Why Richard van Camp’s Godless but Loyal to Heaven landed his works on my MRE list

1. As an object, this collection from Enfield & Wizenty is striking. And — I can’t tell you how much I love this detail — it has a ribbon to mark your place.

Great Plains Publications - Enfield & Wizenty, 2012

Great Plains Publications – Enfield & Wizenty, 2012

2. Immediately upon finishing the first story (“On the Wings of this Prayer”), I passed the book to Mr. BIP. “You have to read this.” It is truly haunting.

3. When I read the next story, “The Fleshing”*, I knew that I wanted to own this book and I immediately went on a bookstore crawl to find anything I could.

4. I found copies of The Lesser Blessed and The Moon of Letting Go, and I could have looked for other books in the shops, but I only wanted to come home, because I had seen Wendy’s name in one collection, and then I realized that I recognized other characters’ names as well, from Godless but Loyal to Heaven, and all I wanted to do was read.

5. Humour rubs elbows with tragedy.

“I think humans give off a scent if they’ve lives in terror for years in a house that was never a home.” (“Godless but Loyal to Heaven”)

“Man, I miss streaking with my dog brother through the night. I am so fucking bored at night now that I actually floss.” (“Love Song”)

6. Moments of beauty, rooted in realism.

“The snow looks blue at night and I’m bundled up pretty good. The way it’s falling, it looks like thousands of moths dying, falling to earth — sky feathers, I’m sure our ancestors called them. I walk home and Ray roars by in his struck. He peels out of that driveway and heads way out of town to where he stays.” (“Love Song”)

7. Theme of endurance.

“He loves to issue misery with those fists and his eyes had the same look of fascination you see in boys torturing ants with fire or pulling the wings off of flies. He loved to break men down and right now he was grinning, smiling at me.” (“Godless but Loyal to Heaven”)

8. Love of storytelling: entire stories celebrate this. (Like “Tony Toenails”. Crunch.)

“I told Snowbird about it once. That was when he told me about how sometimes you could do more as a spirit than you ever could alive.” (“Godless but Loyal to Heaven”)

9. Use of language is fresh. Sometimes unexpectedly so. And always rooted in character, not simply cleverness for cleverness’ sake. Take Charity’s “wicked nipples, each one as hard as a thumb stud on a switchblade”. It reflects the character perfectly.

10. Tales of transformation. Sometimes literal (say, ” On the Wings of this Prayer”, “The Fleshing”). Sometimes figurative (say, the title story: “That was the fall when I became Torchy.”)

Have you read Richard van Camp’s work?

*Contents: On the Wings of this Prayer, The Fleshing, Children of the Sundance, Tony Toenails, Love Song, Devotion, Lizard People, Godless but Loyal to Heaven, The Contract, and Feeding the Fire.



  1. […] Van Camp’s Godless But Loyal to Heaven, hooked me on his work, made him a MustReadEverything author for me, but his first […]

  2. […] van Camp’s Godless but Loyal to Heaven (2012) This collection landed the author on my MustReadEverything list. The first story still keeps […]

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  4. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis September 2, 2013 at 11:47 am - Reply

    I’ve never heard of Richard van Camp, let alone reading him. But I must now. There’s a copy at in the Annapolis Valley Library system, so I’ve just put in a inter-library loan request for this. Can’t wait to read it! Thank you once again for introducing me to great books. 🙂

    • Buried In Print September 5, 2013 at 9:36 am - Reply

      Are there none of his other books in your local branch? That’s disheartening. But at least you have access from afar. I think you will love the first story (but find it disturbing), and I hope you enjoy the rest as much as I did.

      • Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis September 5, 2013 at 11:56 am - Reply

        Just three children’s titles in the Colchester County system. Same Richard Van Camp?

        • Buried In Print September 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm - Reply

          Yes, most likely. I’m curious to see those too, but most passionately interested in the linked stories of the North West Territories.

  5. Amy September 2, 2013 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Sold. Sounds wonderful.

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