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Letters From The Horse Latitudes

In the 'horse latitudes' of the Gulf of Mexico, that zone where long periods of high pressure keep the winds away, becalmed sailors sometimes tossed the horse overboard to conserve water. In these unapologetically traditional and realistic stories, characters find themselves in circumstances which demand similar difficult and undesirable acts.

Because the stories are set in the Southwest and Mexico, from about 1920 through 1990, they often hinge on the suspicions, antagonism and ignorance the region's different cultures, races, and classes bear against each other.




  • "This atmospheric collection of 11 short stories roams the American Southwest and Mexico, providing an amiable mix of coming-of-age yarns and tales of cultural friction....[Smith's] elegant language, along with his knack for choice detail, ably carries most of the tales here." ~

    -Publishers Weekly (read full review)

  • "One of the pleasures of reading is discovering a new author, someone who writes with talent and verve and who is able to create some of those truly rare literary moments when the reader is absolutely lost in the richness of a story. So...meet C.W. Smith...whose wonderful new short-story collection, Letters From the Horse Latitudes, is wonderful enough to meet the most exacting reader standards. Smith's ability to climb inside the minds of his characters is exceptional; there are no one-dimensional cutouts to be found. No one is perfect, no one is quite satisfied, no conclusion is the end oif anoything other than some of life's ongoing episodes. And that's that magic here - instead of laboring to force unmistakable important themes on ;his readers, Smith just wants us to climb aboard with his quirky cast of characters and see if we can't learn a little from their experiences." ~

    -Fort Worth Star-Telegram (read full review)

  • "This is a collection of gems....This book is highly recommended." ~

    -Austin American Statesman (read full review)

  • "The writing in Mr. Smith's collection is strong, not showy, and demonstrates a good eye for original detail. The ability of humans to lose their way has never been much in doubt; the stories in Letters From the Horse Latitudes document that phenomenon convincingly. But just as important, the stories seem to provide some hope that, once lost, we can get our bearings again, and go on to find our way." ~

    -Dallas Morning News (read full review)

  • "These stories are a nourishing combination of lively entertainment and abrupt, effective insights into the way we are today." ~

    -Houston Post (read full review)

  • "The novelist in Smith makes the characterizations in this, his first published collection of short stories, humane and instantly familiar. Horse Latitudes is billed as a work that wrestles with the issue of race, class, and culture, but the best of the stories track what could be seen as one man's evolution...Vivid and emotionally honest, these stories are a joy to read." ~

    -Texas Monthly (read full review)

  • "Set in Mexico and the American Southwest, Mr. Smith's stories have a rugged informality. Their sense of intimacy is so great that the reader feels he has uncovered a cache of personal letters or is overhearing a late-night conversation between friends. And yet, like the stories of O. Henry, each is cleverly contrived to capture some essence of life and also to make a point. Today most O. Henry stories read like antiques, dependent for their effects on credulous readers and illuminated with false optimism. But the world that Mr. Smith dramatizes is both contemporary and convincing." ~

    -New York Times (read full review)





A Throttled Peacock

Observations on the Old World : In the mode of such humorists Bill Bryson and David Sedaris, Smith’s essays take a droll and ironic look at the antics of Europeans at home and Americans abroad in this off-beat memoir that gently mocks both traveler and host. In an Oxford University lecture hall, a local mayor wearing a flamboyant ceremonial necklace sets off Smith’s wry meditation on the English love of tradition; in Geneva he learns that a companion with whom you travel 24/7 can be your best friend and your worst enemy; in an ancient French village he learns that pride can lead to hubris when he and his wife introduce multi-national tourists to Texas chili. With an underlying theme of misperception and the surprise of upended expectations, these essays form a singular vision that entertains even as they slyly instruct. As one reader reports, “One glory lies in experiencing a deepening emotional and intellectual perspective as both narrator and reader discover more about the people and places. This shifting perception keeps the tales dynamic, almost like detective stories that present a mystery that becomes ever more complex before we reach a resolution.”


  • Y’all know how writing guides advise an opening line that grabs the reader straightaway? The first essay in this collection addresses too much togetherness: “Searching for the flower clock in the Jardin Anglais, I think of nifty ways to kill my wife.” Yep.

    -Lone Star Literary Life (read full review)

  • "Americans have reputations for boorishness and complaining while visiting foreign countries. Yet Europeans often can be hidebound and even vindictive when confronted with our relaxed attitudes toward food, tradition and the “cultural context” of how things are supposed to be done. Dallas writer C.W. Smith pleasantly skewers both sides in this entertaining collection of12 essays drawn from travels to several countries. In one essay, a cafe owner is distressed and disgusted after an American tourist cuts a piece of brie improperly, showing disrespect to the cheese."

    -Dallas Morning News




Structural and Thematic Unity in Gascoigne's The Adventures of Master F.J.,"
in Papers on Language and Literature, Vol. II #2 (Spring, 1966), pp. 99–108.

"Dallas: The Urge for Cosmetic Surgery," in The Texas Humanist, Vol. 6 #3 (Jan./Feb., 1984), p. 14.

"Pumping Iron: When Man and Shirt Are Caught in Steamy Combat," in Esquire (March, 1984), pp. 96–97.

"Uncle Dad -- Fathering at a Distance," in Esquire, March, 1985, cover story.

"The Myth of the Good Life in Texas," in Texas Myths, ed. Robert O'Connor. Published by Texas A & M Press in conjunction with the Texas Committee for the Humanities, 1986, pp. 185 –204.

"Look Back in Anger," Esquire (May, 1986), (pp. 43–45.)

"Les Miserables," Texas Monthly ( August, 1994), pp. 38–40.

"A Comedy of Manners," Hemispheres (February, 1995), pp. 123–128.

"A Meditation on Stone," Texas Architect, (Volume 45, #4, 1995), pp. 54–59.

"Translating 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'" in the metamorphses forum of the PEN American Center Journal. (#6 Spring, 2005).




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