Flannery O'Connor once said, "anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic." This is nowhere more true than here in Alabama author Franklin's short story collection. I am, of course, a northern reader even if I am physically in the south and I want to call these stories both grotesque and realistic. Normally I am not a fan of short stories at all but when this book was pressed upon me with the assurance that it was fantastic, I could hardly turn such potential down. And while I am still not particularly fond of short stories in general, this was indeed a collection that challenged my assumptions about the form and left me satisfied without needing more for completion.
The stories are all interconnected in that they all take place in the same part of the Alabama countryside and backwoods and have a few overlapping characters. Franklin's introduction to his stories is impressive and sets the tone for everything that follows. His characters range from the eponymous poachers to a deadbeat alcoholic to a bookie and one of his marks to a drunken, neglectful husband and on and on. Each of the stories has a violence simmering close to the surface, eventually breaking through, devastating all in its wake. Franklin's characters aren't paricularly likable, living on the edge and over the bounds of society, choosing that which will bring about their own downfall. But at the same time, as a reader it is hard to look away from carnage so skillfully rendered. It's hard to say I enjoyed this collection but in some warped sense, I did just that. Franklin is a worthy addition to the pantheon of Southern Gothic writers, not to those who write of the charming, eccentrics here in the South-land but to those who drag up and expose the underbelly of morality and do so realistically and without flinching.