Big Jack is Dead

My novel is now on sale. In the US, the Kindle version is $5.99 and the paperback is $11.00. Thanks for reading. Big Jack is Dead – A visually striking Southern Gothic novel.



4 thoughts on “Big Jack is Dead

  1. What follows is a somewhat back-handed review from IndieReader that I ended up liking anyway.


    BIG JACK IS DEAD by Harvey Smith

    Rating: 3½

    Following the death of his father, Jack Hickman, Jr. recalls the violent, dysfunctional life of his father, and his own unhappy childhood.

    The structure of Harvey Smith’s BIG JACK IS DEAD is simple enough: the chapters alternate between the adult Jack first hearing of his father’s suicide and then attending his funeral and taking care of his property (narrated in the first person), and flashbacks of his memories of “Big Jack,” an abusive father who tried to mold his son into something he was not (narrated in the third person.) The latter parts are brutal and disturbing; the former give a somewhat unflattering portrait of a man who only partially escaped his father’s mold: he ended up leaving Texas for the West Coast and working for a software company, but he also became somewhat amoral and cynical, often sharing his father’s lack of empathy and respect for women. (Though nonetheless, he turned out better than all of his relatives.)

    Normally, this sort of story would contain tons of reflection and insight into the characters of both the son and the father, and in that, BIG JACK IS DEAD seems at first to be sorely lacking. It offers all the despair of Jack’s childhood, all the horrors of his father’s abusiveness, and all the horrors of the ways people’s lives turned out in the “present-day” narrative, all without seeming to have a point. But then, towards the end of the novel, something extraordinary happens: that apparent lack of a point becomes a point in of itself. Jack spends hours combing through what few possessions his father left behind, looking for something that can sum him up. But this isn’t Citizen Cane, and “Big Jack” is left an enigmatic character: the mysterious forces that drove him to do the horrible things, and those same forces that to a lesser extent also reside within his son, will never yield themselves to a single simple explanation. And it’s this lack of meaning that really helps propel the reader into Jack’s shoes.

    It’s also worth mentioning that this novel is very well written. The somewhat-arrogant, somewhat-sad narrative style of Jack in the “present-day” chapters illuminates his character as well as any others it describes: “The region had a distinctive smell, with the dank air acting as a carrier for various chemical odors. No one living down here ever noticed, but the smell assaulted me every time I came home. It went beyond smell. It was an atmosphere created by the gray landscape of refineries.” [59] Other characters, such as his impoverished and drug-addicted mother, and his dissatisfied and depressed high-school sweetheart, also come to life through the book’s well-crafted prose.

    It can be pretty hard to stomach all of the violence in BIG JACK IS DEAD, along with its pessimistic takes on the weight of history and the cycle of abuse, but for those who can stomach it, it’s beautifully written, and it treats readers like adults, forcing them to analyze “Big Jack” and the other characters for themselves.

    Reviewed by Charles Baker for IndieReader.

  2. I didn’t know you’d written a book until today. It looks like a very private piece, and it couldn’t have been entirely easy to publish such an intimate text. I hope I’m not out of line when I say that I hope it was a therapeutic process for you. I didn’t actually know much about you until today, until I started searching for information on who designed Dishonored. I wanted to write to you shortly, to tell you that I think the game quite literally saved my life last weekend. I wanted to thank you for that as a part of getting closure with what happened.

  3. Aw, thanks.

    Yes, writing can be very therapeutic. One way or another, I’ve found it either exposes some warped thinking I have, or I actually put down something true and feel better-understood when people read it. Both are useful. I journalled for years, privately, and that was powerful too.

    Good luck with your own struggles.

  4. Dishonored was a great experience for me and co-creative director Raphael Colantonio.

    We worked with a large, talented team spread out over the US and France, plus a few other places. (We had key concept artists in Eastern Europe and our lead animator was in Montreal.)

    Everyone brought something important to the game, so it’s the collaborative work of that group, from that moment in time.

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