They Built a Gallows for You and Me

They Built a Gallows for You and Me by Cody Higgins

“Was the threat of death all we needed to die?”When smiles act like monsters in the dark who are pretending to be friendly, it’s hard to know where to put your trust.As a mysterious sickness starts killing the children in the town of Salinas, the townsfolk find themselves distraught and searching for answers.A new family in town seemed to bring forth the illness. Did they bring it with them? Are they causing it to happen? Or did the family stumble into something dark and sinister, something with witchcraft on its lips?

The IndieMuse Review

This is the tenth book in the Splatter Western line from Death’s Head Press and, by all accounts, the series has been a massive success. The publisher doesn’t seem content to rest on their laurels however, as book nine (The Shadow of the Vulture) offered a more serious tone and grounded take than what came before it and, with the recent release of book ten, Cody Higgins has delivered the most unique and distinctive entry to date.

When a new family arrives at the town of Salinas, looking to settle down, their arrival coincides with a terrible sickness that sweeps the population, taking their children from them. As the townsfolk begin to suspect this family may be responsible, and suggestions of a much darker evil living in the forest outside of town make themselves known, things come to a head in the poetic and chilling new entry in this popular series.

This will no doubt prove to be a divisive release, as the book has such a lyrical and oftentimes indecipherable prose style that people coming expecting more of the fast paced, fun times the series has excelled in to date, will be left with something that defies both expectation and description. The book (the shortest of the series to date at a mere 71 pages) reads like a dreamlike, novella-length poem and I think readers wanting things like story, character arcs or any kind of typical reading experience will be left wanting. Even the ‘Splatter’ and ‘Western’ elements of the book are questionable, the former being present but suggestive as opposed to explicit and the books old west setting seems present because it needs to be, rather than because it fits.

I struggled a great deal with this book but the more I read the more I found that my frustration lay with the fact I was trying to enjoy it as a narrative, to engage with the characters and get a feel for where the story was going. I enjoyed the book far more when I just read, without expectation or preconceived notions of what I should be getting out of it. In the right frame of mind I found the experience very evocative and ethereal. It reads like a fever dream, evoking a general sense of unease, or dread, coming back to broad musings on big themes and keeping maddeningly distant from anything concrete to focus on.

Read as an experience as opposed to a story, allowing the mood and cadence of the writing inform the forward momentum as opposed to actual narrative drive, then They Built a Gallows For You and Me is a big success, as I’ve never read anything quite like it before. It is a challenging but ultimately fascinating book, and hats off to Death’s Head Press for publishing something so different and unexpected ten books into their already successful series. It may not have been the book I wanted it to be, but I appreciate the boldness of something so unlike anything that came before it and I’m left genuinely excited by the endless possibilities of what may come next.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised 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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