Saturday, October 10, 2009

book review

- Poachers by Tom Franklin

ISBN 0-688-16749-3

“…But I’ve never lost the need to tell of my Alabama , to reveal it, lush and green and full of death. So I return, knowing what I’ve learned. I come back where life is slow dying and I poach for stories. I poach because I want to recover the paths while there is still time, before the last logging trucks rumble through and the old dark ways are forever hewn.” (From the introduction)
Tell it, he does, with the power of one who knows the people and places first hand. The short story collection, Poachers, holds within its pages a host of characters that work in a chemical plant and a sewage treatment plant. One runs a mill that makes grist for sandblasting and one tends bar in a honky-tonk. The characters live lives of desperation as raw and jagged as a broken tooth. In the introduction to this unique book, Tom Franklin reveals a personal history that includes early years hunting deer and wild turkey in the land between the Tombigbee and the Alabama Rivers .
In the title novella “Poachers,” the reader meets the three Gates brothers, as wild and untamed as the creatures that they hunt for a living. When they kill a rookie lawman, the legendary and mysterious game warden, Frank David, comes out of retirement to track them down. Some people say that Frank David was an orphan boy raised by a Cajun woman on a bayou. Some say that he was a special services sniper in the Korean War. Others say that he is so good at catching poachers because he himself was once the best poacher in the state. All agree that he is a man of average build, able to catch any poacher that he tracks. When one of the Gates brothers dies, killed by dynamite in a “fishing accident,” the local sheriff begins to think that the legendary lawman has crossed the line.
The title novella was included in two anthologies, New Stories from the South, The Year’s Best, 1999, and Best American Mystery Stories, 1999. It is a splendid example of Tom Franklin’s masterful storytelling. The novella alone makes the book, Poachers, a must read.

- Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman

Ray Zimmerman’s poem “Glen Falls Trail,” won second place in the Tennessee Writer’s Alliance 2007 poetry contest.

If you see a writer on fire, fan the flames.

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