Rob Magnuson Smith's debut novel The Gravedigger was published in 2010 after winning the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner Award. His novel Scorper (Granta, 2015) was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘an odd, original, darkly comic novel...Kafka crossed with Flann O'Brien'.


Rob’s short stories have most recently appeared in the Australian Book Review, the Guardian, The Literarian, Fiction International, and The Reader. He has won the Elizabeth Jolley Award and been longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. His short story 'The Cabildo' was recorded for audio by Jeremy Irons.

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 is a Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Exeter University’s Cornwall campus.

Image © Christine Tran

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

  • '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’


  • '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

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

Absolutely Chelsea

Cover image © John Vernon Lord

  • 'Best Novel in Second Person, 2015’

Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers

  • ‘Powerfully original, funny and strange and haunting’

Tessa Hadley, author

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

Andrew Miller,

Costa Award winning author of Pure

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

FarmLane Books

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

  • ‘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.’


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.

Publisher’s Weekly

  • ‘..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

  • Sonny. In Cornish Stories, The History Press. April 2018.
  • The Cabildo. In A Place in Words, Sep 2017, 343-348 (audio, Jeremy Irons)
    Read it here
    Hear it here
  • Henry and the Moon Baby  Guillemot Press. Aug 2016
    Read it here
  • The Elector of Nossnearly. Australian Book Review. Sept 2015. 374, 30-35.
    Read it here
  • Kettleman Point. The Clearing. April 2015, npa.
    Read it here
  • Cornish Whip. Into the Roots. April 2015, 26-35.
  • The Headhunter’s Trumpet. Poor Yorick. Issue 1, Autumn 2014.
    Read it here
  • Inkberrow. The Literarian. Spring 2013, Issue 12, 98-115.
    Read it here
  • Post-numeral. Tremors. August 2012, npa.
  • Self-portraits. The Istanbul Review. Summer 2012, 57-64.
  • Second Skull. The Guardian. September 2011, npa.
    Read it here
  • The Hollow Men Without Masks. The Reader. Winter 2010, No. 40, 123-126.
  • El Pensativa. UEA Creative Writing Anthology. Summer 2010, 120-124
    Read it here
  • The Harvester. The Greensboro Review. Fall 2009, No. 86, 60-71.
  • How Daniel Zimmerman Kept Ezra Pound Up All Night (II). Notes from the Underground. March 2009, Issue 3, 10-12. (Reprinted)
  • The Jump to Man. Fiction International. 2007, No. 40, 9-19.
    Read it here
  • The Awakening of Chuck Upchurch. Karamu. 2005, Vol XIX, No. 2, 41-49.
  • Dissolute Afternoon. Asphodel. Fall 2003, Vol 2, No. 1, 55-63.
  • How Daniel Zimmerman..(I). Inkwell. Spring 2002, Issue 13, 90-96.


  • The Wilding of Wolf Creek. Playboy. (forthcoming)
  • Best Book of 1901: The Octopus by Frank Norris. Granta (online). Dec 2015.
    Read it here
  • Why Every English Village Needs a Pub. The Guardian. 31 Jan 2015.
    Read it here
  • Brewster’s Ark. Playboy. July/August 2013, Vol 60, No.6, 124, 175-178.
    Read it here
  • Beyond the Sky. Playboy. July/August 2012, Vol 59, No. 6, 80, 170-174.
  • Beckett Catches Buster. Projector. Issue 2, npa.
    Read it here
  • The Island of Dr. Ivanov. Playboy. Oct 2011, Vol 58, No.10, 104, 120-124.
    Read it here
  • Behind The Gravedigger. New Writing. March 2011, Vol 8, No. 1, 9-12.


Invited lectures, panelist and conference presentations since 2010


  • Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, Vassar College, NY, Autumn 2018
  • Fiction reading at Port Eliot Festival, 27-29 July 2018
  • Arctic Circle Arts Fellowship, Svalbard Norway and the High Arctic 10 – 28 June, 2018
  • Launch of Cornish Short Stories, Falmouth Booksellers, 6 pm 19 May 2018
  • Environmental Science Institute/Plymouth Marine Lab, 2017
  • Writer in Residence, The Eden Project, 2016
  • Port Eliot Festival, 2016
  • 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




Literary Representation:

Aitken Alexander Associates

291 Grays Inn Road

Kings Cross, London WC1X 8QJ


Tel 020 7373 8672

Rob Magnuson Smith