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News & Features » August 2016 » Tom Franklin’s Introduction to Mississippi Noir

Tom Franklin’s Introduction to Mississippi Noir

To celebrate the release of Mississippi Noir, the latest from Akashic’s Noir Series, we’re pleased to share a glimpse at this state in conflict with itself with editor Tom Franklin’s introduction, “Welcome to the Bottom.”

Events: Don’t miss Mississippi Noir contributors at Turnrow Book Co. in Greenwood, MS, on Wednesday, 9/21, and at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS, on Friday, 9/30! Click here for more information.

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Welcome to the Bottom

Welcome to Mississippi, where a recent poll shows we have the most corrupt government in the United States. Where we are first in infant mortality, childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, teenage pregnancy, adult obesity, adult diabetes. We also have the highest poverty rate in the country.

And, curiously, the highest concentration of kick-ass writers in the country too.

Okay, maybe that’s not a Gallup poll–certified statistic, but we do have more than our fair share of Pulitzers and even a Nobel. William Faulkner lived and wrote here. Richard Wright is from Mississippi. Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, Larry Brown, Ellen Douglas, Shelby Foote, Richard Ford, Ellen Gilchrist, Barry Hannah, Kiese Laymon, Willie Morris, Walker Percy, Kathryn Stockett, Donna Tartt, Jesmyn Ward, Brad Watson, Steve Yarbrough, etc. Also, the Crooked Letter boasts perhaps the heaviest-hitting trio in the crime/thriller biz: Greg Iles, Thomas Harris, and John Grisham. I could go on, and in fact I do, in this very anthology.

Faulkner said that good writing is created by “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Maybe that’s why so much art comes out of Mississippi—a state in conflict with itself in so many ways. The legacy of slavery has left wounds that are slow to scab over, not even close to healing. The South’s position of loser in the Civil War has left Southerners to “brood,” as Shelby Foote says. “The winner of a conflict goes on. But the loser . . .” Finish this quote. We all know it’s healthier to be the mover-oner, the winner, skipping off with a shrug. The state of brooding is a painful one, but it’s one that produces great books.

Maybe when you think of noir, you think of cities shot in grainy black-and-white; alleys and fire escapes and blinking neon signs with a letter or two gone dark. That’s part of it, sure. But noir often reveals a down-on-his/her-luck person going from bad to worse. And where can one find more wonderful “worse” than here in Mississippi? This isn’t, and hasn’t ever been, a land purely of moonlight and magnolias. Because in that moonlight, under those magnolias, terrible things happen. And in the cities, too, in the Jackson alleys and strip malls, down along the casinos on the coast, in Tupelo, home of Elvis, or the Delta, home of the blues, or along I-55, where there’s a Nissan plant almost a mile long, where trios of crosses dot the highways.

Here are sixteen stories from seasoned noir writers like Ace Atkins and Megan Abbott as well as Mississippi’s new generation of noirists, authors like William Boyle and Michael Kardos. You’ll also find unknown, first-time-published writers like Dominiqua Dickey and Jimmy Cajoleas, who won’t remain unknown for long. I’m thrilled to bring these writers to you. In Alabama, where I grew up, we had a saying: Thank God for Mississippi, otherwise we’d be at the bottom in everything.

Welcome to the bottom.

Have fun.

***

TomFranklinTOM FRANKLIN is the author of Poachers: Stories and three novels, Hell at the Breech,Smonk, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller, the Willie Morris Prize in Southern Fiction, and the UK’s Gold Dagger Award for Best Novel. His latest novel, The Tilted World, was cowritten with his wife, Beth Ann Fennelly. They live in Oxford, Mississippi, where they teach in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. He is the editor ofMississippi Noir.

Posted: Aug 30, 2016

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