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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Smonk - Tom Franklin Rating: 3.9* of fiveThe Book Description: 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. My Review: Oh! Oh, I see...THIS is what y'all were on about when y'all were carryin' on over Franklin's writing. It surely to hell couldn't've been that crooked mess. That was painful.Eugene Oregon Smonk is as horrible a character as Ignatius Reilly. He's as gross, as grotesque, as cruel, and as massively hilariously vile. Smonk suffers from gout, so he's already ten yards ahead of everybody else in the book in my good graces. He's got terminal consumption, too. (I don't have that.) He's bowlegged, he hates horses, he detests people. He's murdered and raped and generally been as much like Attila as a modern man can be.Evavangeline is fifteen, a whore, and mean as a butt-fucked polecat. She doesn't know what “thank you” means, she's got no idea what impulse control is, and she expresses her displeasure with johns who don't pay up (I refuse to reach for the cheap joke inherent in “stiff her”) in most-often fatal ways.And these, laddies and gentlewomen, are our heroes.Yeup. This book, it's as much fun to read as a William S. Burroughs novel edited by Roger Corman. It's got energy. It's got no time for sacred, for nice, for sweet. It's got no place for normal, for kindly, for restrained. (Unless you mean “tied up for sex.”) It is, in short, a book for the boisterous and the bawdy, not the timorous and the tidy.I totally get the Franklin thing now. That crookedy crapola? That's nothing much, it's no doubt what happened when some longfaced Puritan somewhere started biting Franklin behind the ear after this book came out. He should slap her into next Sunday and go back to Smonking. This genre-busting carnival of louche and salacious and violent living is far far far more interesting and better written.