Best horror books–a review of West of Dead

West of Dead - cover - Best horror booksWe all have a list of our preferred authors. So it’s quite natural that when we’re searching for something new to read we turn first to such authors. We already know and love their works, so chances are we’re going to enjoy the next book they’re going to publish. This is also why the lists of best horror books often cite over and over always the same names. They are, to some extent at least, a guarantee.

However this relying so heavily on the already known and tested authors prevents us from discovering the new interesting ones. Authors who, if given a chance, could turn out to be just as good as the most famous ones.

My kindle is like the belly of a whale

More than two years ago I downloaded a book from an indie author I didn’t know. Though it’s not unusual for me to try new authors, I must say I downloaded the book essentially for two reasons.

The first was that back then it was free. This can be an important reason, especially if you happen to read three or more books a week. But given that I’m a slow reader and stop often to underline passages and take notes, I rarely read more than four or five books a month, consequently in my case a price tag of zero was only a small part of the whole picture.

The main reason I decided to download the book was, quite simply, that after having read a few pages of the sample I decided the author knew quite well how to turn a phrase.

At the time I was already reading a couple of other books, so I decided to wait a bit and start West of Dead by Eric Bahle only once I had finished them. But by that time, for some inexplicable reason the book had disappeared from my kindle and I sort of forgot about its very existence.

This till a couple of weeks ago, when the book reemerged from oblivion and showed itself on the first page of my kindle. It took me just a second to remember what it was I was looking at. And just a second more to open it and start reading it.

As they say, better late than never…

What I liked

I don’t particularly love long descriptions of characters. I don’t want to know what they are wearing and if their hair is straight or curly. I mean, unless such details are important to the story.

Eric Bahle‘s approach to descriptions suits me perfectly. He doesn’t linger on them. But the ones he focuses on work quite well. I would say they’re functional, in that they don’t force the story to a halt to describe someone’s hat just for the sake of it.

Another aspect I liked was that the characters were absolutely believable. They weren’t at all like those bi-dimensional stereotypes going about like wind-up toys you encounter from time to time–also in books by quite well-known writers.  On the contrary, they seemed having a lot of inner and contrasting emotions.

I had never read horror stories set in the old wild west. At first I was a bit dubious about the effectiveness of such a setting. But the author managed to dispel my reservations in the space of few pages. The sense of the place is well conveyed, again, without having to recur to lengthy descriptions. In fact, intelligently Bahle focuses on few telling details and some well chosen linguistic choices on part of his characters.

What I liked less

Typos. I spotted only some of them, not exactly a large number. But given the overall quality of the story it would be great if the pages were as clean as possible. This to allow readers to barrel through the story with no impediment of sort. In any case, be aware that since I downloaded the book they might have been corrected.

The boy at the beginning piqued my curiosity, but then he disappeared from the story. Given this is the first book in a series he might reappear later. In any case, I readily admit that more than a complaint this is a remark on the notable potential the relationship between Caine and the boy seems to hold.

Nathaniel Caine, the main character, doesn’t change that much. For sure, he’s an interesting character, and well fleshed out. But we knows next to nothing about him and at the end we feel he’s still a bit of a mystery.


I quite enjoyed reading West of Dead. Eric Bahle is a fine writer who can bring you into his own stories in just a few pages.

Overall, I would say that West of Dead is a clever first book that could sit comfortably in any best horror books list. In fact, the book is not particularly long, but the story, though quite linear, presents readers with a proper ending. In short, it’s not at all just a sort of introduction. As a result I think readers would end it wanting for more, and surely not seething with frustration and disappointment.

West of dead

Story:              ****

Pace:                *****

Setting:           *****

Characters:    ****

Style:               ****


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