Reviews > Published on September 2nd, 2016

Bookshots: 'Dead Dogs & Splintered Hearts' by Tom Ward

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Dead Dogs & Splintered Hearts

Who wrote it?

While the characters are mostly execrable, it is fascinating to watch them in action, like train wrecks in slow motion.

Tom Ward, who won the GQ Norman Mailer Award in 2012.

Plot in a Box:

It’s a collection of short stories, but the recurring themes seem to be the behavior of terrible people and lonely people, with a few unlucky enough to be both.

Invent a new title for this book:

Nobody Likes Me

Read this if you like(d):

There’s a little bit of everything in there: literary slices of life, portraits of absurd characters, elegies for romance, surreal humor and even some poetry. I didn’t like all of it, but found enough to enjoy.

Meet the books lead(s):

The most memorable is Tony, a miserable old bastard who kicks dogs in front of cars to elicit sympathy sex from attractive women.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Michael Caine

Setting: Would you want to live there?

I don’t want to live anywhere near any of these characters. They are all selfish misanthropes who spread ambient misery to all around them.

What was your favorite sentence?

He was too young to die, but if Beth found his corpse clutching a bunch of flowers she would be forced to forgive him.

The Verdict:

Despite the unity of its theme, Dead Dogs & Splintered Hearts is a mixed bag. I suspect that different parts of it will appeal to a wide variety of readers, but not all parts are equal. Ward is at his best when describing the behaviors of awful persons with dry literary wit. While the characters are mostly execrable, it is fascinating to watch them in action, like train wrecks in slow motion, and Ward is always able to make them at least interesting, if not likable. The aforementioned Tony is a character you love to hate even more with every word you read, and the ramblings of a man obsessed with a fantasy lover seen only in dreams is an intriguing descent into madness. The shorter “snapshot” fiction of various people in moments of misery are well-written, but nowhere near as enlightening or entertaining as the caustic caricatures. The poetry is too clever to be funny, and too jokey to be all that profound, but might be just fine in a volume of its own, surrounded by similar verses. Much of Dead Dogs feels like excerpts from a longer book, but there are a few shining gems in there worth investigating.

About the author

BH Shepherd is a writer and a DJ from Texas. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2005 with degrees in English and Demonology after writing a thesis about Doctor Doom. A hardcore sci-fi geek, noir junkie and comic book prophet, BH Shepherd has spent a lot of time studying things that don’t exist.  He currently resides in Austin, where he is working on The Greatest Novel Ever.

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