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The Calaboose Epistles
R. T. Smith

ISBN: 978-1-60454-207-3

Paperback $18.00

Set in the southern Appalachians, R. T. Smith’s third collection of stories also inhabits that allegorical realm where the patterns of human travail are dramatized and played out endlessly. Whether incarcerated in penal institutions or imprisoned by their own obsessions and transgressions, the bear hunters, cockfighters, con artists, ginseng diggers and school teachers of these inventive narratives demonstrate that tragedy, comedy and travesty are seldom as distinct as we want to believe.


R.T. Smith’s stories are stunningly moving, violent, and beautiful. The reader feels at once in the hand of a lyric poet and a master storyteller, and every page of this powerful book brims with insight and empathy and deep, refreshing humanity. The Calaboose Epistles confirms that Smith is not just one of the South’s strongest and most compelling voices, but one of America’s.

—Bret Anthony Johnston

Part bluegrass symphony, part speaking in tongues, The Calaboose Epistles is the most beautifully sung story collection I have read in years. Smith’s range is remarkable, his people pot growers and peafowl tenders, prisoners and college professors, their tales by turn heartbreaking, horrifying, and hilarious. Imaginative and accomplished, The Calaboose Epistles holds perfect pitch, and I’ll be marveling over its wonders for some time to come.

—Ann Pancake

This fine collection of stories brings to mind the hard-working, hard-luck, hard-scrabble characters of Larry Brown, mixed with a wonderfully warped, melodic, Appalachian monologue that Spaulding Gray would envy. And then there’s the flat-out idiomatic poetic voices of these characters. Funny and heart-wrenching simultaneously, The Calaboose Epistles is a collection that will thrive and endure.

—George Singleton


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