Cover image for Poachers : stories
Poachers : stories
Franklin, Tom.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow and Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
192 pages ; 22 cm
Hunting years -- Grit -- Shubuta -- Triathalon -- Blue horses -- The ballad of Duane Juarez -- A tiny history -- Dinosaurs -- Instinct -- Alaska -- Poachers.
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It's as if Raymond Carver were still alive and living in the Deep South. Or, imagine a world created by Jim Harrison and Cormac McCarthy and plunk it down in the woods of southern Alabama, where emotions run as raw as moonshine.

Tom Franklin's eloquent deceptively simple prose evokes a world of hunting and fishing, shotgun shacks and trailer parks, poachers, and lawmen, factory workers, poor white trash, and bucket-o-'blood boozers. His stories are laced with naked violence, hot food, and the ever bitter sweat and tears of human relationships.

Author Notes

Tom Franklin is the New York Times bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger Award. His previous works include Poachers, Hell at the Breech, and Smonk. Franklin co-authored The Tilted World with wife Beth Ann Fennelly. He teaches in the University of Mississippi's MFA program.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Three new collections offer variations on what one might call the "man's man" story--fiction written by men about those topics of enduring interest to men: drinking, sport, and women. Knee-deep in the muddy woods of Alabama, Franklin's unhappy men live at the extreme edge. They suffer, as Raymond Carver's people did, from lack of work and rest, leaving too much time for hunting and whiskey. Shotguns loaded and within reach, they are men fated--by biology and economy--to shoot themselves in the feet. Their wives and girlfriends, finding little sport in these overgrown boys, make tracks of their own. The title novella skillfully evokes the impoverished community of its doomed main characters: three orphaned brothers in their teens--poachers by nature--who find themselves hunted by a legendary poacher-turned-game warden. Fans of Harris' classic baseball quartet (including The Southpaw and Bang the Drum Slowly) may seek out this new title, which comprises 11 stories published between 1946 and 1993. Harris' quirky humor lends itself naturally to the well-told anecdote and absurd situation. In "Touching Idamae Low," a businessman discovers that the key to landing a new job is pleasing a seemingly useless corporate "assistant." In "Flattery," a professor finds himself so susceptible to compliments from a long-ago student that he lends the stranger $500. The collection concludes with a moving account of an older Harris returning to the baseball diamond. Preparing for the big game, Harris reviews the life lessons the game has taught him, gleaning insight even after the game-winning fly ball drops from his glove. Political writer Nakagami (1946^-92) was born into the Japanese outcast society of the Burakumin ("village people") and spent his career documenting that subculture. Exploding the Western stereotypes of Japanese refinement and manners, his fiction exposes the crude and often violent world of construction workers, bartenders, and prostitutes--a world where alcoholism and pleurisy decimate families and where physical size matters ultimately. Like the naturalistic work of Zola and Norris, Nakagami's characters are motivated by the most basic human urges: hunger, greed, sex, and anger. Zimmerman's translation captures the coarse vocabulary and raw energy of this fascinating ghetto. --James Klise

Publisher's Weekly Review

These 10 honestly crafted and carefully executed tales of cottonmouths and skulking outlaws in the South unflinchingly explore the pitfalls and dangers involved in making one's place in the world. The collection's power arises from Franklin's reluctance to analyze its (often bloody) events. In "Dinosaurs," a waste inspector takes a huge stuffed rhinoceros as a reward for not closing down a gas station with several hazardous leaky pumps. In "Grit," a devious laborer at a minerals processing plant trades positions with his supervisor through blackmail involving gambling debts, only to see the scam backfire. The protagonist of "Triathlon," a man trapped in a decaying marriage, remembers fishing for sharks on the night before his wedding. Fantasy has its place, too, as in "Alaska," in which a rambling male voice describes an imagined trip to the Northwest that never gets farther than the shores of a pond in some unspecified Southern location; although little happens, the story's dreamy meandering is seductive. In "The Ballad of Duane Juarez," a man commits small crimes without guilt because he has given himself a fake name, and thereby a fake identity. The other stories in the book, however, only provide a tantalizing buildup to the chilling title story, in which a legendary and demonic game warden in a small Alabama town stealthily and privately punishes three youths who have murdered his predecessor. Franklin announces the arrival of the avenger with a sentence no more complete than "A match striking," and yet this is enough for a good scare. While he may occasionally wax sentimental about life in the impoverished South, Franklin's style is often as laconic and simply spoken as his characters' dialogue, sometimes close to Hemingway, but more often akin to Denis Johnson or Raymond Carver in its resonant ordinariness. Although some readers may balk at the virtual absence of women from these intensely masculine yarns, those who persist will be persuaded by their gruff grace. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Poachers Stories Chapter One Grit Chugging and clanging among the dark pine trees north of Mobile, Alabama, the Black Beauty Minerals plant was a rickety green hull of storage tanks, chutes and conveyor belts. Glen, the manager, felt like the captain of a ragtag spaceship that had crashlanded, a prison barge full of poachers and thieves, smugglers and assassins. The owners, Ernie and Dwight, lived far away, in Detroit, and when the Black Beauty lost its biggest client--Ingalls Shipbuilding--to government budget cuts, they ordered Glen to lay off his two-man night shift. One of the workers was a long-haired turd Glen enjoyed letting go, a punk who would've likely failed his next drug test. But the other man, Roy Jones, did some bookmaking on the side, and Glen had been in a betting slump lately. So when Roy, who'd had a great year as a bookie, crunched over the gritty black yard to the office, Glen owed him over four thousand dollars. Roy, a fat black man, strode in without knocking and wedged himself into the chair across from Glen's desk, probably expecting more stalling of the debt. Glen cleared his throat. "I've got some bad news, Roy--" "Chill, baby," Roy said. He removed his hard hat, which left its imprint in his hair. "I know I'm fixing to get laid off, and I got a counteroffer for you." He slid a cigar from his hat lining and smelled it. Glen was surprised. The Ingalls announcement hadn't come until a few hours ago. Ernie and Dwight had just released him from their third conference call of the afternoon, the kind where they both yelled at him at the same time. "How'd you find that out, Roy?" he asked. Roy lit his cigar. "One thing you ain't learned yet is how to get the system doggie-style. Two of my associates work over at Ingalls, and one of 'em been fucking the bigwig's secretary." "Well--" "Hang on, Glen. I expect E and D done called you and told you to lay my big fat ass off. But that's cool, baby." He tipped his ashes into his hard hat. " 'Cause I got other irons in the fire." He said he had an "independent buyer" for some Black Beauty sandblasting grit. Said he had, in fact, a few lined up. What he wanted was to run an off-the-books night shift for a few hours a night, three nights a week. He said he had an associate who'd deliver the stuff. The day-shifters could be bought off. Glen could doctor the paperwork so the little production wouldn't be noticed by Ernie and Dwight. "But don't answer now," Roy said, replacing his hard hat. "Sleep on it tonight, baby. Mull it over." Glen--a forty-two-year-old ulcer-ridden, insomniac, half-alcoholic chronic gambler--mulled Roy's idea over in his tiny apartment that evening by drinking three six-packs of Bud Light. He picked up the phone and placed a large bet with Roy on the upcoming Braves--Giants game, taking San Francisco because Barry Bonds was on fire. Then he dialed the number of the Pizza Hut managed by his most recent ex-wife's new boyfriend, placed an order for five extra-large thick-crust pies with pineapple and double anchovies, and had it delivered to another of his ex-wives' houses for her and her boyfriend. Glen had four ex-wives in all, and he was still in love with each of them. Every night as he got drunk it felt like somebody had shot him in the chest with buckshot and left four big airy holes in his heart, holes that grew with each beer, as if--there was no other way he could think of it--his heart were being sandblasted. The Braves rallied in the eighth and Bonds's sixteen-game hitting streak was snapped, so when Roy came by the next day, Glen owed him another eight hundred dollars and change. Roy sat down. "You made up your mind yet?" "Impossible," Glen said. "Even if I wanted to, I couldn't go along. Ernie and Dwight'd pop in out of nowhere and we'd all be up the creek." Today Roy wore tan slacks and a brown silk shirt. Shiny brown shoes and, when he crossed his legs, thin argyle socks. A brown fedora in his lap. The first time Glen had seen him in anything but work clothes. Roy shook a cigar from its box and lit it. "Glen, you the most gullible motherfucker ever wore a hard hat. Don't you reckon I know when them tight-asses is coming down here?" "How? Got somebody fucking their wives?" Roy hesitated. "My cousin's daughter work in the Detroit airport. Glen's mind flashed a quick slideshow of Ernie and Dwight's past disastrous visits. "You might've mentioned that four years ago. "Baby," Roy said, 'I'll cut you in for ten percent of every load we sell." "There's a recession, Roy. I can't unload this grit to save my life, and if I can't, you sure as hell can't." Roy chuckled. "Got-damn, boy." He pulled out a wad of hundred-dollar bills. "This is what I done presold. I got friends all up and down the coast. They got some rusty-ass shit needs sandblasting. You ain't no salesman, Glen. You couldn't sell a whore on a battleship." "Roy, it's illegal." "Go look out yonder." Roy pointed to the window overlooking the black-grit parking lot. Glen obeyed. A big white guy with a little head was leaning against Roy's cream-colored El Dorado, carving at his fingernails with a long knife. "That's my associate, Snakebite," Roy said. "He'll be delivering the stuff. He also collect for me, if you know what I mean. Poachers Stories . Copyright © by Tom Franklin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.