Friday Night Lights gone dark with Southern Gothic
Pubday Event · Debut author Eli Cranor signs and discusses his awardwinning noir novel Don't Know Tough with hometown author William Boyle at Off Square Books on Tuesday, March 8th at 6 pm.
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In Denton, Arkansas, the fate of the high school football team rests on the shoulders of Billy Lowe, a volatile but talented running back. Billy comes from an extremely troubled home: a trailer park where he is terrorized by his unstable mother’s abusive boyfriend. Billy takes out his anger on the field, but when his savagery crosses a line, he faces suspension.
Without Billy Lowe, the Denton Pirates can kiss their playoff bid goodbye. But the head coach, Trent Powers, who just moved from California with his wife and two children for this job, has more than just his paycheck riding on Billy’s bad behavior. As a born-again Christian, Trent feels a divine calling to save Billy—save him from his circumstances, and save his soul.
Then Billy’s abuser is found murdered in the Lowe family trailer, and all evidence points toward Billy. Now nothing can stop an explosive chain of violence that could tear the whole town apart on the eve of the playoffs.
WINNER OF THE PETER LOVESEY FIRST CRIME NOVEL CONTEST
About the Author
Eli Cranor played quarterback at every level: peewee to professional, and then coached high school football for five years. These days, he's traded in the pigskin for a laptop, writing from Arkansas where he lives with his wife and kids. His fiction has won The Greensboro Review's Robert Watson Literary Prize and been a runner-up for The Missouri Review's Miller Prize. Eli also writes a nationally syndicated sports column, "Athletic Support," and his craft column, "Shop Talk," appears monthly at CrimeReads. His debut novel, Don't Know Tough, won the Peter Lovesey First Crime Novel Contest. Eli is currently at work on his next novel.
About the Host
William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. He’s the author of five novels: Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK; The Lonely Witness, which was nominated for the Hammett Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, an Amazon Best Book in 2019 and winner of the Prix Transfuge du meilleur polar étranger in France; City of Margins, a Washington Post Best Thriller and Mystery Book of 2020; and, most recently, Shoot the Moonlight Out, which will be published in November 2021. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
CrimeReads Most Anticipated Books of 2022
"Imagine a noir Friday Night Lights written by a cross between Megan Abbott and Harry Crews, and you'll get close to what Eli Cranor's pulled off in Don't Know Tough. It's propulsive, twisty, and unputdownable. Cranor cracks open the complex world of high school football in small town Arkansas, giving us characters who are at once savage and tender and tragic, who are capable of acts of great bravery and betrayal. This is a book that shocks us into a new way of seeing. It's lean, muscled up, no-holds-barred noir. I feel lucky to have read it."
—William Boyle, author of Gravesend, The Lonely Witness, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, and City of Margins
“Don't Know Tough really packs a punch. I enjoyed reading between the lines, dreading the trouble Billy was bringing on himself and his fragile life-chances. At the heart of the book is the pull of loyalties—the football team, the family and religion. The characters involved in all the stresses and strains are well drawn and convincing. It’s tough reading, but the humanity shines through.”
—Peter Lovesey, author of the Peter Diamond mysteries, in his adjudication of the Peter Lovesey First Crime Novel Contest
"Eli Cranor knows the underbelly of Friday night lights in this stunning debut that bleeds authenticity and raw emotion. This young author is a new voice of the South to watch."
—Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Fallen and The Sinners
"Don't Know Tough is a searing and stunningly poignant study in what makes us and what breaks us and ultimately what brings us to a place of peace. Eli Cranor is that rare writer who can make you gasp, cry and cheer often in the same paragraph.”
—S.A. Cosby, New York Times best selling author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland
“Don’t Know Tough is a gripping novel about rage and trauma, redemption and damnation, football and family and brutality in close quarters. Cranor’s characters bristle with desperation and frustrated masculinity, a volatile cauldron of emotion that brings tension to every page.”
—Steph Cha, author of Your House Will Pay
“I loved this book. Cranor blends noir and football masterfully, with the deft touch of Megan Abbott and the hardboiled punch of Ace Atkins. This is the sports crime novel I’ve been desperate to read, and I’m now unable to shake from my mind. Eli Cranor’s debut crackles with voice and power. Don’t miss this one.”
—Alex Segura, award-winning author of Secret Identity, Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall, and Miami Midnight
“Eli Cranor rockets to the top of the writer-to-watch lists with this debut. Gritty, emotional writing and a deep knowledge of the pain and pride that play out beneath Friday night lights make Don't Know Tough a gripping, memorable read. I can't wait to see what Cranor does next.”
—Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of Never Far Away
“Debut novels as good as this are a rare and special thing. Eli Cranor’s electrifying prose has me wanting more, and more, and more.”
—Adam Christopher, author of Made to Kill
“Don’t Know Tough explores the nexus of class, race, language, and poverty in pushing ordinary teens to brutal acts, and ordinary coaches towards brutal commands. A star player is causing problems for his new coach, who’s got one last chance to make it back into his coaching star father-in-law’s good graces. The coach thinks he’s mentoring the kid. What he’s actually doing is far darker.”
“A first novel bristling with dangerous energy . . . Friday Night Darks.”
WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD
WINNER OF THE PETER LOVESEY FIRST CRIME NOVEL CONTEST
Friday Night Lights gone dark with Southern Gothic; Eli Cranor delivers a powerful noir that will appeal to fans of Wiley Cash and Megan Abbott.