In the Valley of the Sun: A Novel by Andy Davidson
Skyhorse Publishing, 2017
Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, audiobook
In the Valley of the Sun is Andy Davidson’s first novel. It walks a thin line between the genres of Southern Gothic and classic Western. Andy Davidson has a gift for building atmosphere; at times, West Texas drips off the page like humid air. The world is made vivid: you can picture the rust of the trucks, the stress on the sheriff’s belt, and the smells of the badlands. There are plenty of grim settings, balanced by gorgeous prose.
It is absolutely a monster novel. The story kicks off with the main character, Travis, waking up covered in blood. While is isn’t immediately clear, once the reader realizes what’s happening, the story takes on a dangerous, otherworldly edge. While the word “vampire” is never specifically mentioned, as the story progresses, there is no doubt what monsters we are dealing with. These are not Anne Rice’s “sexy” vampires; Travis is in trouble.
In addition to his supernatural worries, Travis has financial problems. He doesn’t have the money to park his truck and camper at the campground run by Annabelle Gaskin. Many of the best moments in the book are Travis’ conversations with Annabelle’s ten-year-old son. These moments are both tense and emotional, adding depth to the story.
Davidson does an excellent job in jumping between different characters’ third person point-of-views. and a variety of time periods. It all works, and is not jarring at all.
In the Valley of the Sun is a close cousin of Stephen Graham Jones’ Mongrels. While the two books focus on different monsters and cultural backgrounds, both take the same off-color look at the American South.
This is not the kind of horror novel that would benefit from a marketing department blasting out its nature. Davidson definitely has the potential to become a powerful writer in the genre of literary horror. The reality is that this is a fine debut of a strong new voice in horror fiction, and a book that can appeal to both horror and mainstream readers. In the Valley of the Sun is a thought-provoking and entertaining read that should be in every library collection. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by David Agranoff