The October Country: Oct. 2: “Vampire Lake” by Norman Partridge

In celebration of the month of October, I’ll be sharing 31 of my favorite spooky, eerie and creepy stories, one per day. The stories will range over an array of genres: horror, suspense, science fiction, mysteries and dark fantasy.

The October Country

that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…

— Ray Bradbury

October 2:

Vampire Lake by Norman Partridge

Found In:

The Years Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2012

Opening Line:

“They heard the bounty killer an hour before they saw him.”

I first came across Norman Partridge’s writing in a short, fast, exceptional little book called Dark Harvest. If you love Halloween and you enjoy spooky tales (I’m guessing you do, since you’re reading this), you should check out that slender gem. It rocks.

Vampire Lake shares a number of similarities with that first novel: clean, sharp prose; swift-paced storytelling; colorful characters; and a real command of action. The latter should not be overlooked. Many writers write books in which action happens. Few, however, write action well. Lee Child is amongst the best. Norman Partridge is too.

Vampire Lake tells the story of a bounty hunter who has come seeking salvation in the arms of the vampire queen who resides deep within a cave across a desert on the shores of the underground Vampire Lake. The bounty hunter has killed so very many men, and he carries the dead “inside him” as he says. The only way to set those dead free is to let the queen suck them right on out.

If that sounds a tad outrageous, well…it is. The entire style of the story is over-the-top. As the tale opens, the bounty hunter enters a saloon with a skinny Mexican dynamiter hauled behind him in chains. The conversation at the bar goes south, and the bounty hunter guns down almost everyone in the place. He spares a preacher and a blacksmith, both of whom he needs for his descent to Vampire Lake.

Partridge fills the story with wonderful one-liners and throw-away bits of dialogue, like: “I’m not here to throw them a surprise party,” the gunman said. “I’m here to blaze a trail to hell.”

If that’s your cup of tea, you’ve come to the right place.

Another of Partridge’s strengths is his dependability. He sets the story up in an epic, Clint Eastwood western style, and the ending doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of blazing guns, fiery explosions, and hellish blood-sucking to fill a half-dozen Wes Craven movies.

This is, as the man said, good shit.

More October Stories

For the month of October, you can download

Tyler Miller’s The Other Side of the Door 


In celebration of my favorite month, I’m giving away my collection The Other Side of the Door. These are stories inspired by so many of my favorite writers: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson.

Stories like the award-winning Til Death Do Us, about a man who believes he’s gotten away with his wife’s murder…at least until her severed finger is delivered to him in a box. Somebody knows the truth…

Or another first-place winner: Not Dead, Not Even Past, the story of a small-town sheriff confronted with a string of suicides he can’t explain. Each of the victims share a disturbing trait: no matter how they died, all of them have lungs full of water.

I loved working on these stories, and I truly believe that you’ll enjoy reading them just as much as I enjoyed writing them. Check them out. For the entire month, they’re free. What have you got to lose?

Except a little sleep…

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