Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke

By Peter Benson

ISBN: 9781846881770

280 pages

RRP: £6.39

When young Elliot gets a labourer’s job at Mr Evans’s after being sacked from a pig farm for liberating six of its sows, he thinks he’ll have even more opportunities to lean on gates or stare at fields. But his best mate Spike keeps getting him into trouble, first by showing him what is being grown in a tucked-away polytunnel, and then turning up at his caravan’s door with a van full of weed. As Elliot tries to help his friend get rid of the hot merchandise, they find themselves at the receiving end of a cruel cat-and-mouse game.

A tale of adventure with as many twists and turns as the enchanting Somerset landscape that forms its backdrop, Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke is, above all, a celebration of the English countryside – full of magic, history and superstition – where smoke is in the air, and where not all is what it seems.

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  • A haunting tale of love, clairvoyance and cannabis.

    The Guardian

  • An adventure story written in Benson’s distinctive, flourish-filled style and suffused with his deep and abiding love of the West Country.

    The Daily Mail

  • A sharp stylist.

    Sunday Telegraph

  • At a time of growing urbanism and reductive social interaction, this delightful novel extols the simple virtues of landscape and love, a sentiment that is as important now as it was when Benson first became a storyteller. Perhaps even more so.

    Independent on Sunday

  • One of the most distinctive voices in modern British fiction.

    Evening Standard

  • Peter Benson writes like an angel fuelled by inspirational quantities of organic Somerset cider. Get drunk on this fine novel.

    The Regency Book Club

  • Vividly, defiantly realistic at times, luridly surreal at others, his writing’s ability to compound striking metaphors of the abstract with a graphic physicality has won him a deserved following.


  • We were bewitched by Peter Benson's Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke, which is as bizarre and beguiling as its title sounds.

    Katy Guest, Fiction Uncovered judge

  • Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke mixes Somerset drifters, corrupt police and stolen cannabis, but the real magic – literally – of the book is in its evocation of a mystical English countryside … The prose twists and rolls like a vine creeping over a medieval brick wall.

    New Statesman

  • A Huckleberry Finn for the Somerset wilds.

    The Independent on Sunday

  • A coming-of-age novel that turns the plot of a thriller into a lyrical celebration of the mysterious and enchanting power of the natural world.


Peter Benson

Peter Benson’s first novel, The Levels, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. This was followed by A Lesser Dependency, winner of the Encore Award, and The Other Occupant, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Award. Peter Benson has also published short stories, volumes of poetry and screenplays, some adapted for TV and radio. His works have been translated into many languages.

Read an interview with Peter Benson here