My first experience with the splatter western genre was a book called Bloodletting, by J.R. Curtis. I thought it was great and decided that I needed more of the author and more splatter western in my life. It’s been a minute since I read that book though, and was finally able to pencil in another splatter western by making it one of the Cool Ghouls Book Club selections. My ever growing unending TBR sometimes demands that I do this to push some books to the top of that list. Cool Ghouls is currently doing a series of 2022 Splatterpunk Award winners. Enter The Magpie Coffin, by Wile. E. Young, winner of Best Novel in 2021.
As I often do, I judged this book by its cover. That amazing cover art helps set the stage for me. It gives off old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western vibes that only got stronger as I read. I imagined Salem Covington carrying himself like every old west Clint Eastwood character, with his outlaw hat tilted low, hiding his trademark snarl and stony gaze. When I was a kid, we had one television in the house and Dad’s beloved copy of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on 2 VHS tapes. I remember him putting it on fairly often, much to my siblings and my chagrin. Even now, old westerns are common background noise in my home. Of course now I love those old movies. And while it might be a weird thing to say about a splatter book, it was giving me all the feels. I was a kid again, watching Clint Eastwood take bloody vengeance on the people who’d tortured and killed his mentor. Covington uses a combination of black magic and his special Gun, which is capitalized to emphasize the fact that it’s not a regular gun. It speaks to him, reminds him of how many souls he owes, and encourages him to kill.
There are some things that I felt were lacking in explanation. Maybe I missed it. That happens. But I never really understood how Covington got into his deal in the first place. Who was the coffin maker? There were mentions of souls owed. But to who? Why? How? We know that he is unkillable by all guns except the one he carries and the one that used to belong to his brother. He learned the way of the People from his shaman teacher, Dead Bear, and there are mentions of how he perverted the teachings to suit him. He picked up other black magic from other teachers. There are questions, but the story flows and wraps up in a way that doesn’t require answers. I’m left wanting more. It has all of the fast sharp brutality I love in a good spatter novel with an old western flair.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me. I want more Wile E. Young. I want more splatter western. This was a great start for Death’s Head Press‘s Splatter Western series and I will be reading more of them.
You can get The Magpie Coffin, by Wile E. Young on Amazon, Godless, or directly from Death’s Head Press.
I decided to expose my book group to more Daniel J. Volpe this month. Cool Ghouls hasn’t picked up much steam, but there are a few people who join every time and that’s enough motivation to keep doing it. If I can get one person to read something I like, I’m a happy camper. Speaking of books I liked…
A good chunk of the story is a Holocaust survivor recounting his days at Auschwitz in great horrifying detail. I knew this going into it. I also knew there was a splatter twist that would set it apart from the usual real world horror tales. I’ve read a lot of WWII stories from multiple perspectives. I’ve read first hand accounts of real survivors. I’ve read descriptions of the smells in the camps. But this was the first time I’ve seen the smell of the gas described, and I admit I thought about it when I opened my bottle of almond extract while baking this weekend. Little details like that can turn a generic fictional Holocaust story into something special, something that sticks with the reader. And it’s the big details, like figurative demons (Nazis) capturing literal demons and using them to grant their wishes, that turn a sad story into one that kicks the reader in the teeth. And that ending…wow.
In a way, the ending felt open. Will there be a sequel or spinoff? Who knows, but I know one thing. I’ll read that too.
This is my second Daniel J. Volpe read (Talia was the first). I loved both. I will eventually read my way through his entire catalog. Splatterpunk and indie horror can be a gamble. It’s a genre I enjoy and while most books I’ve read at least have good stories, some could benefit from a little editing finesse. Volpe’s books are just plain good though.
Never was there a more appropriate intro to a book.
I chose Talia, by Daniel Volpe for Book Lovers Cafe‘s second Cool Ghouls read. My little book club has garnered some attention in the group, but if any of the people who sign up are reading the books, I have no idea because they’re not participating in discussion. I will keep at it though. I am determined to share my love of horror and bizarro to anyone who will listen.
I take it back. At least one person read it. They were not prepared.
I read Talia in one sitting. At 120 pages, I suppose that isn’t saying much, but for me it is. If a story isn’t immediately gripping, my attention wanders. Talia grips you by the throat and assaults your senses non-stop. This is the story of a young woman who moves to the big city trying to make a name for herself. She quickly learns that it is not easy to break through in the acting world and finds herself targeted by a sleazy adult filmmaker named Mike who can smell desperation. Talia has heard the rumors about this guy, rumors that he works for the mob and does more than porn, but she is in a tough spot and is willing to do what it takes to make some money.
At first, it isn’t so bad. She does some fetish films that get increasingly strange, but she makes friends with one of her costars and mostly hasn’t had to do anything too degrading. What’s a little piss in the grand scheme of things anyway? Rumors about Mike’s clientele prove to be true as the requests get stranger and more brutal. One day, Talia and her friend come in to do a film find themselves facing a tied and gagged man and a table containing whips of increasing levels of brutality. Is this just another pain fetish video? Is Talia built for the kind of films Mike has lined up? Is Mike prepared to face the monster he created?
I discovered (after reading Talia), that our heroine was introduced in Volpe’s earlier work, Billy Silver. Of course I have to read that now.
For the last couple months I’ve been running a book club in one of my favorite book groups on Facebook, Book Lovers Cafe. Titles have mostly been chosen from Amazon First Reads. They’ve been good, but not stuff I’d typically read. Bored with the same old thing, I decided to start up a secondary book club for horror aficionados like myself. I dubbed it the Cool Ghouls Book Club. The first book I selected was one I’d seen recommended a lot in a different book group, Books of Horror. Gone to See the River Man, by Kristopher Triana.
At first it seemed like it was heading in a typical thriller path and I thought the main character was somehow going to end up being murdered by the man she obsessed over. Which…did happen. But the path from meeting him in prison to meeting him in her apartment was not typical thriller material. One might wonder why someone would find themselves obsessed with a serial killer, but as the story unfolds and you learn more about Lori, it isn’t so mysterious. Lori is seriously flawed, cut from the same cloth even. She has shared all of herself with Edmund and he knows she is the right person for his mission. Like Lori, you’ll find yourself wondering how much of the journey to see the River Man is real and how much is in her head. Is the River Man real? Or is he a manifestation of her mental and moral decline? This book is dark and graphic and utterly disturbing.
It’s a short read, but doesn’t feel like it’s lacking story building like some novellas do. If you like horror, splatterpunk, otherwise dark stories and don’t mind gore, give this a read. And if it’s your first horror book ever, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised, as this one group member did.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. Closer to 5 honestly, but I made my rating and I don’t like to go back and change ratings unless I reread.
Great book. I’ll definitely be reading more of his work. Grab your copy on Amazon.