Written by Tom Franklin
Review by Gerald T. Burke

It’s 1911 in Alabama. The citizens of the small town of Old Texas have had enough of E.O. Smonk, a dissolute rogue who murders and rapes at will. The town demands that Smonk appear for a trial. Instead, he and an associate, Ike, kill most of the town’s men. The bailiff, a former partner, Will McKissock, believes that Smonk has kidnapped his son and rounds up a pathetic posse consisting of himself and the cowardly blacksmith, Gates, the only man who survived the assault. Meanwhile, another posse, the Christian Deputies, is in hot pursuit of the young murdering prostitute, Evangeline. In her travels, she stumbles on a group of lost children, including McKissock’s 12-year-old son. Eventually, Evangeline’s and Smonk’s paths cross in Old Texas, and the town’s bizarre history is revealed.

Franklin’s novel is pure Southern gothic fantasy. The vigorous narrative is compelling in an odd, humorous way. There is no attempt to be historically accurate, but somehow one gets the impression that a compelling truth lies behind the relentless violence. Overall, an interesting twist on history.