One of the best things about my job is the opportunity to read books I might otherwise never come across. Recently, I had the privilege of reading Clark Casey’s paranormal Western Dawn in Damnation. I enjoyed the book, so I furthered my goal of supporting indie authors by asking him for an interview!
ABOUT THE BOOK
WELCOME TO DAMNATION . . .
where every living soul is as dead as a doornail. Except one.
Buddy Baker is a dead man. Literally. After gunning down more men than Billy the Kid—and being hung by a rope necktie for his crimes—the jolly, fast-drawing fugitive reckoned he’d earned himself a nonstop ticket to hell. Instead, he finds himself in Damnation: a gun-slinging ghost town located somewhere between heaven and hell.
There are no laws in Damnation. Only two simple rules: If you get shot, you go directly to hell. If you stay alive without shooting anyone for one year, you just might get into heaven.
Hardened outlaws pass the time in the saloon playing poker and wagering on who will get sent to hell next, while trying not to anger the town’s reclusive vampire or the quarrelsome werewolves. Buddy winds up in everyone’s crosshairs after swearing to protect a pretty gal who arrives in Damnation pregnant. Her child might end up a warm-blooded meal for the supernatural residents, or it could be a demon spawn on a mission to destroy them all.
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Westerns aren’t a genre that is considered “popular” these days. What inspired you to dive into it anyway?
As a boy from Queens, I was more likely to play cops and robbers than cowboys and Indians, but I became a big fan of the HBO series Deadwood. Then a friend introduced me to the Robert B. Parker Appaloosa books. I had been writing literary fiction, and I wanted to try my hand at something more fast-paced with a lot of dialogue and the occasional gunfight. After the popularity of True Blood and Twilight, I figured adding a vampire and some werewolves might be interesting. I set the story in the afterlife because of my preoccupation with death.
Dawn in Damnation has a ton of fun, unique characters. Which was your favorite to write, and why?
I enjoy writing the back-and-forth banter of saloons. I also enjoy researching odd, yet plausible, back-stories. Tom, the narrator, was to fun to write because he gets to interview all the dead outlaws for the local paper, The Crapper, to find how they died. Then he reports on how they eventually leave Damnation when they are presumably sent to hell.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned about the “Old West” while doing research for this book?
I learned that John Wesley Hardin was arguably the deadliest gunfighter in the West with the most kills credited to him. Some claim that he killed upwards of 40 people, even though he spent 17 years in prison, where he studied law and religion. When he was released from jail, he shot a man who was lying in the sun just to win a bet. When I read that, I knew I had to make him a character.
Will the cliffhanger at the end of the book be resolved in the sequel, or are you planning an entire series around the town of Damnation?
There is a resolution to the cliffhanger from the first book in the sequel, Dead Indian Wars (which will be published by Kensington’s Lyrical Press on May 29, 2018), but the series will continue with some new mysteries in the town of Damnation.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m writing a satire of a Western novel set in a California mining town that had seceded from the United States during the Gold Rush. No supernatural elements in this one. Maybe after that I’ll return to a book that I’ve been working on for several years, which doesn’t have cowboys or vampires in it, just an ancient Mongolian prophet with a drinking problem.
And finally, leave us with a short excerpt to show why people should check out Dawn in Damnation!
“What happened?” asked the young man with a nickel-sized bullet hole in his temple.
“Well, what’s the last thing you remember?” I asked him.
“Was playin’ cards with some cowpuncher. Drew a flush, and he ’cused me a cheatin’. So I reached for my Colt. Reckon he did the same.”
“My guess is he was faster.”
The newbie had that stunned look they all got in their eyes when they first arrived. He was hardly old enough to grow a proper beard. Just another cowpoke born in a shitty little town who’d rustled some steer, made it with a few whores, then died over a two-dollar pot.
“So’s this hell?” His voice quavered. Probably already browned his britches with fear shit.
“Not quite,” I told him.
“Purgatory then?” He tried to put on a brave face.
“Kinda… the opposite, ’spose you could say.”
“Well, imagine if you was like a stone in a creek bed. After you die, a panhandler scoops you up with a bunch of other muck and runs you through his sifter. All the stuff that falls through goes straight to hell. The rest gotta be cleaned off to see if it’s worth keeping. So you might say you’re just here till the panhandler finds out whether or not you got any shine to ya.”
“Is this hell’s sifter?”
“Folks call it Damnation.”
“Who’s the panhandler?” he asked, “God?”
“Dunno.” I shrugged.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clark Casey is the author of Dawn in Damnation and Dead Indian Wars, as well as the novellas The Jesus Fish and Slaughter Bird, The Perfect Defective, and Pale Male and the Infertile Girl. He was born in New York and currently resides in Northern California.