cover image Portlandtown


Rob DeBorde. St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-00664-6

Cookbook author DeBorde’s suspenseful and energetic fiction debut, a horror–western set in a vividly depicted 1887 Pacific Northwest, revitalizes pulp tropes with evocative imagery and a character-driven story. After retired marshal Jim Kleberg is discovered digging up graves in search of a man whose name he has forgotten, he reluctantly goes to Portland, Ore., to live with his daughter, Katie, who has a talent for hiding; his son-in-law, Joseph, a blind man with otherworldly senses; and their two clever children. Meanwhile, local outcast Henry Macke resurrects the corpse of the “Hanged Man” as a zombie who goes searching for a demonic gun and vengeance against the befuddled Jim. Soon the marshal’s family is battling an onslaught of zombies with the help of Faustian antihero Andre Labeau, an occultist seeking redemption. Deborde crafts an exhilarating hybrid of grit, guts, dusty cowpokes, and rotting flesh, honoring genre conventions without succumbing to cliché and anchoring black magic in realistic contexts of politics and family dynamics. The only flaw is a “surprise” ending that screams for sequels. (Oct.)