Staring Contest In the Darkroom: 2021, A Summation

December, 2021 marks twenty years since concluding my culinary studies at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu — from the Windy City I returned to Indy.  I tend to get sentimental about my time in Chicago (along with some of the later chapters spent living in Highland and working in Merrillville), not necessarily for any particular episodes, but rather an amalgam of anecdotes.  I learned a lot living there, and I sensed that, formative as it was, I had a lot of growing to do.  As much as I’d like to think so, Chicago didn’t fix me (for there would be damage and detours to come), but it instigated a sort of philosophical suturing. 

Creatively speaking, I am a writer before I am a chef.  And while both vocations continue to elicit unfolding fulfillment, I’d like to begin this reflection by focusing on this past year’s literary endeavors.


In my own private practices, I will, by the end of this year (and exceeding the productively abysmal year of 2019), have accumulated something north of 56,000 words solely dedicated to creative endeavors.  I’m working on a longer story — something I’ve allowed a rather extended detour into the life (and perhaps lesser-known escapades) of John Dillinger with the intent of incorporating these aspects into what I have in mind to be a viable novella.  (In fact, as of this post, I will have just returned from a jaunt to Chicago — not necessarily an immersive research trip, but slipping into close proximity to some of his former haunts lends imaginative dimension to my current fictions.)

Though I can confirm inclusion of my story, “Lovenest,” in the forthcoming Dim Shores’ project, Looming Low, Vol. II (premiering at NecronomiCon, 2022, in Providence, RI), I had two pieces of fiction published this year along with a rather personal piece of non-fiction:

I’d be professionally negligent in not thanking the publishers for finding merit enough in these pieces to include them in their projects:  C.M. Muller (Nightscript); Jon Padgett (Vasterian); and David Longhorn (Supernatural Tales).  

It’s significant to also mention that while The Skeleton Melodies (Hippocampus Press, 2020) enjoyed several meaningful reviews, the collection was acknowledged by the estimable Ellen Datlow in Volume Thirteen of The Best Horror of the Year:  “The Skeleton Melodies…is an excellent second collection.  While Smith sometimes uses pulp tropes, his writing is so good that the stories aren’t pulpy at all.  A real achievement.  Thirteen stories, two of them new.  With introduction by Adam Golaski.”

Finally, I was humbled by the opportunity to apply my own endorsement to several literary colleagues by extending several well-deserving blurbs:

Reading / Books

  • Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Shadows, Alex North
  • You Should Have Left, Daniel Kehlmann
  • A Mighty Word, Joshua Rex
  • Ghouls in My Grave, Jean Ray
  • Among the Lilies, Daniel MIlls
  • The Drone Outside, Kristine Ong Muslim
  • The Inner Room, Robert Aickman
  • Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
  • Rookfield, Gordon B. White
  • The Heat’s On, Chester Himes
  • The Beasts of Vissaria County, Douglas Ford
  • 32 Yolks, Eric Ripert
  • Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem
  • The Drowning Pool, Ross MacDonald
  • Rovers, Richard Lange
  • Dillinger: The Untold Story, George Russell Girardin, Rick Mattix, and William J. Helmer
  • Homework: “The Tractate Middoth,” M.R. James
  • Homework: “Martin’s Close,” M.R. James
  • Homework: “The Phantom Coach,” Amelia B. Edwards
  • Homework: “The Empty House,” Algernon Blackwood
  • Homework: “A Ghost Story,” Jerome K. Jerome
  • Homework: “The Confession of Charles Linkworth,” E.F. Benson


  • Revisit: Death, Symbolic (1995)
  • Code Orange, Underneath (2020)
  • Deftones, Ohms (2020)
  • Revisit:  Death, Individual Thought Patterns (1993)
  • Havukruunu (various)
  • Revisit:  Carcass, Swansong (1996)
  • Napalm Death, Apex Predator (2015)
  • Broken Hope, Mutilated and Assimilated (2017)
  • Carcass, Despicable (2021)
  • Bathory, Blood Fire Death (1988)
  • Kreator, Endless Pain (1985)
  • Danzig, Skeletons (2015)
  • Deicide, Overtures of Blasphemy (2018)
  • In Solitude, The World.  The Flesh.  The Devil. (2011)
  • Sumerlands, Sumerlands (2016) 
  • Kreator, Coma of Souls (1990)
  • Entombed, Left Hand Path (1990)
  • Entombed, Wolverine Blues (1993)
  • Cavalera Conspiracy, Blunt Force Trauma (2011)
  • Mother of Graves, In Somber Dreams (2021)
  • Re-Visit:  Judas Priest, Point of Entry (1981)
  • Re-Visit:  Kreator, Phantom Antichrist (2012)
  • Protest the Hero, Pacific Myth (2016)
  • Carcass, Torn Arteries (2021)
  • Re-Visit:  Venom, Black Metal (1982)
  • Celestial Sanctuary, Soul Diminished (2021)
  • Chainsword, Blightmarch (2021)
  • Charger, Charger (2019)
  • Molten, Dystopian Syndrome (2021)
  • Lord Vigo, Danse de Noir (2020)
  • Vampire, With Primeval Force (2017)
  • Bewitcher, Under the Witching Cross (2019)
  • Bewitcher, Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (2021)
  • Darkthrone, Eternal Hails (2021)

Films and TV

  • Apostle (2018)
  • Dead and Buried (1981)
  • Ready or Not (2019)
  • Rare Exports (2010)
  • As Above, So Below (2014)
  • Terrified (2017)
  • Possessor (2020) 
  • The Guest (2014)
  • The Empty Man (2020)
  • The Sound of Metal (2019)
  • Love and Monsters (2020)
  • Lake Mungo (2008)
  • The Little Things (2021)
  • Arrival (2016)
  • Revisit: Memento (2000)
  • Fear Street Trilogy: 1994; 1978; 1666 (2021)
  • Black Widow (2021)
  • Come to Daddy (2020)
  • Revisit: Night Creatures (1962)
  • Midnight Mass (2021)
  • Halloween (2018)
  • Coherence (2013)
  • Annual Revisit: Horror Express (1972)

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