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The Stratford Devil

historical fiction by Claude Clayton Smith

Print (softcover) $19.95  


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In the spring of 1651, nearly half a century before the infamous witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts, a woman known as Goody Bassett was hanged for witchcraft in Stratford, Connecticut. In the spring of 2023, nearly four centuries later, the State of Connecticut absolved all those accused of witchcraft, removing the stigma that their families have needlessly borne. Few facts are known about Goody Bassett and the events surrounding her persecution. This haunting and moving novel, crafted from those few facts as well as detailed accounts of Stratford’s early history, tells the tale of young Ruth Paine—later Goodwife Bassett—and how her singular experience beyond the confines of her Puritan world ultimately leads to her demise. Rich in historical insight, The Stratford Devil gives a touching look into the isolated world of an independent woman as she struggles to survive in circumstances beyond her control. With its focus on religion and terror, The Stratford Devil is a parable for our time.

FICTION / Historical / Colonial America & Revolution

ISBN: 978-1-962082-06-8 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
ISBN: 978-1-962082-07-5 (ebook)

LCCN: 2023946512

Released October 2023

180 pages

Author Biography

Claude Clayton Smith, Professor Emeritus of English, Ohio Northern University, is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. This is his fourth book with Shanti Arts. He holds a DA from Carnegie-Mellon, an MFA in fiction from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, an MAT from Yale, and a BA from Wesleyan. He was a finalist for the 2022 First Pages Prize and winner of the 2021 Great Midwest Fiction Contest. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife, Elaine—his first reader and editor—to whom The Stratford Devil is dedicated. His website is



The Stratford Devil—a quick and compelling read, made all the more so because of its vivid and appealing central character. Even knowing the ending in advance, I was almost stunned by how circumstances conspired to send the story hurtling toward its tragic climax. The whole book is infused with a sense of dread and supernatural menace—something that must have been very real in early, isolated Puritan settlements on the edge of the wilderness. In the end, of course, the greatest threat comes not from the Indians or the wolves but from the fear in the people's hearts.”
Mike Lackey, retired reporter, Lima News, Ohio

“Claude Smith [is] just the kind of teacher everyone should have at least once. And now The Stratford Devil proves that he’s an excellent writer too.”
Judy Kweller, The Roanoke Times

“ . . . plausible, stunning . . . a cunningly developed piece of historical fiction.”

“We may be through with the past, but as the man says, the past ain’t through with us. The Stratford Devil remains a gripping and timely historical novel that details the hanging of Goody Bassett for witchcraft in 1651. A thought-provoking page-turner about a real witch hunt, rightly back in print.”
Christopher Chambers, author of Kind of Blue and Delta 88

“The book brings readers back to the roots of Stratford and thus to the earliest cultural roots of America. The Stratford Devil is historical, sensual, and smoothly written. It is the story of the Puritan break with nature that leads to the 1651 hanging of an innocent young woman.”
John M. Del Vecchio, author of Demise: A Novel of Race, Culture Wars, and Falling Darkness

The Stratford Devil is fascinating history, taut drama, daring romance. It is as authentic about daily life in the 1640s as it is about the unchanging human heart.” —Jonathan Penner, author of This Is My Voice, winner of the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction

Articles and Reviews

“...fascinating, riveting, and compelling work of fiction inspired by historical fact.”
Wisconsin Bookwatch, Review (December 2023)


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