Author Tom Franklin, assistant professor of fiction writing at the University of Mississippi, has won an LA Times Book Prize for his acclaimed 2010 novel, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.”
Recognized in the “Best Mystery/Thriller” category, the book was also nominated for a Barry Award, an Edgar Award, a Hammett Award and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association Award. It is the recipient of the Alabama Librarians Association Award for Best Novel.
“Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” (William Morrow) is Franklin’s third novel. Like his “Hell at the Breech” and “Smonk,” it is set in a small Southern town.
“The South has more than its share of secrets – old sins that haunt us,” Franklin said. “There are things people don’t want to talk about because they remind us of what we are and what we are capable of. It’s a cloud that is over all of us, and we are trying to get out of the shadow of it.”
Franklin is a native of Dickinson, Ala., a town of around 500 people in south central Alabama, near Monroeville, home of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee. Franklin said he was affected by the book, the beauty of its language and the sensitive yet progressive way it dealt with the darkness of racism and discrimination.
Recipient of a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, Franklin credits the university and the Department of English with nurturing and encouraging his work as a writer.
“I can’t even imagine a more supportive environment for writing,” he said. “Not only does the administration encourage me as a writer, but they make it easier for me to write; for example, providing a summer research grant so I have the time away from classes to work. Knowing there are expectations for me as a writer, as well as a teacher, keeps me on my toes and motivated.”
The national attention Franklin’s novel has garnered brings acclaim to the department and to the university, said Ivo Kamps, UM English chair.
“Tom Franklin is an enormously talented writer and storyteller whose novels and stories raise the reputation of the English department and its MFA program across the country,” Kamps said. “Having his novel ‘Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter’ win the LA Times Book Award after spending several weeks on The New York Times bestseller list firmly underscores this point and helps us attract highly talented students to Ole Miss. We are extraordinarily fortunate that Tom and his wife, the poet Beth Ann Fennelly, have made Oxford and the English department their home.”