The Splatter Western series by Death’s Head Press has become something of a phenomenon in the indie horror community. It seems everyone is reading them and the upcoming slate for future releases reads like a who’s who of modern horror fiction. It is way past due, therefore, for me to go back to where it all began, with book one: The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young.
Salem Covington is a wanted man. Nicknamed “The Black Magpie,” he is infamous for his bloody exploits. Rumor has it that he cannot be killed by a gun and, when a gang attacks and kills his mentor, they soon find out that there may be more truth to these rumors than they ever thought.
On a mission of vengeance, Salem has vowed to hunt down and kill everyone responsible for his mentor’s death and he does not intend to let them die easy. After making a pact with the devil himself, The Black Magpie has souls to collect and god help anyone who gets in his way.
What I enjoyed the most about The Magpie Coffin was how gloriously unlikeable and downright despicable the protagonist was. Salem Covington does a lot of evil and unforgivable things throughout this novel and there is a great deal more that is hinted at as his backstory is gradually revealed. The Magpie Coffin isn’t about the character’s redemption, nor is the character particularly interested in earning any, and it was an absolute blast to be dragged kicking and screaming through this story by such a reprehensible lead.
When the reader is supposed to root for a protagonist who is as morally corrupt as Salem, you need some villains who are even worse and The Magpie Coffin has some truly memorable ones. This book wears the Splatter in the Splatter Western like a badge of honor, whether that be from the violent, bloody acts of the men that Salem is hunting, or the brutal ends they suffer at his hands, this is a gore-drenched book with some gleefully inventive carnage and mayhem. It never crosses the line into overly grim, maintaining a perfect balance between keeping the stakes serious enough to be invested, but keeping proceedings suitably fun and over the top.
There was so much in this book that it felt surprisingly epic for a relatively short (210 pages) novel. Young offers up lots of hints and suggestions at a much wider story, with intriguing premises for either prequels or sequels tantalizingly opened but never promised. It is the mark of a great book when you’re sad to leave it behind and crave more of the same.
The Magpie Coffin serves as both an epic beginning to a consistently great series, while acting as an incredibly high standard to which all future Splatter Westerns will be measured. It is no surprise that Death’s Head Press has such a hit on their hands when the quality is this high.
The Magpie Coffin by Wile E. Young
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
DescriptionThe year is 1875 and outlaw Salem Covington has spent the last twenty years collecting stories, possessions, and lives. Nicknamed “The Black Magpie” for his exploits during the war, Salem has carved a bloody trail across the western territories. Informed that his mentor, Comanche shaman Dead Bear, has been murdered. Salem vows vengeance on the perpetrators. Enlisting the help of an army scout and preserving the body of his mentor in a specially made coffin, he sets out in pursuit. But the choices of Salem’s past that earned him the moniker “Black Magpie” are riding hard behind him and the only weapon that can kill him might not be as far away as he thinks. The Magpie Coffin is an unrelenting tale of revenge, with precise brutality and extreme violence.