I had the pleasure of reading this book way back when, in its original incarnation, so I’m going to cheat just a wee bit and post an excerpt from my original review for Top2Bottom. It’s a great book, and believe me, it’s a memorable one too. I’m still hanging from that cliff, Mr. Edwards! :)
If you haven’t read Hank Edwards’ Cowboys & Vampires: Venom Valley Book One yet, then you’re just going to have to trust me when I tell you the real Wild West was never as wild as the West that is Belkin’s Pass…or, at least I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. Anyway, this once sleepy little frontier town has suddenly become host to some ghouly boo-wiggly undeads, so there’s at least a little bit of proof to my theory, yes? Yes, I think so too.
Lifelong friends, Josh and Dex fell in love with each other somewhere along the way in their journey, though neither man has ever found the courage to express his feelings for the other. Now? Well, now seems the perfect time to declare themselves and consummate their relationship, because the future looks a lot less bright than it ever has before and, let me assure you, the present could use all the hope and promise it can get.
Strange things are afoot in the town, you see—the dead who just don’t seem happy to stay that way, a mysterious and foreign stranger called Balthazar who preys on the townsfolk, glamouring them and drinking their blood, creating new progeny to grow his legacy, and Josh is caught directly in the midst of all these supernatural events. That is to say he is a supernatural event himself, and it’s the strange power hidden within him that reanimates the corpses he encounters, which causes the man no end of problems when he’s accused of murdering two people, one of them the woman who’d raised him, she being the only mother Josh had ever known.
In a matter of moments, those crimes transform him into a fugitive with a price on his head and the promise of the noose if he’s ever caught. The question? How can a man be guilty of murder if the victim was aleady dead? The problem? Who’s going to believe a story like that, especially coming from a man who’s considered an outcast by some. The answer? Dex Wells, that’s who, and he is willing to sacrifice everything he has, everything he is, for the man he loves.
Dex tracks Josh to the home where he’d spent the first few short years of his life before his mother, a woman accused of everything from practicing witchcraft to devil worship, had abandoned him. Dex listens to Josh’s admittedly far-fetched tale of the reanimated dead, and luckily is able to believe that some strange event or another has occurred involving Josh and the deceased. It should probably be a harder pill to swallow, but he’s just experienced his own brush with the preternatural when he’s attacked by a few of the prostitutes at the One-Eyed Rooster Saloon, where Dex witnesses them threatening Glory, a half-breed call-girl protected by a Native spirit, Ohanzee.
This story is told from three different perspectives—Josh’s, Dex’s, and Glory’s—the stories running parallel to each other until the point they each converge perfectly in the place known as Venom Valley, a place where those who dare to enter are seldom seen or heard from again. Scorpions, snakes, stinging beetles, all the creepy crawlies that give Venom Valley its name, aren’t the only things to be scared of in this haunted and dangerous place. There are things with far more bite to them that come out in the dark to play, and the two men encounter each and every one in their mission to escape the hangman’s noose, locate Balthazar, and save their town from a fate worse than death.
But Balthazar, oh, you better believe he has other plans for our heroes, plans that will be revealed in the next installment in the series. At least, I hope so.
Yes, Hank Edwards leaves the reader suspended on the edge of a cliff, dangling precariously by the fingertips over the little Venom Valley of horrors, waiting to learn the fate of our heroes. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Cowboys & Vampires is step one of what promises to be a thrilling adventure. I, for one, am more than ready for step two.
Check out the terrific guest post HERE to learn a little bit more about this fantastical place that Hank built.