Book Review: Worm by Anthony Neil Smith


Author: Anthony Neil Smith

Publisher: Blasted Heath

Release Date: January 2015


In the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, new guys are known as ‘worms’. Ferret (real name Finn) is one such worm – a mild-mannered Alabama native who is desperate enough to take a job on the Wild West-like oil fields in an effort to kick-start a new life for his wife and daughter. His boss, a dirty mobbed-up mad-man called Pancrazio, has his fingers in plenty of pies, and is in the process of building up a lucrative meth business on the prairie. Money-hungry Ferret quickly falls in with his sinister boss, and his cohorts: enigmatic hard-man Gene Handy and a pair of low-lives known as Good and Bad Russell. Ferret becomes a driver to earn some extra cash, but not one of his new acquaintances is who they seem, and he is dangerously out of his depth before he even realises it…

Anthony Neil Smith’s reputation precedes him, and Worm is every bit as good as you might hope. The seething, lawless North Dakota setting provides a memorably inglorious back drop to the action, and desperate men from all over the US rub shoulders at the ‘man camp’ and the multitude of booze-soaked strip-clubs that have sprung up nearby to keep them entertained. All of the protagonists – bar Ferret – have dark episodes in their pasts, and every single one of them will experience far worse in their bleak, respective futures.

Worm is a tremendous, unflinching piece of writing. Smith’s queasy detail-heavy prose stomps you into submission from the get-go, and keeps on stomping until you are a fucking mess. This is an excellent book.

Reviewed by Tom Leins

Interview: Christoph Paul on Walk Hand In Hand Into Extinction

Hot on the heels of the publication of the excellent True Detective-inspired anthology ‘Walk Hand In Hand Into Extinction’, Tom Leins probes co-editor Christoph Paul…


  • Firstly, why True Detective? We are in a so-called ‘golden age’ for TV drama – what made True Detective stand out as a TV show to hang an anthology on?

That first episode of True Detective was special to me. The scene in the car with Marty and Rust talking reminded me of Dostoevsky. One of my favourite pieces of fiction, and really anything, is The Grand Inquisitor chapter in Brothers Karamazov. I always wanted to see television grab that vibe artistically.

  • When the submissions started rolling in, were there any common threads that emerged? Equally, were there any areas of the show that you were surprised people didn’t explore?

There were a lot of King In Yellow stories. [Note: The King In Yellow is an 1895 book of short stories by American writer Robert W. Chambers, which inspired elements of True Detective.] I had to pick the best ones. I expected to see more cult stories. I love cults – from a storytelling standpoint.

  • Watching True Detective, it seemed like a pure, undiluted slab of hardboiled Americana. Did you get many submissions from writers outside of the US?

Yes – I loved that there were so many submissions from overseas. That was one of the best things about going through the submissions – besides the stories themselves.

  • Were you worried that the below-par second season of True Detective would tarnish the ‘brand’ between the anthology being conceived and it being released?

Yes and no, is the honest answer. Most of the submissions used themes from the first season of True Detective, and the anthology ended up being more about the first season than the last. I tell people: if you were disappointed in the second season, but loved the first you will enjoy this anthology. The positive first review in America shared those sentiments.

  • What would you say to any crime fiction fans who are worried that the anthology may be ‘too bizarro’ for their tastes, and vice versa?

I am an author and publisher of bizarro fiction, but I knew this needed to be a well-rounded anthology. Most of the stories fall into crime fiction and noir. What a lot of people don’t know is, I tried to write this epic existential crime novel – it was Dostoevsky-meets-Die Hard – which was a disaster. I spent years on that novel and it might not ever see print. This anthology was my attempt again to combine existentialism, mythos and crime into one book. I wanted stories in here that I wasn’t able to write, but loved the idea of reading.

  • If you had to pick any other TV show – past or present – to base an anthology on, what would it be, and why?

I am a humour writer first and foremost, so I would love to do one on my favourite comedy: Eastbound & Down. If a show ever captured my sense of humour it would be Eastbound & Down. It is a very cultish show and has been off the air for a while. This could maybe happen one day.

  • Your next anthology will be a Wu-Tang Clan-themed collection released via New English Press. What are you hoping writers bring to the table this time around?

I want great use of language and an entertaining story. I want contributors to celebrate the best things about the Wu-Tang Clan in a cool story – and entertain me and [co-editor] Grant Wamack.

  • Finally, do you consider yourself to be more of a Rust, or more of a Marty?!

I am Rust in my heart, but Marty in life.

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