Tom Ward made his way onto the literature scene with his first novel, A Depature, published in 2013, which was shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize and awarded the GQ Norman Mailer Award 2012. A few years down the line and Ward’s first short story collection, Dead Dogs and Splintered Hearts from Crooked Cat Books has just been released. After giving it a read, it’s not something you want to miss.
With twenty-nine short stories in total, ranging from playful short poems to longer texts, Dead Dogs is varied in more ways than one. From angsty tales of a teenage house party, to the tale of the depressed and failed Kris Kringle, to a thriller in Paris, all the way to the downright eccentric dark humour of pet murder and the slightly satirical, Defoe-esque “missing chapter”, Gulliver in Luiaard, Ward barely misses a genre. Sometimes dark, sometimes witty, sometimes crude and sometimes unapologetically mysterious. Moreover, Dead Dogs is deeply moving and often immensely tragic, such as in A Nice Trip when delicate, suppressed feelings slowly come to the surface: ‘“I love you,” she said, her voice breaking’. More than once in this little box of tricks does your heart ache, as you feel the protagonist’s heart break in their few pages of this little book.
Ward is unmistakably talented, and whether the particular story is in first, second or third person (there’s use of all three across the collection), Ward is powerful in drawing out a very real and often familiar emotion. He manages to carefully capture the freezing of time of people lost in a weekend and sensitively reminds us of the all too familiar goodbye, whilst making you cackle over his dark humour, as a teacher nonchalantly snacks on his worst pupil for breakfast, just pages before. Other times, Ward is knowingly autobiographical and we wonder if Ward’s nostalgic memories perhaps find themselves in this little book.
In fact, Ward’s variation could be my only real criticism of the book. The collection seems to run without a theme, with the only relation being that these are pieces Ward has written in the evenings around his work in journalism. In this sense, Dead Dogs and Splintered Hearts feels almost disjointed. But I’m not entirely sure that this is really a problem at all. This book is well rounded and evokes every emotion, satisfying every taste. The variation of this text makes it unpredictable – nothing is given away. With truly no idea what genre the following text will be, Dead Dogs is exciting. I really like that.
All in all, Dead Dogs and Splintered Hearts is evidence that Tom Ward should not be taken lightly. This gripping and clever collection has something for every reader. Whether you’re after a thriller, some dark humour, the all-too-familiar nostalgia or a fragile tale of heartache, Ward has got it. Dead Dogs is evidence that Ward has much, much more to offer – and it could go in absolutely any direction. This little collection from Crooked Cat Books isn’t to be missed out on – go and have a read.
To grab a copy of Tom Ward’s Dead Dogs and Splintered Hearts for Kindle and in Paperback, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Dogs-Splintered-Hearts-Ward-ebook/dp/B01HNAY2EO?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc