New novel uncovers darkness and deceit in a rural setting

A sinister tale of an eccentric American visitor to a small Sussex town searching for stories about his grandfather forms the basis of a new novel, Scorper. This story of twitching curtains, severed hands and peculiar sexual practices is written by Dr Rob Magnuson Smith, an English and Creative Writing lecturer, at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus.

Scorper is a dark comedy about American/English relations by an academic who himself has family from both sides of The Pond. The main character of the book is John Cull, an American who finds more intrigue than expected while searching for his ancestral roots along the narrow lanes of Ditchling village. Cull meets a variety of unusual local characters, including the ghost of the influential artist Eric Gill. During his time in the dark and macabre rural village, Cull has to be wary of taking a tumble in the graveyard, falling foul of traffic regulations, and drawing too much attention to himself by winning the village quiz.

This is Dr Smith’s second novel. His debut, The Gravedigger, won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award. Dr Smith explains that Scorper was inspired by his own personal experiences. He said:“I paid a visit to Ditchling a few years ago and have been haunted ever since. The novel evolved into a comedy because the material grew too dark to handle without laughter.”

Dr Smith will be reading from Scorper at Falmouth Bookseller on Tuesday 10 March at 7pm. On Thursday 12 March, there will be another opportunity to hear readings from the novel, following opening remarks by Max Porter, Editor at Granta Books. Max Porter’s talk will take place Queen’s Lecture Theatre 2 and Dr Smith’s reading will be held during a reception in the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus, in the Senior Common Room, Queen’s Building.

Date: 9 March 2015

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