cover image The Tilted World

The Tilted World

Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly. Morrow, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-206918-4

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.)