Alex Grecian’s RED RABBIT turned out to be one of my favorite horror reads during an explosive year for quality horror.
The publisher synopsis promises a tale of a posse hunting a woman wanted for practicing witchcraft in the Old West. I love horror and I love Westerns, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I ended up reading a story that was far richer and more imaginative than the simple tale I expected.
The novel mostly focuses on a widowed schoolteacher who connects with two cowboys and a witch hunter named Old Tom, who is en route to a small town to collect the bounty for killing a local witch. Together with a mute child named Rabbit, they all set out for the town, only to run into numerous obstacles in what is a somewhat meandering and quite episodic plot; the Old West, it seems, is a dangerous place and very haunted.
I loved the imaginative integration of so many horror elements into the Western genre. Demons, witches, ghosts, cannibals, and other horror elements are expertly woven by Grecian into the story as a kind of haunted Americana, and very convincingly too, providing an alternate history of sorts where monsters are real and just another hazard in the American landscape. Part of the charm is each is given an interesting back story or folkore-ish element. The demon in particular is very well done, as is the “hunter.” The horror elements really shine. They’re super well done, and they make the story surprising and feel driven by its own odd logic.
On the downside, there are a lot of characters, and we never really get too deep into any one of them, making it difficult to really empathize all that much. That may bother some readers. As each character was otherwise very well drawn and interesting, I personally didn’t mind it; I found them all quite memorable, and the emotional distance I wound up feeling from them didn’t bother me, as there was so much other stuff going on that kept me turning pages.
Overall, RED RABBIT is a solid Western and a terrific horror novel. Recommended for fans of both looking for something different.