Smonk: A Novel

Smonk: A Novel

by Tom Franklin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061142772
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/06/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 703,071
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

About 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.

Read an Excerpt


A Novel
By Tom Franklin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Tom Franklin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006084681X

Chapter One

The Trial

It was the eve of the eve of his death by murder and there was harmonica music on the air when E. O. Smonk rode the disputed mule over the railroad tracks and up the hill to the hotel where his trial would be. It was October the first of that year. It had been dry and dusty for six weeks and five days. The crops were dead. It was Saturday. Ten after three o'clock in the afternoon according to the shadows of the bottles on the bottle tree.

Amid the row of long nickering horsefaces at the rail Smonk slid off the mule into the sand and spat away his cigar stub and stood glaring among the animal shoulders at his full height of five and a quarter foot. He told a filthy blond boy holding a balloon to watch the mule, which had an English saddle on its back and an embroidered blanket from Bruges Belgium underneath. In a sheath stitched to the saddle stood the polished butt of the Winchester rifle with which, not half an hour earlier, Smonk had dispatched four of an Irishman's goats in their pen because the only thing he abhorred more than an Irish was an Irish goat. By way of brand the mule had a fresh .22 bullet hole through its left ear, same as Smonk's cows and pigs and hound dog did, even his cat.

That mule gits away, he toldthe boy, I'll brand ye balloon.

He struck a match with his thumbnail and lit another cigar. He noted there were no men on the porches, downstair or up, and slid the rifle from its sock and snicked the safety off. He backhanded dust from a mare's flank to get her the hell out of his way (they say he wouldn't walk behind a horse) and clumped up the steps into the balcony's shade and limped across the hotel porch, the planks groaning under his boots. The boy watched him: his immense dwarf shape, shoulders of a grizzly bear, that bushel basket of a head low and cocked, as if he was trying to determine the sex of something. His hands were wide as shovels and his fingers so long he could palm a man's skull but his lower half was smaller, thin horseshoe legs and little feet in their brand-new calf opera boots the color of chocolate, loose denim britches tucked in the tops. He wore a clean pressed white shirt and ruffled collar, suspenders, a black string tie with a pair of dice on the end and a tan duck coat. He was uncovered as usual--hats made his head sweat--and he wore the blue-lensed eyeglasses prescribed for sufferers of syphilis, which accounted him in its numbers. On a lanyard around his neck hung a whiskey gourd stoppered with a syrup cork.

He coughed.

Along with the Winchester he carried an ivory-handled walking cane with a sword concealed in the shaft and a derringer in the handle. He had four or five revolvers in various places within his clothing and cartridges clicking in his coat pockets and a knife in his boot. There were several bullet scars in his right shoulder and one in each forearm and another in his left foot. There were a dozen buckshot pocks peppered over the hairy knoll of his back and the trail of a knife scored across his belly. His left eye was gone a few years now, replaced by a white glass ball two sizes small. He had a goiter under his beard. He had gout, he had the clap, blood-sugar, neuralgia and ague. Malaria. The silk handkerchief balled in his pants pocket was blooded from the advanced consumption the doctor had just informed him he had.

You'll die from it, the doctor had said.

When? asked Smonk.

One of these days.

At the hotel door, he paused to collect his wind and glanced down behind him. Except for the boy slouching against a post with his balloon, an aired-up sheep stomach, there were no children to be seen, a more childless place you'd never find. Throughout town the whorish old biddies were pulling in shutters and closing doors, others hurrying across the street shadowed beneath their parasols, but every one of them peeping back over their shoulders to catch a gander at Smonk.

He pretended to tip a hat.

Then he noticed them--the two slickers standing across the road beside a buckboard wagon covered in a tarp. They were setting up the tripod legs of their camera and wore dandy-looking suits and shiny derbies.

Smonk, who could read lips, saw one say, There he is.

Inside the hotel the bailiff, who'd been blowing the harmonica, put it away and straightened his posture when he saw who it was coming and cleared his throat and announced it was no guns allowed in a courtroom.

This ain't a courtroom, Smonk said.

It is today by God, said the bailiff.

Smonk glanced out behind him as if he might leave, the hell with the farce of justice once and for all. But instead he handed the rifle over, barrels first, and as he laid one heavy revolver and then another on the whiskey keg the bailiff had for a desk, he looked down at the gaunt barefaced Scot in his overalls and bicycle cap pulled low, sitting on a wooden crate, the sideboard behind him jumbled with firearms deposited by those already inside.

Smonk studied the bailiff. I seen ye before.

Maybe ye did, the man said. Maybe I used to work as ye agent till ye sacked me from service and my wife run off after ye and cast me in such doldrums me and my boy Willie come up losing ever thing we had--land, house, barn, corn crib, still, crick. Ever blessed thing. Open up ye coat and show me inside there.

Smonk did. You lucky I didn't kill ye.

The bailiff pointed the rifle. That 'n too.


Excerpted from Smonk by Tom Franklin Copyright © 2006 by Tom Franklin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Philip Roth

“I am amazed at Tom Franklin’s power”

David Milch

“An edgy, quirky, bawdy look at the days of cowboys and shootouts, Smonk is the real deal.”

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Smonk 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
E.O. Smonk, the one-eyed dwarf has terrorized Old Texas, Alabama for years, but justice has come to town 1911 so Eugene Oregon Smonk stands trial for murder and rape. However, Smonk¿s drinking associates refuse to allow the irascible one to stand trial regardless of the law. They kill every male in town as they free Smonk. A former Smonk ¿ward¿ now a lawman Will McKissick chases after the escaped dwarf. As Smonk flees Old Texas, the Christian posse pursues dangerous if you fail to pay emaciated teenage prostitute Evavangeline for the murders of her Johns. They track her from the male corpses she leaves behind along the Alabama Gulf Coast, but though she can barely survive the daily chores of life, the posse seems one step behind her skinny butt. --- McKissick follows Smonk back to Old Texas where Evavangeline followed by posse member Phial Walton has also arrived at a time the town female survivors lay out their dead men and children. May the best man (or woman) be left standing. --- Obviously not aimed at the cozy crowd, this is an insane fast-paced historical crime thriller. Fans who enjoy gore will appreciate the trails of corpses that appear everywhere in this gruesome well written storyline. The cast is top rate from the crazy title character the bewildered teen hooker guilt-laden McKissick (once saved by Smonk from the deadly local orphanage) the eerie widows placing their dead on dining tables as if serving a gourmet meal the mad preacher hosting dead children as if they attend services the obsessed Christian ¿deputy¿ seeking to send the sinner to hell and finally the aptly named rabid dog Lazarus the Redeemer. Tom Franklin¿s candid but violent send off of western thrillers makes Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch look like schoolchildren at play. --- Harriet Klausner
nfmgirl2 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I learned of this book from author Alden Bell when reading an interview with him for my review of his book The Reapers are the Angels. He listed this as one of his favorite books, and I said at that time that after reading the synopsis for Smonk, I could see where he got his inspiration for his character Temple of The Reapers are the Angels.This book is a rip-roaring ride! I had mentioned to my friends early on that this book was the most vile and obscene book I¿d ever read, and yet the most entertaining. The author is unapologetic in his approach, seeming to set aside all sensibilities and censor. Brash and unadulterated, this story is totally in your face, almost daring you to be offended.Smonk is portrayed as a pretty despicable character, and is easily disliked from the beginning.Evavangeline, on the other hand, while tough and unforgiving, and a 14-year-old prostitute on the run, is portrayed with a certain vulnerability. I found myself hoping for her redemption.One thing I did have difficulty with was the lack of quotations used in dialogue, initially making it difficult to tell the conversations apart from the narration. But I got used to this pretty quickly, so it didn¿t take away from my enjoyment.This is my first book by Tom Franklin, and I look forward to reading more of his work. I think Hell at the Breach may be next on my list.Final word: Pick up this book, sit back with a drink, cover your ears and brace your sensibilities. You¿re in for the ride of a lifetime!
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If you want to maintain some sanity, don't read this book. It is the most violent and disturbing book I have ever read. Was the author on bad drugs when he wrote it? His other books are great but this one is demented with someone getting killed on almost every page. The graphic descriprions of the charactures and the viloence are truely scarey, but I still could not put it down.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It's hard to go wrong with a book with a taciturn title like 'Smonk' coupled with a loquacious subtitle that reads 'or Widow Town Being the Scabrous Adventures of E.O. Smonk & of the Whore Evanangeline in Clarke County, Alabama, Early in the Last Century...' Talk about a mouthful. Actually, this quick read is like no other western you're likely to have ever read, or heck, quite unlike any book you've ever picked up. Borrowing from many genres, western, horror, pulp, and even some historical fiction, 'Smonk' provides an entertaining and bawdy romp through post-Civil War Alabama following the terrorizing exploits of the books title character. Smonk is a dasterdly as they come and personifies the word ruthless. He is mean, nasty, ugly, raunchy, and totally void of any redeeming quality yet despite these flaws, there is something endearing about his debauchery and villianous behavior. I ended up pulling for the guy. I could say more but why spoil the fun. Saddle up with this book and enjoy an entertaining romp through the very wild west!