Rob Magnuson Smith is the author of The Gravedigger (Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner Award) and Scorper (Granta Books). Scorper was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘an odd, original, darkly comic novel... Kafka crossed with Flann O'Brien'.
Rob’s short fiction has appeared in Granta, Ploughshares, the Australian Book Review, the Guardian, Cornish Short Stories (The History Press), Fiction International, Guillemot Press and elsewhere. He has won the Elizabeth Jolley Award and been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.
Scorper is a charming, funny, tender pleasure. A pleasing air of mania and madness.
Costa Award winning author of Pure
..the voice rises from the page obvious and essential (in) Rob Magnuson Smith's Scorper. Delightful and entertaining – and often laugh-out-loud funny. Well-conceived and executed with a masterly vision.
Australian Book Review
…a strange, but beautiful book…outstanding.
Scorper, noun, a tool used to scoop out broad areas when engraving wood or metal.
An uncanny and sinister tale of an eccentric American visitor to the small Sussex town of Ditchling, searching for stories about his grandfather. A tale of twitching curtains, severed hands and peculiar sexual practices. A book about Eric Gill's artistic legacy, his despicable behaviour and enduring influence. Scorper is a strange and beautiful English comic masterpiece, with added bird bones.
An odd, original, darkly comic novel... It's a funny, unsettling read; Kafka crossed with Flann O'Brien.
Independent on Sunday
[A] funny, disturbing portrayal of a mind at odds with itself.
Scorper is delightful. It's funny, thought-provoking, and different to anything that's preceded it. John Cull is a great character in a cast of great characters... It's a little work of genius.
Powerfully original, funny and strange and haunting.
Tessa Hadley, author
This is rural mystery at its best
– dark, deceitful and uncomfortable.
Scorper is most unusual, and most rewarding. Gradually it bleeds from the pastoral through the surreal and into the horrific, like an Evelyn Waugh novel given the Edgar Allen Poe treatment, the kind of story where you don't realize until the shears have closed that you were caught between them.
Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead
Best Novel in Second Person, 2015.
Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers
Cover image © John Vernon Lord
Background image © John Vernon Lord
The gravedigger Henry Bale lives with his ailing dog in the village of Chalk, England. Painfully shy, he is resigned to growing old alone. Then Caroline Ford, an impulsive schoolteacher from Brighton, arrives in Chalk. Caroline awakens Henry to life, and to a fear of death. Their relationship becomes a startling investigation of love, faith, and the search for meaning.
Rob Magnuson Smith, in his deeply moving and beautifully written novel The Gravedigger, gives us passage to the isolated English village of Chalk. There, his characters – the gravedigger, the vicar, the local madman, the schoolteacher – face complicated questions about betrayal, hope, death, and love. By the end of this page-turning psychological drama, Chalk's residents are changed – they're richer and wiser for the experience. Smith's readers will be too.
Ellen Slezak, author of Last Year's Jesus
The Gravedigger is a wry, soulful glimpse of how one good but lonely man's quiet existence is turned upside down by a late and unexpected love. Rob Magnuson Smith paints a funny, sad, gentle yet ferocious portrait of village life.
Stewart O'Nan, author of
A Prayer for the Dying
To my mind there was one clear standout. In terms of characterization, plot, unusual fictional universe-making and sheer ability to create The Gravedigger wins hands-down.
Andre Bernard, publisher and judge of The Pirate’s Alley William Wisdom – William Faulkner Award
...permeated with subtle issues of faith, theology and the details of ordinary human beings who love, get drunk, fight, go to church and act in the usual bizarre and odd ways humans do. Smith’s work is oddly sacramental and the grace of his writing is not to be missed.
Dr Susan Herdahl, Ridge Reviews and Reflections, Gettysburg Seminary
Cover image © Bill Lavender
‘…an impressive debut. Smith's well-wrought prose beautifully captures the tone of an English village and the awakening of a man whose livelihood depends on death but whose fear keeps him from living.
…A story of love and loss, this novel is part romance and part coming-of-age tale for a middle-aged man…(a) genuine and evocative read.