MysteryPeople Q&A with Tom Franklin, on Editing the Anthology MISSISSIPPI NOIR

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

One of the best anthologies from 2016, a year of great anthologies, was Mississippi Noir. The stories included in the collection took a hard, if sometimes romantic, look at the underbelly of the state and many of the people who live on its fringes. Many of the writers included, like Megan Abbott and William Boyle, dig in to the psychology and circumstance behind characters’ emotions.

We caught up with the editor, lauded author Tom Franklin, to talk about putting together this noteworthy anthology, released as part of the Akashic Noir series, wherein each volume focuses on crime stories set in a different unique locale. 

MysteryPeople Scott: My guess is that you got half your authors by stopping by Oxford’s City Grocery bar. How close am I and how did you go about gathering the rest?

Tom Franklin: Well, it happens that I know a lot of writers; and a lot of them live in Oxford; and we do love the City Grocery! So your guess is correct. But I also reached out to writers I don’t know personally. I reached out to writers I’d met on the road. I reached out to the big names, John Grisham (didn’t have a story at present), Greg Illes (working on his trilogy), Thomas Harris (no answer). I reached out to a couple of writers who never responded. Also, not wanting to rely only on my own devices, I asked the publisher to help me find contributors. Johnny Temple at Akashic found writers and we used some of their stories. Mississippi is just so chock-full of great writers that, in the end, we had more stories than we would use for the anthology. In the interest of fairness, I send the publisher all the stories we’d got together, gathered, and asked that he choose. And he did. He chose, almost entirely, what I’d have chosen.

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Crime Fiction Friday: “Riviera” by Julie Smith

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  • Selected and Introduced by Scott Montgomery
Akashic Books recently released Mississippi Noir, edited by Tom Franklin, a great addition to their Noir series. The volume features established talent like Ace Atkins and Megan Abbott and talented up and comers like William Boyle. To get us amped for the collection, Akashic posted this great story set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Julie Smith on their Mondays Are Murder Site.

“Riviera” by Julie Smith

‘”Shit on a stick,” Roy said. “It’s her.”

“You’re lyin’!” Forest said. “Not The Dutch Treat, please, Jesus. Anything but that!”

“AKA Spawn of Satan.”

They were at the Gulfport Shaggy’s, about to celebrate a decent haul on a pot deal with a late-morning bloody and there stood The Treat, looking less Dutch than usual, a little more redneck, talking to some senior stoner with ass-length white hair in a sectioned-off ponytail…’

Read the rest of the story.

MysteryPeople Q&A with William Boyle

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 

I’m looking forward to introducing our readers to William Boyle this upcoming Tuesday, August 2nd, at 7 PM at our New Voices of Noir panel discussion. Boyle joins Bill Loehfelm, Alison Gaylin, and Megan Abbott for the panel discussion. His short stories and Gravesend, his first novel, feature hard-luck people stuck in life. To give you an idea of him, here’s a quick interview we did.

MysteryPeople Scott: Gravesend is an ensemble novel, set in a decaying working class part of New York that is a character itself. Did you start with the idea of the place or the people?

William Boyle: I grew up in the neighborhoods of Gravesend and Bensonhurst. I knew I wanted to write about the place. I’ve mostly lived away from Brooklyn since college, though my family’s still there—I’ve spent time in the Hudson Valley, in Austin, in The Bronx, in Mississippi—but I carry the neighborhood with me. So, it started with that feeling, I’d say, of being trapped by the place you’re from, whether or not you’re physically there. A lot of the action of the book actually takes place away from Gravesend—upstate, in Manhattan, in other neighborhoods—but it’s still and always about people made and shaped by that specific place. The people are the place. My characters are stuck there, for the most part, except for Alessandra, who’s just returned after living in L.A. for years. A lot of how I feel about the neighborhood—how I fall into old struggles and fall victim to old sadnesses when I’m back there—went into her character.

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MysteryPeople Review: THE FORSAKEN by Ace Atkins

The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
Reviewed by Scott M.

With echoes of both William Faulkner and Elmore Leonard, the latest Quinn Colson novel by Ace Atkins, The Forsaken, goes deep into both Colson’s character and his culture. Like Southern literature’s best novels, Atkins centers his narrative around themes of family and of the past, with a few great action sequences thrown in to keep things interesting.

As The Forsaken opens, Chains LeDoux, leader of The Born Losers biker gang, has just finished up a twenty year prison stretch, and he comes out gunning for Sheriff Colson’s nemesis town fixer, Johnny Stagg. Quinn, himself, is looking into a cold case involving a a man who raped one girl and killed another when the town was celebrating the Bicentennial.

The town quickly decided to lynch a black drifter for the crime, but evidence has arisen years later pointing to his innocence. As Quinn looks into what really happened, he finds much resistance from the town. Like Faulkner, Atkins uses the mystery structure to look at the past’s relationship to the present. Many chapters take place in the ’70s and feature Quinn’s estranged father, Jason, and his involvement with a neighborhood gang called The Born Losers, all leading up to that dark July 4th. The back-and-forth structure creates a conversation between Jason’s prior actions and his son’s current investigation. This past and present dynamic enriches the book and gives it its authenticity.

We get a realistic modern Southern town in Jericho. The classic country from the barbershop mixes with the hip-hop from a passing pick up. Quinn’s mother still cooks lard-fried bacon and eggs with biscuits and gravy, but he has to make due with a salad when spending the evening with his girl. Ace also shows how ignoring the past can drag progress made towards the future.

With The Forsaken, Ace Atkins digs into the specifics of southern life, mining universal truths of history, family, and society. His characters are both true and entertaining (Leonard fans will love the dialogue of his villains) and the world he creates breathes with a lived-in quality. All that and kick-ass action too.

Look for an interview on our MysteryPeople blog with Ace Atkins later on this week. Ace will be speaking and signing his latest novel, The Forsaken, on Monday, July 28, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s second floor. You can order signed copies of The Forsaken via bookpeople.com. We ship worldwide.