I have recently taken a keen liking to the western genre. It started out with randomly deciding to watch the Spaghetti Westerns directed by Lucio Fulci, and has continued with me watching countless cinematic adventures of cowboys and indians, outlaws and lawmen, and whatever else the rugged terrain of the lawless West circa 1880 had to offer. I have even started reading Western novels by such classic writers as Louis L’Amour and William Johnstone. While scrolling through social media one day something caught my eye: an upcoming novel, dubbed a Splatter Western, which combined my love for the West with my love for gore-soaked extreme horror literature. Thankfully in these tumultuous times I was able to have a copy delivered to my door in record time
The Magpie Coffin follows the exploits of a man called Salem Covington (also known as the Black Magpie). Now Salem isn’t any ordinary feller; he is an outlaw occultist who cannot be killed by an ordinary bullet. With spiritual training from a Native shaman called Dead Bear, Salem has learned how to do various rituals and magic, all the while collecting stories and artifacts from those unfortunate souls he claims as his victims. One day Dead Bear is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs, and Salem vows vengeance. He takes a young army scout under his wings (rather forceably) to assist him in his lust for revenge. With the body of his teacher kept in a coffin behind his wagon, the Black Magpie goes through the and killing and collecting to avenge Dead Bear’s murder.
There was just so much here to like about Wile E. Young’s splatter western. The narrative moved forward with an excellent pace, and the character development was top notch. Seeing the relationship between Salem and his helper evolve over time was excellent, as you get to see Salem soften up just a tad toward the young man. The violence is relentless, and as gore-soaked as you’d expect from the splatter genre. Young did an incredibly job of taking two distinct literary genres and fusing them together in a completely effective, haunting, sickening, work. The kind of vomit inducing savagery from which it will be difficult to remove your eyes.
I must admit, I was giddy when I read the back of the book before I even ordered it. This piece of literary fiction was an amalgamation of things I hold near and dear, namely cowboy adventure and extreme violence, peppered with some elements of the supernatural and the occult. Author Wile E. Young was able to take those elements and craft a spellbinding narrative that allowed me to finish the novel in only two sittings. The best thing about The Black Magpie is that it excels at being both a Western novel, and a horror novel. Western fans with no interest in horror literature can still enjoy it, and horror fans who aren’t chomping at the bit for Western adventure can love it just as much. When I was finished I wanted to read more, which is good news, because this is actually the first novel in a planned series. I can’t recommend this novel enough.
Oh, it also has one of the coolest damn covers I have ever seen.