Fiction

By Schlichenmeyer, Terri | The Florida Times Union, October 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

Fiction


Schlichenmeyer, Terri, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Terri Schlichenmeyer

Title: Smonk

Author: Tom Franklin

Data: William Morrow, 251 pages, $23.95

Reviewed by

TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Special to the Times-Union

He's a Western 'hero' unlike any you've seen before

What did you want to be when you grew up?

You might have said an astronaut or a nurse or a doctor.

A good percentage of us, though, wanted to be a cowboy. We wanted to ride with Matt Dillon. We longed to shoot like The Rifleman. We wanted to be Little Joe. We wanted heroism, cowpoke style.

But sometimes, the hero in those old oaters wasn't so heroic. In Smonk, you'll meet the newest, rottenest gunslinger the South has ever known.

Although he has a way with the ladies, nobody knows what makes Eugene Oregon Smonk so appealing. Smonk is short, just 5 and a quarter feet tall. His shoulders are wide and his arms are hairy as a bear's. He has one eye, bandy legs, bad teeth, stringy red hair, a scruffy beard, a bad cough, rheumatism, ague and syphilis.

And yet, within minutes of his arrival in almost any town, women dance away from husbands for the pleasure of E.O. Smonk's company. Some women follow Smonk when he leaves, and that makes their husbands rather testy.

Which could be why the tiny town of Old Texas, Ala., set up an ambush in the courtroom where Smonk was to be tried. All the men were waiting with guns. All the women, dressed in men's clothes, were watching. …

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