Tension in the Deep South, great 1927 Mississippi flood.
Poet Beth Ann directs the MFA Creative Writing programme at the University of Mississippi and her husband Tom Franklin (both pictured), teaches on the programme. Together they have written a cracking thriller set in the Deep South during 1927, the year of the Great Flood.
Fictional town Hobnob is in danger as the heaving Mississippi river threatens to burst its banks. Moonshining in her own world is Dixie Clay, a naïve tomboy who fell for the charms of smooth-talking salesman, Jesse. Dixie’s lonely routine is interrupted with the unexpected arrival of a stranger with a baby. Given a second chance at motherhood Dixie clings on to baby Billy, creating a divide between her and her unpredictable husband Jesse.
Meanwhile the baby-depositing stranger, Ingersoll, returns to work as a prohibition agent with his partner Ham, unaware that he has just encountered the one of the county’s biggest whiskey makers. It’s not long before the agents trace their target back to Jessie, and Dixie, and less time again before the levee bursts and the entire county descends into mayhem.
The Tilted World is an excellent read. It’s jumps along quickly with likeable characters, suspense, a hint of darkness and danger, and a convincing love story. I’m speculating but I imagine Beth Ann was responsible for the gorgeous depiction of baby Billy. You can almost feel his chubby little rolls of legs, and sniff his downy hair when she describes Dixie’s tender touch with the baby. Maybe not, maybe it was Tom … I’d love to know. Either way, it added a wonderful human side to the story and really rounded out Dixie’s character. Meanwhile Ingersoll’s back story, his childhood as an orphan, his life as soldier, his love of music, all serve to deliver a loveable lead that will have you rooting for him even after you finish the final page.