Epeolatry Book Review: Hot Iron and Cold Blood, An Anthology of the Weird West, ed. Patrick R. McDonough


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Title: Hot Iron and Cold Blood: An Anthology of the Weird West
Author: Various
Editor: Patrick R. McDonough
Genre: Splatter Western
Publisher: Death’s Head Press
Release Date: 26th September, 2023

Synopsis: Desperados and yellow-bellies be warned: These ain’t your typical westerns … Herein find legendary masters of anomalous Western and Horror stories— along with a posse of budding word-slingers— who all bring you an electrifying and frightening collection of extraordinary tales set in the Old West and beyond…Within these pages, the improbable is made real: cowboys encounter a chimeric critter of the night; dinosaurs return as massive poltergeists; Chinese railroad workers are haunted by invisible frights; outlaws experience Cronenbergian body-horror; fallen-light stalks mother and daughter upon a wintry prairie; a headless horseman roams the badlands; otherworldly creatures hunt within our domain; screaming spectral birds nest within the damned; and gunslinging women with murderous skills annihilate foolish notions of a man’ s world. These are just a handful of the offerings in this body of macabre lore. So, mount your saddlehorse and join this gang of rogue authors for a ride down dark trails of terror and unsettling thoroughfares that lead deep into strange, nightmarish territory. Here you gallop through places where law has no dominion and Death constantly deals a grim hand— and where the iron is red-hot and the blood drips ice-cold. Featuring stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Edward Lee, David J. Schow, Jill Girardi, R.J. Jackson, Vivian Kasley, Owl Goingback, Kenzie Jennings, Jeff Strand, Wile E. Young, and more. Edited by Patrick R. McDonough with an Introduction by R.J. Joseph

Wow, just wow! Loved this anthology! I’ve never read splatter westerns before, so I had to get past the gross factor in some of the stories, ha ha. But that being said, I was extremely impressed with the writing and especially the attention to detail in relation to the old west. I enjoyed all the stories, but I did have a few favorites.

First up to bat is Jill Girardi with her story, “Ruthless”. It’s an edgy tale involving betrayal and ancient native American legends. Jill Girardi’s writing is always polished, and she gave an exciting thrill ride. “Ruthless” does not disappoint! It’s obvious that she thoroughly researched Texas landmarks and Comanche history. I live near the Trinity River, and I could imagine these intrepid adventurers riding along its banks so long ago. 

“About Her Given Name” by Kenzie Jennings is another great tale. What’s not to love about a badass, mysterious woman in red?

“The Night of El Maldito” by Ronald Kelly is not your typical cow mutilation story. Is it a werewolf? Well, you have to read it to find out. Very creative twist in this one.

“It Calls” by Patrick R. McDonough was my absolute favorite! A strange light, a woman trying to survive alone in a snowy wilderness. Tentacles… alien? Leviathan? Who knows? This one has movie potential.

“Old Habits” by L.M. Labat is not your typical father and son adventure. A young man struggles with his father’s disapproval of him, but does he really need the approval from his ruthless father? There is a ghost in this one. I love me some ghosts.

“Hungry” by Jesse Allen Champion is a well-researched flashback to the lives of Chinese railroad workers in the old west. A lot of history in this exciting story.

“The Redheaded Dead” by Joe R. Lansdale contains one of my favorite themes in horror. The main character is a wandering reverend on a mission from God, or so he believes. You have to read it to find out what he’s up to. You won’t be disappointed.

Honorable mention to “The Deviltry of Elemental Valence” by Edward Lee. This story was really well written and contained elements I love, such as bouncing around in time and old gods/aliens? It was a little too high on the gross meter for me, but for splatterpunk fans it’s probably fine. This is another story that has movie potential, in my opinion.

All the tales in this anthology were well chosen and fun to read! I highly recommend this anthology to anyone who loves horror, the old west, and a bit of splatter. 


Available here: Amazon and Bookshop.

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