Rob Magnuson Smith


Rob Magnuson Smith is a novelist, short story writer and investigative journalist. A dual citizen of the US and the UK, his debut novel The Gravedigger was published in 2010 after winning the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner Award. His novel Scorper (Granta Books) 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 most recently appeared in the Australian Book Review, the Guardian, The Literarian, Fiction International, and The Reader.

His short story ‘The Elector of Nossnearly’ won the 2015 Elizabeth Jolley Award.

Rob is also a contributing editor at Playboy and has published investigative articles on Soviet-era primate hybridization experiments, the scientific search for alien life, and the Internet Archive.


A graduate of Pitzer College (BA in philosophy and BA in psychology), the University of East Anglia (MA in Creative Writing) and Bath Spa University (PhD in Creative Writing), Rob currently teaches English and Creative Writing at Exeter University’s Penryn campus in Cornwall.

Image © Christine Tran

'Award-winner who’s just a bit annoying' - The Tribune

Image © John Vernon Lord



Scorper. Granta Books, Feb 2015.

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’

The Guardian

  • ‘..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

Cover image © John Vernon Lord

  • 'Best Novel in Second Person, 2015’

Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers

  • '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

  • '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

  • 'Scorper is a charming, funny, tender pleasure. A pleasing air of mania and madness'

Andrew Miller,

Costa Award winning author of Pure

  • 'This is rural mystery at its best - dark, deceitful and uncomfortable'

Absolutely Chelsea

  • ‘…a strange, but beautiful book…outstanding'

FarmLane Books

Cover image © Bill Lavender

The Gravedigger. UNO Press, Nov 2010.


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

  • ‘…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.

Publisher’s Weekly

  • ‘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

  • ‘…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.’


  • ‘..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

Short stories



Invited lectures, panelist and conference presentations since 2010


  • Hong Kong University and City University of Hong Kong, 2015
  • Brisbane Writers’ Festival, 2015
  • Dartington ‘Ways with Words’ Festival, 2015
  • Winchester Writing Festival, 2015
  • Charles Causley Symposium, 2014
  • Hong Kong International Literary Festival, 2014
  • Fowey Literary Festival, 2014
  • Great Writing International Conference, Imperial College London, 2013, 2012
  • Columbia College Chicago, 2012
  • California State University Chico, 2011
  • NAWE Conference, Northampton, 2011
  • Symposium on Laughter and Transgression, Bath Spa University, 2011
  • Words and Music Literary Festival, New Orleans, 2010
  • AWP Conference, Chicago, 2010

Image © Patrick Jennings