The Tilted World

The Tilted World

4.3 18
by Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly

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Set against the backdrop of the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, The Tilted World is an extraordinary tale of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, and a man and a woman who find unexpected love, from Tom Franklin, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and award-winning

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Set against the backdrop of the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, The Tilted World is an extraordinary tale of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, and a man and a woman who find unexpected love, from Tom Franklin, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and award-winning poet Beth Ann Fennelly

The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf everything in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents who'd been on the trail of a local bootlegger, they are astonished to find a baby boy abandoned in the middle of a crime scene.

Ingersoll, an orphan raised by nuns, is determined to find the infant a home, and his search leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. A strong woman married too young to a philandering charmer, Dixie Clay has lost a child to illness and is powerless to resist this second chance at motherhood. From the moment they meet, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay are drawn to each other. He has no idea that she's the best bootlegger in the county and may be connected to the agents' disappearance. And while he seems kind and gentle, Dixie Clay knows full well that he is an enemy who can never be trusted.

When Ingersoll learns that a saboteur might be among them, planning a catastrophe along the river that would wreak havoc in Hobnob, he knows that he and Dixie Clay will face challenges and choices that they will be fortunate to survive. Written with extraordinary insight and tenderness, The Tilted World is that rarest of creations, a story of seemingly ordinary people who find hope and deliverance where they least expect it—in each other.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) is enamored of the people and history of the South. Poet Fennelly (Great with Child) finds inspiration in the secret anxieties and joys of parenthood. Together, the husband-and-wife team created Dixie Clay, a young woman who is married to bootlegger Jesse and struggling to find closure after the loss of her child. Dixie resides in the town of Hobnob, MS, a town buttressed from massive flooding by a straining levee. The year is 1927, when two prohibition agents mysteriously disappear from the town and federal agents Ingersoll and Ham are sent to investigate. Disguised as engineers, the agents work undercover to integrate themselves into the underbelly of Hobnob and quickly identify Dixie's husband as the main suspect. While Ham pursues Jesse through the law, Ingersoll pursues Dixie romantically. As the water pours through the levee, all four find themselves searching for new beginnings. VERDICT A pleasurable work of historical fiction rife with religious symbolism and romance. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/13.]—Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH
Publishers Weekly
Rough South writer Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) and the poet and nonfiction writer Fennelly (Great with Child), distill in this prohibition-era tale of bootleggers and revenuers an atmospheric draught of prose that is at once poetic and gritty. It’s 1927 Mississippi, and Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover has sent two unbribable federal revenue agents, Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson, into the maw of the Great Flood to investigate the disappearance of two other “prohis” from Hobnob Landing. On the way, Ingersoll and Ham find a baby, the lone survivor of a country-store looting gone bad. Ingersoll, an orphan himself, gives the boy to bootlegger Dixie Clay, a 22-year-old bereft of her own child. Along with her violent husband Jesse Holliver, Dixie might have been the last person to see the missing revenuers alive. Love for Dixie rises in Ingersoll’s heart like the waters on the levee, and he knows that “to fix things... would require broken vows and broken laws, blood, desertion, and money.” There’s a bit of corn in this mash, but fans of Fennelly will savor her depictions of a mother’s ferocious love, and Franklin’s following will shine to the violent rendering of a nearly forgotten time and ethos. (Oct.)
Dennis Lehane
“A new novel from Tom Franklin is always a reason to get excited, but a novel from Franklin and Fennelly is just cause to throw a block party.”
Eowyn Ivey
The Tilted World is everything I hold dear in a novel—a raucous, page-turning story with grit, utterly steeped in the land and people, and told in such poetic language that I kept forcing myself to slow down so I could enjoy the writing.”
Garden & Gun magazine
“Thriller stories are easy to come by—as are small lyrical gems. The two come together in The Tilted World. . . . You will experience a sprawling story of conflict, disorder, shame, and horror that is umbrellaed by an even bigger story—one of love.”
Seattle Times
“A swift, soulful mix of love story and crime saga . . . evocative characters and unpretentious but shapely prose . . . The Tilted World is literary crime fiction of the highest order.”
Kirkus Reviews
The world that's tilting refers to the Mississippi Delta in April 1927, site of one of the greatest natural catastrophes in American history. Although the Great Flood of 1927 provides the background for the narrative, Franklin and Fennelly focus on an unusual, and perhaps implausible, love story. Revenuers Ham Johnson and Ted Ingersoll are sent to Mississippi not only to track down the makers of some of the finest moonshine in the South, but also to solve the mystery of who was responsible for the recent deaths of two other revenuers. Along the way, they find an orphaned baby, and they don't quite know what to do with this unforeseen state of affairs, but Ted had been an orphan himself and so takes pity on the newborn. When he asks around the town of Hobnob Landing, he finds out about Dixie Clay Holliver, a young mother who had recently lost a child to scarlet fever, so he shows up to give her the orphaned infant, whom she names Willy. It turns out Dixie Clay is married to one of the biggest moonshiners in the state, the egregious Jesse Holliver, a womanizing, self-centered and viciously ambitious man. Because Dixie Clay has shown great business acumen, she's taken over her husband's moonshining operation, as Jesse has other irons in the fire. A romance develops between Ted and Dixie Clay, abetted in part by Jesse's abusiveness toward his wife and his indifference to the child. Jesse begins to prepare for a new life, one that involves his blowing up a levee with dynamite and drowning the town, the townspeople, Ted, and even his wife and child. Originally conceived as a short story, the book shows signs of attenuation in its expansion to novel length.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

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.

Beth Ann Fennelly has published three volumes of poetry and a work of nonfiction, Great with Child. She directs the University of Mississippi's MFA program.

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