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are books that you read as you drift off to sleep, setting them aside and then coming back to them the next night. This is not that type of book. Based on my experience, this is the kind of book that you pick up at night and then read straight through, getting up several times to avoid sleep, in order to keep reading. From the first line, I was transfixed. While the book is well plotted and interesting, it was the characters that kept me turning the pages late last night. Larry Ott, town b ...more
Ruth Turner
Apr 01, 2015 Ruth Turner rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern-lit

I almost didn't finish this one. I struggled through the first few chapters trying to become comfortable with the way the author writes and his sometimes long-winded sentences.

I'm so glad I persevered. This is a wonderful story, although sometimes dark and often depressing.

For me, these types of stories are not so much about the mystery/murder or even the ending. They're about the people and the places the author introduces me to. This is a book filled with wonderful characters that were with m
Feb 05, 2011 Gary rated it it was amazing
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
New York: HarperCollins, Publishers
$24.99 - 274 pages

“MI crooked letter, crooked letter I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, humpback, humpback, I”

(how southern children are taught to spell Mississippi.)

How many times have you heard the lament, “They don’t write southern novels the way they used to”? This statement is usually followed by a catalog of classics like To Kill a Mockingbird along with a few reverent references to Truman Capote, Carson McC
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Books N Beans: January Book 2 1 Dec 29, 2016 08:08AM  
Bookworm Bitches : January 2012: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 76 353 May 30, 2016 10:09AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Crooked Letter, Confused Reader 2 25 Nov 14, 2015 01:25AM  
On the Southern L...: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: June 2012 41 190 Sep 14, 2015 10:01AM  
  • One Foot in Eden
  • The Scent of Rain and Lightning
  • The Lock Artist
  • The Missing
  • A Single Shot
  • Twilight
  • Bent Road
  • Kentucky Straight: Stories
  • The Last Kind Words (Terrier Rand, #1)
  • A Good Hard Look
  • The Death of Sweet Mister
  • The Bottoms
  • Last Call for the Living
  • A Land More Kind Than Home
  • Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Claire DeWitt Novels)
  • The Man from Primrose Lane
  • Iron House
  • Fay
Tom Franklin was born and raised in Dickinson, Alabama. He held various jobs as a struggling writer living in South Alabama, including working as a heavy-equipment operator in a grit factory, a construction inspector in a chemical plant and a clerk in a hospital morgue. In 1997 he received his MFA from the University of Arkansas. His first book, Poachers was named as a Best First Book of Fiction b ...more
More about Tom Franklin...

Share This Book

“Was that what childhood was? Things rushing by out a window, the trees connected by motion, going too fast for him to notice the consequences?” 11 likes
“Maybe Larry was wrong about the word friend, maybe he'd been shoved away from everybody for so long all he was was a sponge for the wrongs other people did.” 10 likes
More quotes…