Cover illustration by Stefan Koidl.
Interior story heading illustrations by Les Edwards.
We’re pleased to announce The Best of Michael Marshall Smith, a mammoth collection, containing classic tales, as well as over 60,000 words of previously uncollected fiction.
About the Book:
In 1990, British-born author Michael Marshall Smith burst on to the literary scene with his first story “The Man Who Drew Cats.” It won the prestigious British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction, and he went on to win the award again the next year. In a career that has now spanned three decades he has written nearly 100 short stories, published more than a dozen best-selling novels around the world, and scripted numerous movie and television projects.
Now, to celebrate his three decades as a writer, The Best of Michael Marshall Smith brings together thirty of his most emotive and powerful stories (including all his award-winning short fiction), along with extensive story notes by the author.
Featuring evocative heading illustrations by Les Edwards, this career-spanning collection includes such memorable tales as “Hell Hath Enlarged Herself,” “More Tomorrow,” “To Receive is Better,” “What You Make It,” “Later,” “The Dark Land,” “What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night,” “Always,” and many others, in their definitive versions.
By turns touching, disturbing, and frightening, these stories are not limited by theme or genre, but reveal a writer always in command, and whose imagination knows no bounds. The Best of Michael Marshall Smith is the ultimate compilation of the author’s work, and stands as a testament to his mastery of, and commitment to, his craft.
MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH is a novelist and screenwriter. He has published nearly a hundred short stories, and five novels—Only Forward, Spares, One of Us and The Servants—winning the Philip K. Dick, International Horror Guild, and August Derleth awards, along with the Prix Bob Morane in France. He is the only author to have won the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction four times.
He has published additional New York Times and Sunday Times-bestselling novels under the names Michael Marshall and Michael Rutger, and also works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.
He lives in Santa Cruz, California, with his wife, son, and three cats.
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“The 30 stories in this standout collection showcase Smith’s facility at imbuing genre tropes with humanity. Every entry offers something unexpected, while grounding inventive paranormal situations in recognizable emotion… This collection makes for a perfect introduction to a gifted writer who merits a larger audience.”
“Smith writes stories that draw the reader in and keep them mesmerized as they worm their disquieting way permanently into the psyche. He’s a perceptive observer of human passions, weaknesses, and everything in between. His scrutiny thereof usually results in dark conclusions. Normal folks have a tendency to do dreadfully abnormal things or wander into the horrific… As is befitting a ‘best of,’ there’s not a ‘meh’ story in the bunch. The Best of Michael Marshall Smith is simply brilliant.”
From The Independent (UK):
“The Best of Michael Marshall Smith (Subterranean Press) is a good collection for devotees of fantasy and horror fiction, bringing together 30 of the author’s most emotive and powerful stories…”
Table of Contents:
- The Handover
- Save As
- Being Right
- Hell Hath Enlarged Herself
- More Tomorrow
- The Motel Business
- Dear Alison
- The Man Who Drew Cats
- This is Now
- To Receive is Better
- They Also Serve
- The Scariest Thing in the World
- The Seventeenth Kind
- What You Make It
- Not Waving
- Walking Wounded
- The Gist
- Author of the Death
- The Dark Land
- Different Now
- The Things He Said
- The Window of Erich Zann
- Everything You Need
- What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night
- The Burning Woods
- Shit Happens
- Story Notes
The Best of Michael Marshall Smith
(excerpts from a few of the stories)
As soon as I walked out of the hospital I knew what I was going to do. It was 1 am by then, for what little difference that made. Other people’s clocks meant nothing. I was on hospital time, crash time, blood time: surprised by how late it was, as if I’d believed what happened must have taken place in some small pocket of horror outside the real world, one where the normal rules of progression and chronology don’t apply. Of course it must have taken time, for the men and women in white coats to run the stretcher trolleys down the corridors, shouting for crash teams and saline; to cut through my wife’s matted clothes and expose wet ruins where only an hour ago all had been smooth and dry; to gently move my son’s head so its position in relation to his body was the same as it had always been. All of this took time, as did the eventual slow looks up at me, the silent shakes of the doctors’ heads, the many forms I had to sign and all the words I had to listen to.
Then the walk from the emergency room to the outside world, my shoes tapping softly on linoleum as I passed rows of people with bandaged fingers. That took the most time of all.
Hell Hath Enlarged Herself
I always assumed I was going to get old.
That there would come a time when merely getting dressed left me breathless, and I would count a day without a nap as a victory; when I would go into a barber’s and some young thing would lift the remaining grey stragglers on my pate and look dubious if I asked her for anything more than a trim. I would have tried to be charming, and she might have thought to herself how game the old bird was, while cutting off rather less than I’d asked. I thought all that was going to come, some day, and in a perverse sort of way had even looked forward to it. A diminuendo, a slowing down, an ellipsis to some other place.
But now I know it will not happen, that I will remain unresolved, like a fugue which didn’t work out. Or perhaps more like a voice in an unfinished symphony, because I won’t be the only one.
I got a new job a couple of weeks ago. It’s pretty much the same as my old job, but at a nicer company. What I do is troubleshoot computers and their software—and yes, I know that sounds dull. People tell me so all the time. Not in words, exactly, but in their glassy smiles and their awkward ‘let’s be nice to the geek’ demeanor.
It’s a strange phenomenon, the whole ‘computer people are losers’ mentality. All round the world, at desks in every office and every building, people are using computers. Day in, day out. Every now and then, these machines go wrong. They’re bound to: they’re complex systems, like a human body, or society. When someone gets hurt, you call in a doctor. When a riot breaks out, it’s the police that—for once—you want to see on your doorstep. It’s their job to sort it out. Similarly, if your word processor starts dumping files or your hard disk goes non-linear, it’s someone like me you need. Someone who actually understands the magic box which sits on your desk, and can make it all lovely again.
But do we get any thanks, any kudos for being the emergency services of the late twentieth century?
Do we fuck.
I can understand this to a degree. There are enough hard-line nerds and social zero geeks around to make it seem like a losing way of life. But there are plenty of pretty basic earthlings doing all the other jobs too, and no-one expects them to turn up for work in a pinwheel hat and a T-shirt saying ‘Programmers do it recursively’. For the record, I play reasonable blues guitar, I’ve been out with a girl and have worked undercover for the CIA. The last bit isn’t true, of course, but you get the general idea.
To Receive is Better
I’d like to be going by car, but of course I don’t know how to drive and it would probably scare the shit out of me. A car would be much better, for lots of reasons. For a start, there’s too many people out here. There’s so many people. Wherever you turn there’s more and more of them, looking tired, and rumpled, but whole.
That’s the really strange thing. Everybody is whole.
A car would also be faster. Sooner or later they’re going to track me down and I’ve got somewhere to go before they do. The public transport system sucks, incidentally. Long periods of being crowded into carriages that smell, interspersed with long waits for another line, and I don’t have a lot of time. It’s intimidating too. People stare. They look and look, and they don’t know the danger they’re in. Because in a minute one of them is going to look just one second too long and I’m going to pull his fucking face off, which will do neither of us any good.
What You Make It
Finding a child was easy. It always was. You waited outside one of the convenience stores that lined the approach, or just trawled a strip mall at the nearby intersections for half an hour. There were always kids hanging around at night, pan-handling change for a burger or twenty minutes on a coin-op video game in one of the arcades. Or sometimes simply hanging there with nothing in particular in mind. You have to have seen something of the world to know what’s worth looking for. These kids, the just-hanging kids, had seen nothing—and were often willing to be shown pretty much whatever you had in mind.
The only question was which one to pick.
‘I’m not doing it,’ I said.
Portnoy gazed coolly back at me. ‘Oh? Why?’
‘Where do I begin? Ah, I know—let’s start with the fact you haven’t paid me for the last job…’
‘That situation could be remedied.’
‘…or the one before that.’
The man behind the desk in front of me sighed. This made his sleek, moisturized cheeks vibrate in a way that couldn’t help but put you in mind of a successful pig, exhaling contentedly in its sty, confident that the fate that stalked its kind was not going to befall him tonight, or indeed ever. A pig with friends in high places, a pig with pull. Pork with an exit strategy. The impression was so strong you could almost smell the straw the pig lay in—along with a faint whiff of shit.
‘Great,’ I said, briskly. ‘We’ll attend to the financial backlog first, shall we? Then I’ll get onto the other reason.’
‘You sadden me, John,’ Portnoy said, as he reached down to the side and opened the top drawer of his desk. This meant, as the desk was double-sided, that the corresponding drawer-front on my side disappeared. From his end he withdrew a cheque book that was covered in dust. Literally. ‘Anyone would think you do this only for the money.’
‘Anyone would be absolutely right.’
The Window of Erich Zann
She arrived, like so many, on a Greyhound bus.
Also as with many, she had little clue where to go, no idea how to find a home. Until the moment when she first glimpsed the iconic Golden Gate Bridge looming in the sun-warmed fog, it hadn’t properly occurred to her that this was going to be an issue. Sure, she’d need somewhere to sleep, and wash, but the city would provide, right? Everything she needed was waiting there for her, for them—manifest destiny reinvented for the first generation to realize they were a generation, a harbor from which to set off for parts unknown.
Not every person on the bus was on that journey. Some were leading regular lives. Coming back from visiting family. Going to the city to look for work. But history tends to forget that majority who are merely keeping on keeping on, and one in five believed they were going on to something bigger and better, traveling inexorably toward some higher place—ignoring the fact that in reality many of them were also moving away. Leaving behind old places, old people, old lives, casting them off like old clothes, skins that chaffed and constrained. Most who arrived in San Francisco that year were barely old enough to have given old lives a chance, but all knew they were ready for something new. Something different.
That this was their time.
The Burning Woods
I’d been there a couple weeks before he mentioned the island, which I guess would make it the third or fourth time we’d talked. For the few days he left me alone. I checked into the resort (a designation accurate only in the old-fashioned sense, of a collection of old, mossy cabins somewhere mountainous and remote) late one cold, dark afternoon, smelling of wood smoke and with one small suitcase and a demeanor that said company and conversation were nowhere on my list of priorities. It’s possible Ralph had encountered people like me before. It’s equally likely he was glad of anybody’s money out of season and didn’t give a damn.
I was pretty drunk or maybe I’d’ve figured out what was happening a lot sooner. It’d been a hell of a day getting to Long Beach from the east coast, though, kicking off with a bleary-eyed hour in an Uber driven by a guy who ranted about politics the entire way, then two flights separated by a hefty layover because Shannon my PA is obsessed with saving every penny on travel despite—or because—of the fact she’s not going to be the one spending hours wandering an anonymous concourse in the middle of the country, trying and ultimately failing to resist the temptation to kill the time in a bar. Once I’d had a couple/three beers there it seemed only sensible to keep the buzz going with complimentary liquor on the second flight, and so by the time the cab from LAX finally deposited me on the quay beside the boat I was already sailing more than a few sheets close to the wind.
When I say “boat” I mean “ship.” The company conference this year was on the Queen Mary, historic Art Deco gem of British ocean liners and once host to everyone from Winston Churchill to Liberace, now several decades tethered to the dock in Long Beach and refitted as a hotel. I stood staring up at the epic size of the thing while I snatched a cigarette, then figured out where the stairs were to get up to the metal walkway that took you aboard. I hadn’t even finished check-in before a guy I know a little from the London office strode up and said everyone was in the bar and it was happy hour for God’s sake, so what the hell was I waiting for?
I hurried my bag to my room and brushed my teeth and changed my shirt, taking a second to remind myself of the name of the British guy (Peter something-or-other, I evidently hadn’t noted his surname) so I could hail him when I rocked up in the bar. See? Totally professional.
The Bonus of Michael Marshall Smith
(excerpts from a few of the stories)
I got into it the same way as most people, I guess. By accident.
I was staying the night in Jacksonville, much as anything because I basically didn’t have anywhere else to be. I arrived in town late and tired, pissed at winding up there yet again. It seemed like whenever I couldn’t find a road to take me anyplace new, I wound up back in that city, like a yo-yo bouncing back to the hand that threw it away.
I was planning on getting out of State early next day, and after my ride set me down I headed for the blocks round the bus station, where everything is cheaper. Last time I’d worked had been over a week ago, at a bar down near St Augustine. They didn’t like the way I talked to the customers. I hadn’t cared for their attitude towards pay and working conditions. It had been a short and unsatisfactory relationship.
I’m going to tell a little fib to start off with. Don’t worry— I’ll let you know what it was, later on. I’ll leave you with the truth, I promise.
But I’ll tell you the other stuff first.
And I’m pregnant.
- Michael Marshall Smith
- 759 pages
- eBook Edition