The list of A-List horror authors who have contributed to the consistently excellent Splatter Western series continues to grow and, eleven books in, had you asked me to pick one author who is notable for their absence on that roster, it would have been Kristopher Rufty. His Laymon-esque Splatterpunk novels, such as ‘A Dark Autumn’ and ‘Prank Night’, are gleefully entertaining, full-on horror fun and he’s no stranger to iconic and memorable characters, as demonstrated by his ‘Lurkers’ and ‘Pillowface’ series. His style of over-the-top, fast-paced, and bloody fiction could not be better suited to a Splatter Western and it’s no surprise that he has turned out a great one with ‘The Devoured and the Dead’.

When a group of families makes the decision to relocate from their remote, mountainous homes to the more prosperous town of Harvest Hill, in the hopes of capitalizing on a recent gold rush, the journey proves to be more treacherous than they initially anticipated. An unexpected and unprecedented snowstorm hits the group as they are traveling through the forest, leaving them cut off and stranded, days away from safety and salvation.

The Devoured and the Dead by Kristopher Rufty book cover

As some leave to seek out help, leaving their wife and children behind with limited supplies and even less protection, their fate seems bleak. Little do they know that this is only the beginning, as their desperation and will to survive takes them to dark places, and draws the attention of something far worse.

One thing that Rufty has always excelled at is well developed, likable characters and with ‘The Devoured and the Dead’ boasting such a sprawling cast, a lesser author may get lost in the sheer volume of different vices and personalities they are juggling.

Not so here. Everyone gets their moment to shine and every single one feels distinct without becoming a caricature or stock character. The story itself is narrated by William ‘Billy’ Coburn, an eleven-year-old boy who is part of one of the families traveling to Harvest Hill. Billy goes on quite a journey (both literal and in terms of his growth as a person) from the opening chapter to its final pages and its gratifying to see such care taken to make the stakes matter by making us connect with the characters as opposed to relying on shock value to connect with its readers.

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There is plenty of shock value to be had though (this is a Splatter Western after all) and even the opening sentence (only four words) really sets the scene for what readers are in for.

A big cast means a potentially big body count and you will not leave disappointed if that is why you have picked up this book. It is grotesque, very bloody and sometimes shocking, and absolutely meets the standard you have come to expect from this series. The bleak and barren setting really help amplify the horror as well, exuding a feeling of menace and claustrophobia and serving as a catalyst for some truly appalling scenes.

There are few Splatterpunk writers who can boast the level of consistency that Kristopher Rufty can, and ‘The Devoured and the Dead’ is the latest in a long line of fantastically entertaining, blood-drenched horror fiction. If the Splatter Western series has served as your introduction to his work I urge you to take this opportunity to visit some of his back catalogs. Once you do, you’ll realize just why it is no surprise, as a fan of his work, why his ability to deliver a stellar installment to this line was never in doubt.   

Richard Martin

Richard Martin

Reviewer

Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books. 

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