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What is Western Gothic?

By Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, noted (at least by each other) authorities in the field of Western Gothic studies

Western Gothic is a fairly narrow but very deep and wildly entertaining literary genre. We say that as recognized (by each other) experts in the field of Western Gothic Studies, a field and (and likely a genre) we created, and with all the confidence an exhaustive, seconds-long Google search can bestow (see sidebar).

So what is Western Gothic? It 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 Cowboy and the Vampire Collection, a series of four books set in the modern west and featuring sexy, brooding vampires bent on world domination.

We wrote the first book — The Cowboy the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance — in 1999. Our fourth and final book in the series — The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset — will hit the shelves of bookstores on June 9. Not only are we experts in Western Gothic, we’re also pretty good with numbers. It has taken us an average of 4.25 years per book. Western Gothic requires an intense commitment.

The Last Sunset, like the first three books, explores the tension and connection between opposites: life and death; mortality and immortality; love and lust; urban and rural; thought and action; strength and decay; good and evil; and country music and whiskey.

Our books — and all 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).

Thanks for letting us spend a little time on your awesome site today.

Side bar: 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.

About the books:

First published in 1999, The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection is a genre mash-up. Critics and readers praise the four books as witty, outstandingly entertaining, authentically western, existential, provocatively sensual, thrilling, and more. The series navigates the darkest sides of human nature while celebrating the power of love, blazing a trail to its own new genre: Western Gothic. Let ‘er buck.


Connect with the authors:

The Last Sunset - The Cowboy and the Vampire Banner 851 x 315

The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset

The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection Book Four

cowboy and vampire coverClark Hays and Kathleen McFall

Genre: Horror, Western, PNR

Publisher: Pumpjack Press,

Date of Publication: June 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9974113-0-0


Number of pages: 357

Word Count: 83,000

Cover Artist: Aaron Perkins

Book Description:

The Cowboy and the Vampire: The Last Sunset is the fourth book in award-winning The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection, a series called everything from cult classic to trailblazer in a new genre: Western Gothic.

Take one long, last look at LonePine, Wyoming, population 438. It’s been two years since the vampires quit the quirky little town and things are mostly back to normal — broken dreams and never enough whiskey. But that’s about to go to hell.

Hold on tight for a midnight showdown when a psychotic religious order takes the entire town hostage — including Tucker’s long-lost brother — to lure Lizzie from her frozen exile in Russia. The mad monks know Lizzie’s murder will strand the ruling vampire elite in a disembodied afterlife so the cult can impose their twisted beliefs on the living and undead alike. It’s a rip-roarin’ stampede as a cowboy and a vampire try to round up the shattered pieces of their unusual romance.

With the fate of the world on the line yet again, can Tucker and Lizzie put aside their broken hearts to face one last sunset together?

Slap leather or reach for the sky.

This is the fourth book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection.



The first few months were anguish. But then she threw herself into bringing order to her inherited chaos. If she was to run this vampire shit show, she would run it right. And she had, intensely, ruthlessly, for the first year.

Now, everyone knew the rules, knew the consequences for breaking the coda, and—if grudgingly—understood the wisdom behind the annual allocation. She kept her word, showing no favoritism. Nine turns picked by the Council, followed by one pick for Lizzie, with nine nights of rest. By the end of the first year, a fragile trust in her leadership was established.

By the beginning of the second year of her self-imposed exile, as the intensity of the work began to wane, she realized something had shifted. The full weight of her future lodged permanently, sadly, in her soul.

Rurik, forever circling like a handsome vulture, sensed the change.

“Finally, you admit to yourself he is not coming for you,” Rurik said.

“I knew he wouldn’t come,” Lizzie said, more sharply than intended.

“I’m not the one who requires persuading on this point,” Rurik said. “But no matter the reason, I am pleased. Stop working so hard. Amuse yourself with the privileges and pleasures your position affords. You can have anything you want, with no punishment.”


“From the society you once valued, or from yourself,” Rurik said. “You are free from guilt, free of all constraints, free to act upon your desires and to assume the glorious existence that awaits only your assent.”

Rurik felt something akin to compassion as he watched Lizzie struggle to control her emotions, mistaking liberation for captivity. He was right in one sense, though; she was coming to the same realization all vampires faced at some point in their long, undead existence, even those whose turning was consensual: there was no going back.

Yes, Lizzie thought, defiantly, as the first year passed into the second. If she was no longer ever to be a human, she might as well have fun. Why the hell not? She submerged herself into her passions and found that although not exactly fulfilling, it was diverting, covering her nightly routines with a shroud of hedonistic numbness that prevented any feelings at all—other than immediate pleasure—from surfacing.

She would never admit it, ever, but Rurik was right on another point. She had waited. She had hoped he would come for her, but why would he? She made it clear by breaking his heart that they would never be together. That he believed her ruse broke her heart.

Such a sad and dusty little tragedy, she thought, clutching the railing. A shadow by the lake’s edge caught her eye—Rurik, out with his dogs.

He felt her gaze and looked up, taking in her nude body and letting his senses wash over it, the closest—it seemed—he would come to possessing her, at least for the time being.

She could feel his heart stuttering, but held her own body in perfect check until he averted his eyes and continued his walk.

Lizzie once again considered whether it was time to move. Rurik’s home was spacious and lonely and safe and remote, and while he had been a good host to her, he enjoyed the power of proximity over the other tribes, and she understood he was motivated by a hope of his own.

“It is inevitable that you and I come together,” he once told her. “You have known this since we first met in that godforsaken American outpost.”

“Nothing is inevitable,” she said. Thwarting his passions had become a habit.

She wondered if Rurik ever missed the man he had once been, the brilliant military strategist who helped turn back the crusaders all those many years ago in a battle for Russia’s soul. “Ironic that you lost your soul in the process,” she said aloud and in his direction.

Her private cell phone buzzed on the bedside table. Lizzie padded back into the room, the wolfhound in tow.

Elita. She picked up the phone.


“My queen,” Elita said, managing to sound both sarcastic and reverential. Was there a difference, Lizzie wondered?

“My loyal subject, my lovely maid-in-waiting,” Lizzie replied. In all this madness, Elita was her only certainty.

“Whatever that means,” Elita said. “How’s the frozen tundra treating you?”

“Still frozen. Have you wrestled the American Royals and the Reptiles into peaceful coexistence?”

“We’re making progress, one corpse at a time.”

“When will you visit?” Lizzie asked.

“I’m on my way now,” Elita said.

Lizzie paused. That was not a good sign. “That’s a welcome, but unexpected surprise.”

“What I must tell you may not be so welcome.”

“Tell me now,” Lizzie said.

“I’ll save the details until I can tell you face to face, but in brief, I’ve heard rumblings, screaming really, that you have a new enemy.”

“Why would that concern me?”

“Keep your guard up until I arrive.”

“My guard is never down,” Lizzie said, breaking the connection.”

About the Authors:

Between the two of them, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall have worked in writing jobs ranging from cowboy-poet to energy journalist to restaurant reviewer to university press officer. After they met, their writing career took center stage when they wrote the first book in The Cowboy and the Vampire Collection as a test for marriage. They passed. Clark and Kathleen now live in Portland, Oregon.

Website: www.cowboyandvampire.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cowboyandvampire

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cowboyvamp

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cowboyvampire/


Tour giveaway

1 set of author-signed copies of the full four-book collection





  1. Thanks for letting us spend some time on your awesome site (loved The Secret Language of Flowers). There’s a lot of love and magic in The Cowboy and the Vampire Series, so we think you’re readers would enjoy our books…well, it might be more accurate to say there’s a lot of lust and paranormal energy…!

  2. Pingback: What is Western Gothic? | Pumpjack Press

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