Last year, Death’s Head Press’ co-founder, Patrick C. Harrison III, did something pretty amazing. He reached out to a number of authors to write standalone novellas and novels in a genre he coined as “splatter westerns.” A splatter western is a mad hybrid of splatterpunk horror and western genres. In other words, the western would have extreme horror elements with a hearty dollop of pulp to top it off. I marvel at Patrick for coming up with it, and I think he ought to be credited for the core concept of it. His story that inspired its creation is pretty intense, one that illustrates that sometimes, art imitates life and vice versa (you can read his story here).
Anyway, my novella, Red Station, is book #7 in the series, and it came out just last month. Since they’re all standalone stories, readers can start with whichever one they wish. I think there will eventually be 13 in all, the next one down the pipeline being Kristopher Triana’s The Thirteenth Koyote.
I confess that when Patrick approached me about writing one, I was both elated for having been invited and overwhelmed by the thought of all the research that lay ahead…just for a novella. Red Station would be my first western after all, and while there would be horror elements in it, I wanted it to be as accurate to the setting and time as I could portray it.
I spent the first half of my time researching intensively. I wanted to get everything from the climate conditions down to the colloquialisms as correct as I could. It was foolish of me to start that way though as I had absolutely no idea what kind of a story I wanted to tell. I didn’t want to write some kind of machismo-centered tale of saloon brawlers, cattle drives, stagecoach robberies, and shoot outs in the center of town.
Then, while researching, I finally found the story… sort of.
Okay, it was more like a source of inspiration.
The Bloody Benders of Kansas were a German family (of sorts…some of the relationships were never really known), who ran a station home to travelers. They also just so happened to be serial killers who brutally slaughtered and robbed the travelers who had fancy wares on them. I took the Benders, or possibly the Benders, and turned them into something much more monstrous. Their religious fanaticism and family bond would be powerful motivators, opening the door to madness and blood. The story then rapidly evolved into an old fashioned, cinematic slasher set in a station home, or at least a place that people thought was a station home.
Every good slasher has familiar tropes, even if they’re subverted in some way. We tend to like the familiar, so I decided to craft characters I thought would be well-suited to a western slasher, specifically. One character was based on a real person, a doctor who’d gone missing in the area at the time (one of the Benders’ victims). The others included a sweet couple on their way to their homestead; an overly chatty driver; a tough guy shotgun, and—the character who’d eventually be at the center of the story—a “final girl.”
Clyde Northway would definitely be the story’s hero. I’ve always loved the concept of the final girl, and I’ve stood by my stance that when she was crafted well, she was often the antithesis embodiment to the claim that horror movies, particularly slashers, were misogynistic. Creating Clyde’s world, one that was strange and secretive, was the highlight for me while writing Red Station. A marvelous moment from the 2001 French action horror film Brotherhood of the Wolf in which the spy, Sylvia (played by the mesmerizing Monica Bellucci), reveals her weapon of choice…
(Just look at that ridiculously badass fan)
… inspired me to develop some unconventional…tools…for Clyde. Her purpose there in no-man’s land is somewhat revealed in the book, but I’m a firm advocate of the oft-debated skill of showing and not telling in a story. That may drive some readers crazy, but I don’t care for the lazy method of having stories reliant on heavy exposition (especially narrators who explain in minute detail every damned thing happening and every other damned thing that had already happened). We know she’s getting married, and we know a little of her beau’s reputation, but that isn’t the end, or even the beginning, of her story whatsoever. I hope to come back to her in another book sometime soon, at least after I’ve finally finished my current WIP. I adore her, and I hope readers of Red Station will love her too.
Anyway, here are the links to each of the Splatter Westerns from Death’s Head Press, including Red Station. I’ve put the covers there at the end so you can check them all out. The incredibly talented Justin T. Coons is the artist, and I can’t get enough of his work.
Again, you don’t have to read them in any particular order as they’re all standalone stories. Happy reading, y’all!
- The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young
- Hunger on the Chisholm Trail by Mike Ennenbach
- Dust by Chris Miller
- The Night Silver River Run Red by Christine Morgan
- Starving Zoe by C. Derick Miller
- A Savage Breed by Patrick C. Harrison III
- Red Station (by me)
- The Thirteen Coyote by Kristopher Triana (coming soon)
(And there are more to come in 2021!)