It's 1911 and the secluded southwestern Alabama town of Old Texas has been besieged by a scabrous and malevolent character called E. O. Smonk. Syphilitic, consumptive, gouty and goitered, Smonk is also an expert with explosives and knives. He abhors horses, goats and the Irish. Every Saturday night for a year he's been riding his mule into Old Texas, destroying property, killing livestock, seducing women, cheating and beating men—all from behind the twin barrels of his Winchester 45-70 caliber over and under rifle. At last the desperate citizens of the town, themselves harboring a terrible secret, put Smonk on trial, with disastrous and shocking results.
Thus begins the highly anticipated new novel from Tom Franklin, acclaimed author of Hell at the Breech and Poachers.
Smonk is also the story of Evavangeline, a fifteen-year-old prostitute quick to pull a trigger or cork. A case of mistaken identity plunges her into the wild sugarcane country between the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, land suffering from the worst drought in a hundred years and plagued by rabies. Pursued by a posse of unlikely vigilantes, Evavangeline boats upriver and then wends through the dust and ruined crops, forced along the way to confront her own clouded past. She eventually stumbles upon Old Texas, where she is fated to E. O. Smonk and the townspeople in a way she could never imagine.
In turns hilarious, violent, bawdy and terrifying, Smonk creates its own category: It's a southern, not a western, peopled with corrupt judges and assassins, a cuckolded blacksmith, Christian deputies, widows, War veterans, whores, witches, madmen and zombies. By the time the smoke has cleared, the mystery of Smonk will be revealed, the survivors changed forever.
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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. He teaches in the University of Mississippi's MFA program.From Publishers Weekly:
E.O. Smonk is an ugly, unwashed, murdering rapist who has terrorized the small town of Old Texas, Ala., for years. In 1911, the town summons Smonk to stand trial, and a nonstop blood-orgy of brutality and destruction is the result in Franklin's gloriously debauched second novel (following Hell at the Breech). After Smonk's goons assault the Old Texas courthouse and kill the town's menfolk, reformed former Smonk associate turned lawman Will McKissick pursues Smonk. Meanwhile, a posse of Christian deputies chase teenage whore Evavangeline through the Gulf Coast, but the girl is a skilled killer, too, and the trail of her victims spans the region. McKissick follows Smonk's trail out of and back into Old Texas, while Evavangeline drifts into the town, where all the children are dead except McKissick's 12-year-old son and the widows lay out their dead husbands on their dining tables. The town's sordid past, about to be exposed, involves a rabies-ravaged one-armed preacher, a rabid dog named Lazarus the Redeemer, incest and a church full of dead boys dressed in Sunday best. Fast-paced and unrelentingly violent, Franklin's western isn't for everyone, but readers looking for a strange and savage tale can't go wrong. (On sale Aug. 22)
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