A finalist for the 2017 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.
An addictive Western literary horror for fans of Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, and Anne Rice.
One night in 1980, a man becomes a monster.
Haunted by his past, Travis Stillwell spends his nights searching out women in West Texas honky-tonks. What he does with them doesn’t make him proud, just quiets the demons for a little while. But after Travis crosses paths one night with a mysterious pale-skinned girl, he wakes weak and bloodied in his cabover camper the next morning—with no sign of a girl, no memory of the night before.
When motel-owner Annabelle Gaskin offers the cowboy a few odd jobs to pay his board, he takes her up on the offer. By day, he mends the old motel, insinuating himself into the lives of Annabelle and her ten-year-old son. By night, in the cave of his camper, he fights an unspeakable hunger. Before long, Annabelle and her boy come to realize that Travis is not what he seems.
Half a state away, a grizzled Texas Ranger is hunting Travis for his past misdeeds, but what he finds will lead him to a revelation far more monstrous. A man of the law, he’ll have to decide how far into the darkness he’ll go for the sake of justice.
When these lives converge on a dusty autumn night, an old evil will find new life—and new blood.
Thanks to the publisher and author for a copy of In The Valley of the Sun in exchange for an honest review. Receiving a copy of the novel did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
A bit long overdue is my review of Andy Davidson’s debut novel. I actually had the opportunity to meet him at an author event called ‘Noir at the Bar’ here in Birmingham, AL back in November and also had him on my ‘Authors on a Podcast Talking Books’ podcast a little over a week ago. To say these instances sort of sparked my instantaneous need and craving to read this novel doesn’t really equate. Having said that, I will be keeping this review rather short and succinct as anything extra could lead to immediate spoilers.
In the Valley of the Sun is one of those novels that sinks its teeth in early and often, draining of you any and all emotions by the turn of the final page. The fact that this is Davidson’s debut is beyond comprehension as it has some of the finest writing I have ever come across. If this is any indication of what we can come to expect from the author in the future, the horror community and those on the cusp will be clamoring to get their claws on his novels.
What really grabs you is the Prologue chapter, introducing you Travis Stillwell on the evening he meets the mysterious pale-skinned girl. The prose alone in that chapter was enough to enrapture me, but to see it continued throughout the rest of the novel with deft fluidity allowed me to be utterly engrossed. It is poetic yet terrifying in its grace; a snake in the weeds winding itself along, waiting for the perfect time to strike.
I enjoyed how Davidson tells the story as a “present-day” narrative, but also gives us glimpses into the backstories of the characters. It allows the reader to find those hidden puzzle pieces into how these behaviors manifested, but also as intriguing road maps across the storylines.
In the Valley of the Sun may be one of the best debuts I have ever come across. If you are a horror junkie, or enjoy novels by the likes of Cormac McCarthy or Joe Landsdale, this is a perfect addition to your collection.