Clint Smith's Ghouljaw and Other Stories will be published by Hippocampus Press in May 2014.
Information about Clint Smith:
Clint Smith's stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including the Weird Fiction Review and the British Fantasy Society Journal. He lives in the Midwest, along with his wife and two children.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Click here to watch the trailer of Ghouljaw and Other Stories.
Information about Ghouljaw and Other Stories:
Over the past several years, Clint Smith has established himself as a powerfully imaginative writer of weird fiction. In this first collection of short stories, Smith demonstrates the multifaceted talents that will establish him as one of the notable weird writers of his generation.
What distinguishes Smith's work is both the originality of its weird conceptions and its careful delineation of human character. One of his earliest tales, "Benthos," features both these qualities, telling a grim tale of alienated youth and drug-taking that veers into the grotesquely supernatural. In "The Tell-Tale Offal," Smith cleverly updates Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" in a grisly story of physical horror. In “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell,” Smith uses the war in Afghanistan as a chilling backdrop to unthinkable horrors unleashed in the parched sands of the Middle East.
A REVIEW OF CLINT SMITH'S GHOULJAW AND OTHER STORIES
Clint Smith's Ghouljaw and Other Stories is a richly imaginative collection of dark, original and weird stories. It's the author's debut short story collection.
Ghouljaw and Other Stories is one of the best new weird fiction collections available for horror readers, because it's different from other collections. There's a wealth of human emotions, both light and dark, in this collection that can't be found in many other collections. The power of these stories lies in good characterization and unexpected happenings.
When speaking about horror and weird fiction collections, there's an easy way to find out if a collection is good. All you have to do is to read the whole collection and if you find yourself thinking about the stories and are unable to forget them, you've read a good collection. I can say that this collection is that kind of a collection, because the stories in it contain depictions of human lives, lost love, regret and weirdness in such a beautifully harsh and horrifying way that it's difficult to stop thinking about them.
Ghouljaw and Other Stories contains the following stories (it also contains an introduction by S. T. Joshi):
- Dirt on Vicky
- Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite
- What about the Little One?
- Double Back
- The Tell-Tale Offal
- Like Father, Like...
- Corbin's Gore
- The Hatchet
- The Jellyfish
- What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell
- The Day of the Earwig
These stories range from weird fiction to horror (most of them are weird fiction). With these fourteen dark stories Clint Smith proves himself capable of writing weird fiction that is rich with depth, imagination and weirdness. Although these stories are modern, they're also timeless and feature elements that have become the foundation that all weird fiction rests upon.
I find no faults in these stories, because each of them is perfect in its own way. Normally it's possible to pick a few stories that rise above other stories, but not in this case, because I like all the stories.
There's a slightly noticeable difference in the quality between the early stories and later stories, but that's normal, because authors gradually develop their writing skills. The early stories are excellent, but in the later stories the author writes more fluently about many things and has found his own voice.
Here's a bit more information about the stories:
Benthos: A story about Max who's a college dropout. He dates Amy. He goes to a party with his acquaintance, Jerry. He has headache and feels that his bones are about to be replaced by some other substance. When Max takes drugs, things soon take a grotesque turn...
Ghouljaw: Paul sees dreams and tries to write them down on paper. In his dreams he sees a sunken cathedral and sees things behing the glass. He writes down a name on the paper: Ghouljaw. He remembers a frightening happening from his childhood that provides insight into later happenings...
Dirt on Vicky: It's Halloween and Bill wanders around the town with his son, Casey. Bill's wife, Vicky, has died and he's alone with Casey. Casey hears about the legend of Aikman Farm from a storyteller. Bill and Casey visit the Aikman Farm...
Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite: The protagonist tells what has happened to him and reminisces his life...
Retrograde: Wayne has had an affair with Bridgette, but his wife, Nancy, doesn't know about it. Nancy suffers from depression...
What about the Little One?: Lewis is a divorced man who dates Maggie. Maggie has a black labrador retriever Zooey. Maggie loves Lewis and her dog. One day when Maggie takes Lewis to see something, Zooey runs away and becomes pregnant...
Double Back: Deacon is a young man who drinks alcohol and has a serious problem with it. He sees a dark thing and talks to it about his brother...
The Tell-Tale Offal: A modern version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". A story about Wally and Moss who have problems with a heart. What makes this story interesting is that it's also a story about cooks...
Like Father, Like...: Ray's father has died. Ray spends time with his mother in Deacon's Creek...
Corbin's Gore: Corbin has had a relationship with Cassidy. He gets acquainted with an old woman who tells him that she's seen her partner wandering in the house...
The Hatchet: Brian drives to Hoffman House. He has driven there many times and has done some research on it...
The Jellyfish: Paul travels into the forest to kill himself, but suddenly things change in a weird and unexpected way...
What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell: An army man, William Craft, has been trying to contact Mr. Wilkinson about a person called Lonnie Meadows. Mr. Wilkinson is asked not to allow Lonnie to enter the school. The e-mail that Mr. Wilkison reads becomes increasingly weird and terrifying as he continues to read it...
The Day of the Earwig: A fascinating story about Luther Hume who meets an old woman called Irene Crawley. Soon things escalate into a nightmarish weirdness...
What I like most about these stories is that although they may at first appear to be straigh-forward horror and weird fiction stories, they're anything but easy stories. There's a wealth of underlying depth in these stories and readers are rewarded with fascinating and complex glimpses into the characters' lives and fates, because the author's vision of human life is both beautiful and emotionally brutal.
Clint Smith has a distinct writing style, because his stories contain plenty of descriptions about the past of the characters. I have to admit that I was surprised by Clint Smith's ability to create stories that not only show in vivid details what the characters have done but what happens to them afterwards they've done something and how they deal with their feelings and emotions. The characters in these stories make (or have made) their own choices and live (or try to live) with them, and some of these characters experience strange things and try to cope with them and find resolution to certain things. The different experiences of the characters have shaped them and affected their lives in many ways.
What separates Clint Smith from other authors who write about the feelings and lives of the characters are the detailed descriptions about the character's lives and choices. He has added many details to his stories that make the characters complex and three-dimensional. He also shows that people can do horrible things to each other, and given the right circumstances people can be like monsters.
I've always enjoyed reading about characters who have somehow been damaged by their personal experiences. That's why it was fascinating for me to read these stories, because there are characters in them that have genuinely been affected by the loss of a beloved person and childhood happenings etc. The psychological damage done by these experiences is often profound and reflects on how the characters act and behave.
In my honest opinion Clint Smith has an extremely fine way of writing about the characters' lives. Below are a few examples of how well he writes about the character's fates and lives.
In "Ghouljaw" Clint Smith writes about Paul's childhood and how his parents divorced, and what he experienced in his father's house. In the same story he also writes about Paul's marriage to Gretchen. This combination of different elements allows the reader to get inside the protagonist's psyche, and consequently sustains the reader's interest in the unfolding happenings.
In "Retrograde" the author tells how Wayne starts an affair with Bridgette. He writes fluently and boldly about how affairs can start and how they develop. It's interesting that sex like almost like therapy for Wayne and a way to cope with his wife's depression (sex with Bridgette is an outlet for Wayne's sexual needs).
"Double Back" is an interesting story, because the author writes about Deacon's drinking problem is an unflinching way. I don't remember reading about alcohol problems in a similar way before.
In "Like Father, Like..." the author writes about Ray's life and feelings. Ray has come to Deacon's Creek because of his father's funeral, and he spends time with his mother. The author writes realistically about Ray's life, youth and how he thinks about the happenings in his life.
The author's descriptions of lost love and feelings of guilt and regret are touching. In "Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite" the author writes fluently about the protagonist's relationship with Julie who died in a car accident.
In "The Hatchet" the author writes about Brian's interest in a house and about his childhood. The old memories about Halloween and dressing up in the Halloween costume are vivid in this story. The depictions of Brian's life are interesting, because the author writes about Brian and his brother, Drew. I have to mention that the scene in which Brian reads a quote from Robert W. Chambers is a fine scene.
"The Tell-Tale Offal" is an intriguingly modernized version of Edgar Allan Poe's classic horror story, "The Tell-Tale Heart". It's an effective horror story that both shocks and surprises the readers with grisly details. The grisliness of this story is simply amazing.
"What about the Little One?" is a fascinatingly weird story in which the author combines love story with weird fiction elements. The creepy dog creature is quite a disturbing and unforgettable sight to behold.
"The Jellyfish" is one of the best modern weird stories I've ever read, because it features a man who wants to kill himself, two poachers and a black jellyfish. The jellyfish and its black tentacles reminded me a bit of the tentacles found in several Lovecraftian stories, but the author used this element in a totally different and original way.
"What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell" features intriguing Lovecraftian elements combined with the war in Afghanistan. It also features wartime horrors and comradeship among soldiers. It's one of the most original stories in this collection. I don't remember reading a war story quite like this before.
The author writes surprisingly well about body horror. In "Benthos" the change that Max feels and what happens to him is an excellent example of body horror done right.
Because I mentioned above that Lovecraftian elements can be found in these stories, here's a bit more information them. Clint Smith uses Lovecraftian elements surprisingly well and doesn't imitate Lovecraft. He uses them in an original way and spices his stories with them. These carefully chosen elements add a nice touch of classic weirdness to the stories.
The atmosphere in these stories ranges from sorrowful to unsettling. When you begin to read these stories, you'll notice how the atmosphere reflects the feelings of the characters and how it slowly changes from normal to unsettling. This is something that only skillful horror authors are capable of achieving in their writing.
Clint Smith's prose is excellent. I was impressed by the author's literary prose, because he wrote beautifully and his descriptions about the happenings and characters were nuanced.
I consider speculative fiction (especially dark fantasy, horror and weird fiction) to be an excellent tool for authors to write about difficult themes, because it allows authors to address these themes in a more profound and fundamental way than mainstream fiction. This collection is a proof of this, because Clint Smith doesn't shy away from delicate and sensitive themes and complex emotions. I was honestly surprised by the amount of different and difficult themes found in these stories. The author has found a way to add elements and feelings of loss, love, sex, betrayal, cowardice, denial and guilt to his stories, and he deftly explores the role grief plays when we lose someone close to us.
I think that enthusiastic horror readers and readers who enjoy reading this collection will be interested in knowing that Kell (of Shadeland fame) has created a soundtrack for this collection. According to the author's website the soundtrack will be available on iTunes, Spotify, cdbaby, and other locations in the upcoming weeks. This soundtrack is excellent and helps to create the right kind of solemn mood for reading these stories.
I have to admit that I am amazed at the high quality of modern horror and weird fiction stories. The bar has been raised quite high by such authors as Laird Barron, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, John Langan and Nathan Ballingrud. Because the bar has been raised high, it's great to find new authors like Clint Smith who are every bit as good as these authors and can write good weird fiction.
Clint Smith is still a relatively unknown horror author for many readers, but he won't stay unknown for much longer, because there's plenty of originality and imagination in this collection. I personally think that Clint Smith will soon become one of the most respected new authors of weird fiction and will be regarded as one of the finest short story writers of his generation.
Ghouljaw and Other Stories is a powerful and unique weird fiction collection. It represents the finest and highest quality modern weird fiction has to offer for readers, because each story has depth and style that has been combined with originality. All of these stories beckon readers to relish and re-read them.
Readers who expect darkness, quality, weirdness and unsettling visions of characters damaged by their personal experiences about family, love, guilt and sex will be in for a treat when they begin to read Ghouljaw and Other Stories, because all these elements can be found inside its covers. If you're a fan of horror and weird fiction stories, please do yourself a big favour and read this collection, because it's an excellent collection from a new master of weird fiction.