>> Thursday, December 22, 2011
Poachers by Tom Franklin
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 1999
Source: Gift from a friend
The Short Version:
Nine short stories and a novella length tale that are as beautiful as they are brutal thanks to the amazing way Tom Franklin has of telling a story.
Why I Read It:
After I read and loved Franklin’s first novel Hell at the Breech, my bookseller friend from Alabama told me I had to read this collection of stories. She even sent me a copy but it took me several years to finally get around to reading it. I should not have waited so long.
The book contains an introduction by Franklin that tells of his own history in the setting of these stories.
My south – the one I haven’t been able to get out of my blood or my imagination, the south where these stories take place – is lower Alabama, lush and green and full of death, the wooded counties between the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers.
These stories are also lush and full of death. I’ve been posting about the short stories for the past few weeks on my Short Story Monday posts.
Shubuta and Triathlon
Blue Horses and The Ballad of Duane Juarez
A Tiny History and Dinosaurs
Instinct and Alaska
All of these stories are gritty and hard and at times difficult to read but the language and imagery is so beautifully presented and the untold is brilliantly left to you to complete as you read them.
Poachers is the last story and it is more of a novella length tale. It’s the story of the Gates brothers and a legendary Game Warden. The clash between the near feral brothers and the law is harsh. The brothers survive by poaching and the world they inhabit is only remotely connected to society. They have a couple of people who look out for them. Kirxy is an aged storekeeper whose only patrons these days are the Gates brothers. Esther is all alone after two husbands and six children. She lives and drinks alone but has she and the brothers have a way of needing each other. Both Kirxy and Esther themselves live on the edge of society and both have their reasons for keeping an eye out for the Gates brothers.
When things turn bad, it gets real bad in a hurry. A legendary Game Warden is back and after the brothers. The strike of a match can strike fear in the heart.
I love Tom Franklin’s writing. It’s moody and dark but at the same time lyrical and beautiful. The images, smells and feelings become real. In this collection of stories he has perfected the art of only telling just enough. There are pieces that he leaves for you to finish in your head as you read and he excels at this.
Don’t pick this up expecting light and happy feeling stories. These are often brutal and disturbing. Poaching is the theme and a part of every story. There are some characters that appear in multiple stories and their stories more complex. Other stories stand on their own completely.
All of the stories have a deep sense of place. You will inhabit that lush green land of death that Franklin talks about in the introduction. It is inhabited by lost and at times desperate people who will haunt you long after you finish reading.