Welcome to the world of the horror western.
Anyone who hasn’t tried this genre mash-up before should be pleased to know that the two themes mix extremely well. There’s something about the dusty town, with its saloons and gunslingers that blend naturally with horror. Then again, I think a lot of that is down to the flexibility of horror in general and in truth, horror can be woven into any other genre or timeline. After all, horror is everywhere, and people will always be scared by something.
Either way, The Navajo Nightmare is a mixture of horror and western that fulfils its task of blending the two themes with a compelling story.
The book is split into two parts. The first one, written by Sodergren, tells of a man named Charles. A man with a violent past which he decided to try and put aside in order to settle down with a family. For a while, he succeeds, but the thing about the past is that sooner or later, someone will dig it up. For Charles, that comes in the form of a gang that threatens his family. Five men, strangers that will change his life forever.
In a tale that reminded me of the origin story of The Saint of Killers from the Preacher comics, Charles heads out on a trail of vengeance that leads to a deal with something, or someone, that may or may not be the devil. A deal that leaves Charles forever changed. A deal that leaves him only as The Navajo Nightmare.
The second half, written by Stred, follows a man named Lester who has been hired to kill The Nightmare. Lester has his own ghosts that haunt him, as do most of his small posse. This group of interesting individuals also includes Linda St James, the woman who hired Tanner for the task of getting rid of The Nightmare once and for all. However, that mission might not be so easy. As the group slowly head toward their confrontation, they are, in turn, being hunted, physically as well as mentally. As we learn of their past and what haunts them, they draw ever closer to Nightmare and find out that killing him might not be a straightforward task.
To sum this book up would be to say that I loved every minute of it. Reading it was addictive, the words on the page proving to give a drug-like dependency that I just had to keep sampling. Initially, I started the book, reading it during a lull in a usually busy workday, and before I knew it, I’d finished the first half without stopping. It was that engrossing. I forced myself to put it down to take a halfway break and complete the rest once I got home. I managed to do that, but the story was always on my mind. I couldn’t wait to get back into it again.
You might be thinking that I’m getting a little carried away by saying that the book was addictive, but the same thing happened when I started on the second part. I intended to read a little bit before I fell asleep and, instead, ended up finishing that part in one sitting as well.
Even now, as I write this review, I want to read it again, or at the very least, share it with others. Another reason why I paused in my reading at the halfway point was that I wanted to pause between separate authors, just in case the switch felt jarring and out of place, but I needn’t have worried.
The two halves, each with their individual style, are perfectly suited to one another, blending almost seamlessly.
Having the story told from two perspectives, by two authors, just worked, each part complementing the other. Whether Sodergren and Stred achieved this through careful editing, or their writing naturally suits one another, I don’t know. I’m inclined to say it’s a bit of both. What makes that doubly surprising is that you’ve got two authors working on the same project from two different continents. Stred writing from Canada, Sodergren from Scotland - although given all the similarities of snow and their northern locations from other, more, let’s say boisterous countries, perhaps it wasn’t that different.
I’ve read some of Stred’s work before; in fact, you can find my review of his title The One Who Knows No Fear, here on the site. In addition, I’ve recently read, but not reviewed yet, his excellent The Window in the Ground - which had a similar page-turning addictiveness to it - and his recent sci-fi title, The Future in The Sky. I have another work of his (Ritual) sitting in my kindle library that I need to get around to reading at some point too.
The problem is, I have A lot of titles waiting for me to read them, but I will do my best to read it this year.
The other thing that might slow that process is David Sodergren. Not personally, obviously. I very much doubt he’s going to make the 7 hour drive down from Scotland just to slap my kindle out of my hand - but with this being my first time reading any of his work, I now need to experience more. I enjoyed his part of the story so much, that I’m going to be seeking out his other books too.
Also worth noting is the eye-catching cover to The Navajo Nightmare, which was made by Sodergren.
He’s also included his ‘writing playlist’ in the afterword, which I am listening to whilst writing this review, so if you like spaghetti westerns, I suggest you give them a listen.
If I had to level any criticism, it would be that nearly all of the characters had some dark event in their past, but to be honest, that didn’t bother me, although the similarity was noticeable and may irk some readers.
Other than that, I had a blast.
If you like horror, then give this a read. Even if you’re not a fan of the Western genre, it’s still worth trying just for how well written and entertaining it is. Hell, if you like Westerns but aren’t that into horror, give it a go, as it mixes both genres perfectly.