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where i'm writing from by eli cranor Where I’m Writing From: Another Dimension
February 18, 2024

Eli Cranor is the critically acclaimed author of Don’t Know Tough and Ozark Dogs.

Cranor can be reached using the “Contact” page at
and found on Twitter @elicranor

I’m writing from another dimension.

The wormhole only opens on Tuesday nights around eight o’clock. That’s when I call my writing mentor, former professor, and heartfriend, Johnny Wink.

Johnny’s a strange duck. He wears funny shirts, drinks Rum Grizzlies, and shoots a lot of pool, sometimes under names like “The Anteater King” or “President William McKinley.” But, last time I checked, Johnny didn’t hold the keys to another dimension.

His phone does, though.

It’s an old landline phone with service through AT&T. In the weeks leading up to our encounter with the other dimension, we’d had trouble with what Johnny aptly named “The Beastly Buzz.”

The Beastly Buzz is a faint but bothersome humming sound that can be heard on my end of the line and Johnny’s. It sounds like a box fan, but it’s not. The Beastly Buzz is the sound the universe makes when it tears.

During our most recent call, Johnny and I were both doing our best to ignore the constant humming when a loud rattling came over the speakers. It lasted two, maybe three seconds, then paused for the same amount of time and started over again.

“You hear that?” Johnny said.

Before I could answer, there was another voice on the line, saying, “Hey, Momma. You doing okay?”

The voice was muddy and faint, just like the mother’s voice, telling her daughter she was fine, then saying something about growing pains. Had she tried the heating blanket?

Neither I nor Johnny dared a word.

We listened as the mother-daughter combo discussed nutmeg and brown sugar, the difference between the two. One of the women — the mother, I think — kept going, “Uhh-huh,” real soft and low and the other would laugh.

Eventually, Johnny said, “Eli, my God. What’s happening?”

I didn’t say anything, worried the women had heard Johnny and were about to freak out.

I didn't have anything to worry about, though.

The women didn’t skip a beat, moving the conversation from Arkadelphia to the potluck at church on Sunday. Then, without warning, the mother thanked the daughter for checking in, and the line crackled again.

The call was over yet The Beastly Buzz remained, humming through the silence until Johnny finally said, “I think we just crossed over into another dimension.”

I agreed, but our conversation never fully recovered. The buzz wasn’t any better or worse. Something was just different. Johnny recalled the party lines of his youth, which I had to Google, and then we parted ways.

As fate would have it, the Tuesday night calls have taken a hit as of late. Last time I called, I got a busy signal. An hour later, I tried again and got the same result. When I asked Johnny about it, he said his phone had died. It wasn’t working at all.

Sometimes, when I close my eyes at night, I can still hear those women talking about growing pains and nutmeg, unaware of the men listening in on their call.

Maybe that’s why Johnny’s phone died. Maybe we weren’t supposed to hear what we heard, and the phone knew it.

Maybe not.

Books authored by Eli Cranor


don't  know tough
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The troubles of two desperate families—one white, one Mexican American—converge rest in the ruthless underworld of an Arkansas chicken processing plant in this new thriller from the award-winning author of DON’T KNOW TOUGH.

Gabriela Menchaca and Edwin Saucedo are hardworking, undocumented employees at the Detmer Foods chicken plant in Springdale, Arkansas, just a stone’s throw away from the trailer park where they’ve lived together for seven years. While dealing with personal tragedies of their own, the young couple endures the brutal, dehumanizing conditions at the plant in exchange for barebones pay.

When the plant manager, Luke Jackson, fires Edwin to set an example for the rest of the workers—and to show the higher-ups that he’s ready for a major promotion—Edwin is determined to get revenge on Luke and his wife, Mimi, a new mother who stays at home with her six-month-old son. Edwin’s impulsive action sets in motion a devastating chain of events that illuminates the deeply entrenched power dynamics between those who revel at the top and those who toil at the bottom.

From the nationally bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author of Don’t Know Tough and Ozark Dogs comes another edge-of-your-seat noir thriller that exposes the dark, bloody heart of life on the margins in the American South and the bleak underside of a bygone American Dream.

Don't Know Tough

don't  know tough
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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 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.

Ozark Dogs

ozark dogs
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In this Southern thriller, two families grapple with the aftermath of a murder in their small Arkansas town. After his son is convicted of capital murder, Vietnam War veteran Jeremiah Fitzjurls takes over the care of his granddaughter, Joanna, raising her with as much warmth as can be found in an Ozark junkyard outfitted to be an armory. He teaches her how to shoot and fight, but there is not enough training in the world to protect her when the dreaded Ledfords, notorious meth dealers and fanatical white supremacists, come to collect on Joanna as payment for a long-overdue blood debt.

Headed by rancorous patriarch Bunn and smooth-talking, erudite Evail, the Ledfords have never forgotten what the Fitzjurls family did to them, and they will not be satisfied until they have taken an eye for an eye. As they seek revenge, and as Jeremiah desperately searches for his granddaughter, their narratives collide in this immersive story about family and how far some will go to honor, defend—or in some cases, destroy it.

Previous columns:
Writing from Fearrington Village, North Carolina
Writing from My daughter’s basketball game
Writing from My thirty sixth year
Writing from Forrest City, Arkansas
Writing from Nap Time
Writing from Winter Park, Colorado
Writing from the end of the year
Writing from First United Methodist Church
Writing from the end of the first semester
Writing from the cusp of another visit
Writing from a Razorback Game
Writing From: The End
Writing from Oyster Island
Writing from Jayne Lemons
Writing from Bed
Writing from Witherspoon Hall
Writing From: Coco
Writing from the Beach
Writing From: Crooked Creek
Writing from a Nursing Home
Writing from a Firework Tent
Writing from a Boat
Writing from the Stars
Writing from the Pool
Writing from the Kitchen
Writing from Summer
Writing from Kindergarten
Writing from Mom
Writing from a Plane
Writing from Home
My second novel’s publication
A New Marriage Milestone
An Invitation to the Party
Writing from a Thunderstorm
Writing from a Soundbooth
Writing from “Jazz Beach"
Writing from the Sabbath
Writing from somewhere between Little Rock and Russellville
Writing from my back deck
Writing from the morning of my thirty-fifth year
Writing on the day of the college football National Championship
Writing from the space between breaths
Writing from 2022
Writing from the glow of a plastic Christmas tree
Writing on a rollercoaster of triumph and disaster
Writing from the drop-off line at my daughter’s elementary school

Writing with Thanksgiving on my mind
Writing from the crowd before the start of a Shovels & Rope show
Writing from the depths of a post-book-festival hangover
Writing from the Ron Robinson Theatre
Writing to you on Halloween Eve
Writing from my bed on a Saturday morning
Writing from my office with two darts clenched in my left hand
Writing from the shade of my favorite tree
Writing from my desk on a Tuesday morning
Writing from a pirate ship
Writing from the airport
Writing from the hospital
I'm writing from the water
Writing from my wife's Honda Pilot
Writing from my office

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