Author Tom Franklin will be the guest author as the Center for Oral Narration at the University of South Carolina Sumter presents its annual Fall Writer program. This is the 29th year for the Fall Writer Series started by USC Sumter Professor Emerita of English Lee Craig, and as in years past, the speaker is not just a best-selling author, he's also an award-winning, celebrated writer.
Franklin will present a reading and discussion of his latest work, "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" at noon and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, in USC's Arts and Letters Lecture Hall on Miller Road. Franklin's previous works include "Poachers," a story that won the Edgar award; it is included in a collection by the same title. He has also published "Hell at the Breech," "Smonk" and "The Tilted World," which he wrote with Beth Ann Fennelly.
The recipient of a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, Franklin teaches in the Master of Fine Arts Program at the University of Mississippi. "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" refers to the mnemonic device young students often use to remember the correct spelling of "Mississippi" - M, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, humpback, humpback, i.
The book is about an unlikely - and covert - friendship between two young boys, Silas, who is black, and Larry, who is white, near a small Mississippi town. Years later, the friendship ends when Larry takes a girl on a blind date, and she is never seen again. Larry is never charged, but his life takes a severe downturn.
Professor Mary Ellen Bellanca, who coordinates the Fall Writer Series, said Franklin's appearance was suggested by USC English professor Andrew Kunka, who attended a reading by the author last year. Bellanca said she seeks suggestions from "fellow professors and creative writers that we know, and I always ask the Fall Writers themselves for suggestions."
Among the criteria for inviting writers, she said, are that they must be published, "most often a poet or fiction writer, but we've also had playwrights, comics artists and nonfiction authors, whose work we think would have appeal for our students and the community. ... (Most are) based in South Carolina or not too far away; the Fall Writer Series has long been a venue for good regional talent to get a little more exposure."
She has read "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter," Bellanca said, describing it as "simply fantastic. ... (with) plot twists, riveting suspense, unforgettable characters, humor and Southern flavor, from the small-town setting and wooded landscape to the (sometimes salty) dialogue - and the writing quality is both powerful and beautiful. I look forward to reading more of his fiction, which tends to be set in rural Mississippi or Alabama, often includes a rich element of history and explores rather dark themes but also the depths of human complexity."
Because of his national profile, she said, Franklin will present on Wednesday at noon and again at 7 p.m., so that those who can't attend during the day can hear him. There will ample time for questions following his reading and discussion.
"Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter," published in 2011, was nominated for nine awards, won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger Award.
Franklin's appearance is sponsored by the USC Division of Arts and Letters, the Cultural Events Committee, the Korn Trust and the Center for Oral Narration. Admission to Tom Franklin's presentation at the USC Sumter Fall Writers series is free. Both programs will be presented in USC Sumter's Arts and Letters Lecture Hall. The public is invited to attend. Light refreshments will be served following the evening program, and Franklin's books "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter" and "Poachers" will be available for sale and autographing following the presentations.