June 16, 2015
DALLAS (SMU) — Two Americans traveling Europe on the cheap with a packet of chili powder in their suitcase – what’s the worst that could go wrong? Turns out, quite a lot. A Throttled Peacock: Observations on the Old World (DeGolyer Library 2015) is a collection of essays inspired by a 1990 trip across Europe and the latest book from SMU professor emeritus C.W. Smith, who taught creative writing in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences from 1985-2012.
“We basically went to 63 different cities and stayed in 63 different beds,” said Smith, who was joined on the trip by his wife, Marcia Smith. “I just kept taking notes about the things that happened to us and when we came back I just started trying to describe some of the experiences we had.
“I didn’t have it in mind to put out a whole collection,” Smith said. “But once I’d written them all, I realized they were very unified because they were based on the same trip with the same personalities having a variety of experiences.”
Smith’s experiences range from his description in the book’s opening sentence of wanting to kill his wife (When your only friend becomes your worst enemy…) to memories of watching a young con-woman weasel money out of her marks in a town square (Foundlings). All-told, there are 12 essays inspired by the six-month trip, written with a confident humor and humble self-deprecation that keeps the pages turning. Spoiler alert: the Smiths are still happily married.
Smith is also the author of the novels Thin Men of Haddam, Country Music, The Vestal Virgin Room, Buffalo Nickel, Hunter's Trap, Understanding Women, Gabriel's Eye, Steplings and Purple Hearts.
He has published a story collection, Letters From the Horse Latitudes, and a memoir, Uncle Dad. His stories and essays, including several from A Throttled Peacock, have appeared in many national publications, including Esquire, Texas Monthly, Hemispheres, Mademoiselle, The Southwest Review, American Short Fiction, the Cimarron Review, Quartet and the Missouri Review.
The Texas Institute of Letters, the state’s oldest literary organization, named Smith a Lon Tinkle Fellow for “Sustained Excellence in a Career” in 2011. He also has received numerous other awards, including twice earning the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction, "Best Novel" from the Southwestern Library Association, "Outstanding Book About the Southwest" from the Border Regional Library Association and the Kay Cattarulla Award for “Best Short Story.”
A Throttled Peacock is available through SMU’s DeGolyer Library at https://sites.smu.edu/cul/degolyer/.