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'. His third novel Seaweed Rising appears in November 2023.
Rob’s short fiction has appeared in Granta, The Saturday Evening Post, 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, 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
Powerfully original, funny and strange and haunting.
Tessa Hadley, author of The London Train
Cover image © John Vernon Lord
…a strange, but beautiful book…outstanding.
[A] funny, disturbing portrayal of a mind at odds with itself.
What a magnificent, tender, strange and funny book. A comic masterpiece
Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers
Best Novel in Second Person, 2015.
Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers
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
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.
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
Background image © John Vernon Lord
Beneath the sea, over millennia, sentient beings await our final mistakes: soon they will make their move.
Manfred, an amateur seaweed collector, is convinced that algae are taking over the human race. Haunted by his past, Manfred falls in love with Nora, who has her own troubled history with seaweeds.
From a Cornish fishing village to the Spanish coast, up to the blinding glacial landscape of the Arctic, human society falls under the microscope in this genre-bending existential drama.
Truly weird and wonderful, sad and eerie.
Akhil Sharma, author of Family Life
Funny and grim and like nothing you have read before. Effortlessly original.
Richard Francis, author of The Old Spring
Wonderfully strange. At once a moving love story and an ecological reverie of Ballardian intensity.
Nicholas Royle, author of The Uncanny
Wonderfully unsettling. You'll never look at seaweed the same way again.
Ben Smith, Author of Doggerland
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.
Come to Naga
MoMA Magazine. April 2021
Read it here
Ploughshares. Summer 2019
Into the Roots. April 2015
The Literarian. Spring 2013, Issue 12
The Istanbul Review. Summer 2012
The Hollow Men Without Masks
The Reader. Winter 2010, No. 40
The Greensboro Review. Fall 2009, No. 86
Asphodel. Fall 2003, Vol 2, No. 1
Tremors. August 2012
How Daniel Zimmerman Kept Ezra Pound Up All Night (II)
Notes from the Underground. March 2009, Issue 3 (Reprinted)
The Awakening of Chuck Upchurch
Karamu. 2005, Vol XIX, No. 2
How Daniel Zimmerman..(I)
Inkwell. Spring 2002, Issue 13
Beyond the Sky
Playboy. July/August 2012