Big Wilson: poetry chapbook. Emergency Flash Mob Press, Fall 2023.

Music and literature collide in this long poem about grief, loss, and the family bonds that constrain us as much as they hold us together. The hero of this narrative-in-verse rejects the siren call of the stage for a solitary life of authorship, even as he grapples with death – first his brother’s, then his wife’s, and finally his own. Big Wilson is a tender examination of how place, ambition, and those we choose to love ultimately shape who we become.

All the Animals on Earth: novel. Wolsak & Wynn, Fall 2020.

In a world subtly like and unlike our own, buttoned-down HR manager Hector Thompson is sure of two things: he hates both change and science fiction. But then lurid green streamers drift from the sky in an escaped experiment and birds and animals fall to the ground as their bodies stretch and change and grow. It's an apocalypse. Or is it?

Now Hector works in a company with detail-oriented pigeons for project managers while shifts of dependable dogs work round the clock in orange safety vests building housing for earth's newest inhabitants. In a dizzying mix of imagination and wry social commentary, author Mark Sampson creates a believable world with an unbelievable future and takes his readers on a road trip across a remarkable vision of America as his Everyman finds his role in this strange new reality. 

"Mark Sampson's All the Animals on Earth is like if Orwell had mashed Animal Farm and 1984 into one story ... The comedy is certainly a nice relief from what otherwise seems an Orwellian nightmare, as it juxtaposes some light against the very dark nature of murders and societal degradations ... Sampson's clever way of turning the animals more human, and the humans more animalistic allows readers to see the unrefined, natural instincts not only of [protagonist Hector Thompson], but also of themselves."
— FreeFall magazine

"This book is a perfect mixture of humor and stark emotion to make it an enlightening read which reflects our times right now. Reading it – and turning off the TV and the Internet – feels like it gives a bit of perspective to our situation right now. We are not alone with our fears and dreads and if Hector Thompson can deal with his changes in his rushed reality, perhaps we can too."
— Steve Buechler, The Library of Pacific Tranquility

The Slip: novel. Dundurn Press, Spring 2017

In this wickedly funny novel, one bad afternoon and two regrettable comments make the inimitable Philip Sharpe go viral for all the worst reasons.

Dr. Philip Sharpe, absentminded professor extraordinaire, teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto and is one of Canada’s most combative public intellectuals. But when a live TV debate with his fiercest rival goes horribly off the rails, an oblivious Philip says some things to her that he really shouldn’t have.

As a clip of Philip’s “slip” goes viral, it soon reveals all the cracks and fissures in his marriage with his young, stay-at-home wife, Grace. And while the two of them try to get on the same side of the situation, things quickly spiral out of control.

Can Philip make amends and save his marriage? Is there any hope of salvaging his reputation? To do so, he’ll need to take a hard look at his on-air comments, and to conscript a band of misfits in a scheme to set things right.

"Riotous but astute."
— Publishers Weekly

"A topical premise, one that … Sampson pushes into some unexpected, and unexpectedly comic territory."
— Quill and Quire

"A worthy read ... compelling, human, relatable."
— Booklist

"Entertainingly satiric ... The Slip offers comedy with bite. It also reserves ample space for heart."
— Toronto Star

Weathervane: poetry. Palimpsest Press, Spring 2016.

 A book of poems that’s as unpredictable as the seasons that guide it, Weathervane is part eco-tourism, part domestic nocturne, and part tempest. In a shifting world, Mark Sampson resounds like a modern Zeus, advising his readers to “wear galoshes, / even if it doesn’t rain.” Weathervane is an intensely personal, alchemical debut from an accomplished new voice.

"Who better to introduce us to Canada’s loopy seasonal carousel than Mark Sampson?  ... This is a spirited debut by a poet who combines keen observation with the metaphoric chops of a serious funnyman."
— Arc Poetry magazine

"Sampson balances dense metaphor with straight-forward language ... A taut, confident debut from an already accomplished author."
— Winnipeg Free Press

The Secrets Men Keep: short stories. Now or Never Publishing, Spring 2015

The Secrets Men Keep
is about the secrets men keep, the comic possibilities that arise from our shifting sense of what it means to be a man. It is about the lies that men tell themselves and others to keep their dreams and identities afloat.

The book takes an off-kilter approach to revealing the intricacies of modern relationships--relationships that can be at times funny, sensual, or tense. The stories are set in a variety of cities, including Halifax, Toronto, Seoul, Sydney (Australia), Hamilton, and Quebec City, and the protagonists' occupations run the gamut from call centre workers and teachers to a marketing coordinator, a journalist and a professional hit man.

"Offering sly comic pokes and affable satire, this memorable collection of 13 stories frequently highlights the significant gap between the empire-building ambitions of men and their humdrum and hemmed-in middle-management realities."
— Publishers Weekly

"Sampson’s prose here is sharp ... Many of the thirteen pieces of short fiction collected in ... The Secrets Men Keep investigate the silences, secrets, lies, and fantasies that men erect as emotional barricades between themselves and those they love. "
— The Malahat Review

Sad Peninsula: novel. Dundurn Press, Fall 2014

Two separate lives become connected in South Korea: traumatized former Korean "comfort woman" Eun-young, who struggles with her past of rape and violence; and Michael, a troubled young Canadian arriving in Korea to teach ESL, whose principles and humanity are tested by Seoul's seedy expatriate underbelly. A world away and two generations apart, their worlds collide through the fiery Jin, who challenges the stereotypes of her race and gender as well as Michael's morality.

Through meticulously crafted and heart-wrenching prose, Sad Peninsula takes the reader across oceans and decades, outlining the boundaries between seduction and coercion, between love and destruction, between a past that can't be undone and a future that seems just out of reach.

"The fact that readers are so emotionally engaged in discovering the answers to [the novel’s] questions indicates that the author has done a lot right here."
— Quill & Quire

"[H]arrowing and deeply moving . . ."
— Publishers Weekly

"Sampson deftly negotiates the varying chapters and their viewpoints, surprising us with character revelations without tipping into melodrama, and forcing us to look more closely when we might prefer to turn away."
— Winnipeg Free Press

"[A] fabulously rich picture of expat life ... [C]omplex and original"
— The Literary Review of Canada

"Meticulously crafted, moving, and hard to put down."
— The Sun-Times

"Mark Sampson…is a good, vivid writer."
— The Guardian

Off Book: novel. Norwood Publishing, Fall 2007

It’s the 1990s and all Cameron Hardy wants is to be a playwright. He arrives in Halifax as a student with big dreams and a bigger ego, but his first production goes disastrously awry. Humiliated, he changes gears after discovering he possesses a talent for the language driving the latest hot technology—the World Wide Web.

Soon he is slogging away as a high-paid code monkey in the dot-com boom and longing for the literary life he has left behind. He finds solace with his equally misanthropic coworker Pauline, who is trapped in a numbing job and a loveless marriage. Only through their dialogues on life, desire and the pursuit of passion can they get back onto the scripts that reveal their truer selves.

"Sampson's writing is thorough and rich in detail ..."
— Tidings magazine


  1. HI Mark,

    I read your book Sad Peninsula and really enjoyed it.
    I especially liked the way you depicted the born-again Christian Paul. Most of the time I find the liberal-minded arts community in Canada ridicules them as blind fools, or something to that effect.
    The church I belong to is Presbyterian and we have about 200 Koreans in our congregation. I know a lot of them well as I play music with them for our services weekly. I also volunteer teach ESL to a high level group. I was wondering if your book was going to be translated into Korean, or if it's available in Korean right now.
    Just so you know, I don't teach survival English, but rather try to help them learn about Canadian culture, everything from the regional differences of Canada, to Canadian folk music to understanding the rules of hockey etc. I think they would really enjoy discussing this book as it deals with two subjects they have knowledge or experience in - namely, the experience of haegwons and the history of the comfort women. The choice of the girlfriend to choose to stay in Korea would also be a great point of discussion.
    Of course, I can simplify and introduce portions of the book but again, I was wondering if it has been, or will be translated to Korean. I think it would be successful in Korean, but of course, I'm not privy to the info publishers have at their disposal in making such a decision.
    In any case, thanks again for a great book that entertained and educated me. Duncan

  2. Hi Duncan,

    Thank you so much for your note, and for your kind words about Sad Peninsula. I'm glad you enjoyed the character of Paul. I've gotten a few comments from readers about him, many of them echoing yours. Thanks for that.

    As for your specific question: no, as far as I know there is no Korean rights translation of Sad Peninsula on the horizon. Mind you, the book has only been out for six months, so my publisher may still be able to secure a Korean edition at some point. But foreign rights are always tricky to sell and I know they haven't had any luck yet finding a Korean press willing to take this novel on.

    But if anyone in your congregation does read the book, or if you have an interesting discussion with them about it, and people what to share their thoughts or impressions with me, I would love to hear from them. They can email me at sampson[underscore]mark[at]hotmail[dot]com, and I would happily make myself available to discuss it anytime.

    Anyway, thanks again for reading. Please stay in touch.

    Warm regards,