The Capital Plaza shown in the cover photo of this post in Frankfort was built in 1960's and is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city. However, before it was built, this area of town was known as "Crawfish Bottom" or the "Craw" for short. This was the part of town that you tended to stay away from if you knew what was good for you. In "Concerning the Matter of the King of Craw", Ron Rhody tells a story about two boys that come of age in the Craw during the roaring twenties and their perspective and relationship with the notorious "King" John Fallis.
This unique local historical fiction book mixes real people, real events, and real stories with an artistic reimagining of what it might have been like to live during those times. In this fascinating and fast paced story you follow the journey of a young boy who moved to Frankfort with his family, befriended a mysterious local boy and witnessed the good, bad, and ugly behavior of the King of Craw. Although this book is a piece of fiction there is nothing unbelievable in the story which is what makes it even more interesting.
Rhody does a wonderful job immediately getting you hooked on the characters. Throughout the story you want Owen, Lucas, and Fallis to succeed and reach their goals despite the growing number of obstacles that stand in their way. Depending on who you ask, John Fallis is either a hero or the devil himself. Throughout the story we begin to see just how difficult it can be to judge someone. Character is not black or white, the grey area is what makes us who we are and is the foundation of an excellent story.
This was the first historical fiction book about any state capital that I have read. It provided a very unique and interesting perspective on the town that a pure history book simply is not able to. My only critique about this book was the grammatical style and tone of the entire story. However, this was briefly mentioned in the acknowledgements by the author.
"I need to ask the indulgence of the grammarians among you before ending this. I've tried to voice this story the way I would tell it to you if we were talking together. Pretend you're hearing this rather than reading it. That may help explain the one line paragraphs and the staccato sentences and the not entirely orthodox punctuation."
I wish Rhody would have said this in the beginning, but with this in mind, I thoroughly enjoyed "sitting on Ron's front porch" as he told me this story.
The State Journal, which has been Frankfort's local paper since 1902 did a great review on this book which includes a photo of the front page of the paper on the day that Fallis was killed. In 2011, a book was published that explored the evolution of the Craw, the video shown below is a trailer for the book and includes testimonials from people who were even alive during its heyday.
As the number of folks who remember Crawfish Bottom as a real place continues to decrease, Rhody's fictional retelling of this story will continue to pay homage to the people who lived there for many years to come.