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What is western gothic? (Hint: Longmire meets Preacher)

Western Gothic is a style of fiction that transplants the moody, death-obsessed themes of classic Gothic fiction (think Castle of Otranto or, of course, Dracula) to the wide open, inspiring vistas of the modern west (Riders of the Purple Sage or All the Pretty Horses). We’re pretty sure we invented the genre with the first book in 1999 of The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection, a series set in the modern west and featuring sexy, brooding vampires bent on world domination.

The books — and all subsequent books in the Western Gothic genre — exist in the negative space between dark and light. Gothic fiction uses the darkness — the creepy atmosphere, curious, obsessive behavior and morbid thoughts — to focus on the light, providing the perfect backdrop to illuminate the best in people: the desire to overcome death, to hope and to love. Westerns, ironically, use the light to set off the dark, weaving stories of good men pushed to the limits by the cruelty and avarice of others (usually tyrannical land owners) or the blind apathy of nature. Our books live in the borderlands between the two worlds, a forever twilight of gray nights and last sunsets.

We love writing in the Western Gothic genre. Not only do we get to explore huge, archetypal themes about human consciousness, love and death, and more, we get to move our characters across stunning natural landscapes with deconstructed shootouts and heart-pounding action. Add in the quirky humor natural to small towns and a long-suffering cowdog with the soul of a poet — and some pretty steamy undead erotica — and we think it makes for an unforgettable reading experience whatever the label (hint: it’s Western Gothic).

Why Western Gothic isn’t the same as Weird West

Searching for Western Gothic returns a bunch of scattered results and a re-direct to Wikipedia’s entry for Weird Westerns. Weird Westerns are not the same as Western Gothic, which, once again, we probably invented and definitely should have trademarked. By contrast, the Weird Western genre has existed for decades, and is probably most often associated with the golden age of pulp paperbacks. Weird Westerns may have reached their apogee with the spooky Jonah Hex comics of the 1970s, but Western Steampunk is a more recent energetic offspring and heir to the crown. Not to dismiss a popular genre, but the West was probably always weird — it took two writers, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, to make it Gothic.

This article first appeared in Parayournormal book blog