Subterranean Press, out now
Vampire Trevor Lawson and his new partner agree to bring a wayward son home – but find themselves facing far more than just the boy’s criminal partners…
If you’ve not met Trevor Lawson, then seek out Robert McCammon’s first novella featuring the former Civil War soldier who was turned on the battlefield and now struggles to keep his humanity alive. (There’s a comprehensive summary of that first book at the start of this as a reminder.) He’s a complicated character, as you might expect from McCammon, at war not just with others of his kind, but with his own cravings – and when he’s helping to bring a mortally wounded girl to hospital, the lure of blood could become overwhelming at any time…
McCammon has shown with his excellent Matthew Corbett novels that he can evoke the feel of a historical period by appealing to all the reader’s senses, and that applies even more so in this, where Lawson’s own senses are magnified thanks to his condition. I’d love to read a “straight” Western from his pen – the sequences in the bar at Perdition take the clichés of the period and play with them cleverly – or indeed more from the Civil War itself.
The third act of the tale takes place on the eponymous train as Lawson and his partner Annie bring the boy, Eric, back, along with various outlaws and the injured girl. The tension reminded me of two of my favourite such stories – Wilbur Smith’s bleak The Dark of the Sun (filmed pretty accurately as The Mercenaries), and Alistair MacLean’s Breakheart Pass (filmed pretty inaccurately with Charles Bronson in the lead). As in those, McCammon captures the claustrophobia of the setting and the vulnerability to outside attack – made worse in this instance by the nature of the attackers.
The book sets up some intriguing possibilities for the future of the series – and I, for one, can’t wait to see how Lawson deals with what he learns here, and how Annie copes with what she has to do.
Verdict: Another excellent period horror piece. 9/10