A Savage Breed: Patrick C. Harrison III
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Great cover – check!
Interesting splatter Western premise – check!
So what does Patrick C Harrison III have in store for us with A Savage Breed, the 6th in Death’s Head Press’ series?
Well, this one starts with a slow burn, introducing you over several chapters to a bunch of dirtbag outlaws as they escape execution only to find more death on the trail, and on their trail…after which things take a suitably savage turn into the supernatural.
During the first third, the scene is set for bright bursts of ketchup-red bloodshed and the odd bit of tongue in cheek humour (you’ll never look at an anthill in the same way, trust me), after which the narrative takes a more serious turn, giving those who’ve been wronged a chance to express themselves before going back to the gang on the run. This gives a nice contrast, as the outlaws flail around trying to make sense of the weirdness, while those out for revenge reveal their motivations as well as some lore about the creatures lurking in the dark.
There is a bit of a lull partway through where the author drops in an excerpt from a (presumably fictional) non-fiction piece, further explaining the mysterious force which terrorises the no-good bandits. It comes at a point where it feels like it would’ve made more sense to have a particular character tell you about the creature’s history. Putting these few pages in pulls you right out of the action, which is a bit of a shame.
Fortunately, you’re right back into the thick of it afterwards, with plenty of gunslinging to go around, as well as some swooping creature attacks that bring to mind the old stalwart of 80’s horror, where the camera would woosh down towards a screaming victim. The final third descends into full-on B movie goodness, with characters being torn to pieces by monsters of the humankind too. There’s even a dash of cannibalism for good measure.
As fun as the book is, I did have an issue with the way the story skips around a bit erratically between different sets of people for a while. Things focus up a lot more in the final third, but before that, some characters are pushed to the background completely, to the point where their return was a jarring surprise. There’s also some period-accurate but still cringe-worthy racist language peppered into the dialogue, which I could have done without.
In summary, if you like your characters morally questionable, and your horror bloody in a Technicolour kind of way, you’ll have a good time with this one.
A Savage Breed
A ruthless band of outlaws makes good their escape from execution.
A mountain man seeks justice following the grisly murders of his wife and daughter.
A sharp-tongued teenager flees her newly widowed mother in search of adventure.
Amongst the eerie peaks and crevices of the Wichita Mountains, this assembly of pariahs converge.
But it isn’t just each other they need be concerned about, because there’s more than frigid winds in the skies over Indian Country.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.