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In the Valley of the Sun

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For readers of Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, and classic Anne Rice, a chilling tale of suspense and horror set deep in the Texas desert.

Travis Stillwell spends his nights searching out women in West Texas honky-tonks. What he does with them doesn’t make him proud, just quiets the demons for a little while. But his nights soon take a terrifying turn in a desert cantina, where Travis crosses paths with a mysterious pale-skinned girl in red boots. Come the morning, he wakes weak and bloodied in his cabover camper, no sign of a girl, no memory of the night before.

Annabelle Gaskin spies the camper parked behind her rundown motel and offers the disheveled cowboy inside a few odd jobs to pay his board. Travis takes her up on the offer, if only to buy time, to lay low, to heal. By day, he mends the old motel, insinuating himself into the lives of Annabelle and her ten-year-old son. By night, in the cave of his camper, he fights an unspeakable hunger. Before long, Annabelle and her boy come to realize that this strange cowboy they’ve taken in is not what he seems.

Half a state away, a grizzled Texas ranger is hunting Travis down for his past misdeeds, but what he finds will lead him to a revelation far more monstrous than he could ever imagine. A man of the law, he’ll have to decide how far into the darkness he’ll go for the sake of justice. 

When these lives converge on a dusty autumn night, an old evil will find new life—and new blood.

Deftly written and utterly compelling, this is an atmospheric literary fiction debut perfect for fans of horror, psychological suspense, and Western fiction.

376 pages, Hardcover

First published June 6, 2017

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About the author

Andy Davidson

4 books508 followers
Andy Davidson is the Bram Stoker Award nominated author of In the Valley of the Sun and The Boatman's Daughter. The Boatman’s Daughter was listed among NPR's Best Books of 2020, the New York Public Library's Best Adult Books of the Year, and Library Journal's Best Horror of 2020. Born and raised in Arkansas, Andy makes his home in Georgia with his wife and a bunch of cats.

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5 stars
540 (29%)
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686 (38%)
3 stars
412 (22%)
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126 (6%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 313 reviews
Profile Image for LIsa Noell "Rocking the Chutzpah!.
579 reviews153 followers
May 12, 2023
This story was haunting. I've seen others say that it was too slow. Maybe.
For me? I was never bored. Even when nothing was happening, there was "back ground noise." I was always aware of what was going on front and foremost, but also about that camper.
This was some messed up story. But, it was my kind of messed up. This is one I'd read again in 10 years..
Mr. Davidson is really good at his craft.
Profile Image for Char.
1,634 reviews1,487 followers
March 5, 2021
4.5/5 stars!

Rarely do I find myself struggling to find the words I want to say about a book, but today I am. Know why? Because IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN was so beautifully written, powerful, surprising and engaging.. Oh! Apparently, I CAN find the words if I try hard enough!

In this dark tale set during 1980, there's everything a horror lover could want. You've got a villain with so many layers to him, reading about him is like peeling an onion. There is no bad guy with a black hat here...well, actually, he does wear a black hat, but you know what I mean. He's complicated. All of the other characters have depth to them as well and even though some of them do bad things, you are privy to the reasons they are doing them and you can understand. You can identify. You can relate.

There is a level of trust expected of the reader with this book. There are allusions made to events that you must trust will be made clear later, (and they were.) Even though those events were brought to light, they only complicated, (there's that word again!) my feelings for the characters and I love when that happens.

I don't want to give away too much of the story as I feel that it should be related to you as the author intended. Since the book never said the word, I'm not going to say it either. What is actually going on is deftly handled, sometimes gory and disgusting, sometimes poignant and heartbreaking.

I find myself thinking about the book days after I finished it and that's always a sign that I've read something special. If you like characters with layers, if you like dark fiction beautifully told, (think Cormac McCarthy or Peter Straub), if you like a little more blood and gore than McCarthy or Straub usually provide, and you like to curl up with a book that surrounds and engulfs you, read this book now!

Highly recommended!

*I received a paperback ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
October 6, 2019
when the blurbs referenced cormac mccarthy, i thought this was going to have more of a western vibe to it, but it’s closer to No Country for Old Men than Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West on the mccarthy spectrum- it’s got the texas and brutality down pat, but it’s more crime than western in tone, so - alas, i am still jonesing for my vampire western fix.

the book is not afraid of a challenge, though - trying to make a sympathetic character out of a man who is a killer-of-women before he officially becomes inhuman in the vampiric way, when his intended next victim turns the tables and shows him what a real predator looks like.

it’s a pretty big ask, reader-sympathies-wise, and it doesn’t quite get there - one appreciates his occasional bloodlust-restraint, but it’s hard to forget what he was before he was turnt, no matter what his particular childhood damage may have been, and .

‘course, i may be making assumptions about whether we’re meant to feel sympathetic towards him at all - there’s something about this book that’s resistant to expectations, if that makes sense. the pacing is slow, literary, but it doesn’t shrink away from the descriptives of the horror genre, and although it feels like something written much less-recently than a year ago, there are some all-new vampire moves here. it’s set in the 80s and there’s a late-70s early 80s vibe to the writing - a peter straub/thomas harris sensibility that i intend to be wholly complimentary - it seems to be a deliberate way of anchoring the story in its own timeframe and it works perfectly, and the whole vampires in the desert

and vampires at the amusement park

situations bring some beloved 80’s vampire references to my mind.

the backstories work really well as pauses holding the present-day action at arm's length, and both rue's story and travis in vietnam are gonna be stuck in my brain for a long time.

and Reader, the 'grizzled Texas Ranger" with the nerdy name, i love him most of all.

so, gary oldman, you got what it takes to top this? bring it on!


update - this book is quite possibly

since i fear Blood Riders is never going to come out...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 23 books4,074 followers
April 30, 2019
Originally published at Cemetery Dance on March 20th, 2019
Stephen Graham Jones posted on social media a few times about a book called In the Valley of the Sun and I took note, but it wasn’t until he posted the book’s cover that I got excited. The cover boasts a human skull bleeding from the eye sockets. It’s wearing a cowboy hat and vampire incisors are clearly visible.


A blurb by Dr. Jones across the top reads, “I burned through this.It’s got teeth on every page.” I wondered, “Is this a vampire book? God, I hope this is a vampire book.” As soon as it showed up in my mailbox, I knew I’d be up in its pages and sure enough, just a week or so later, here I am writing this review.

Let me set this up for you a little bit. In the Valley of the Sun is Andy Davidson’s debut novel. It was released in 2017. It crawled on its belly, undetected in my tiny world of horror, but it made a huge impression on the HWA and it was a finalist for the Bram Stoker award recognizing Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

Let me see if I can unpack what it is about this book that is so deserving of such a fine nomination. First, Andy Davidson has that natural “it factor” when it comes to storytelling. For me, the narrative reads like the confident, assured voice of a seasoned veteran but with all the originality, nuances and brilliance of a prodigy.

I’ve never read anything quite its equal. I’ve seen the comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Anne Rice and sure, I can see that, but Andy is totally in his own lane. This was new territory in horror fiction and it was incredibly exciting to read and enjoy.

The story is a fresh take on vampire lore set in the arid, dusty backroads of Texas. Travis Stillwell is a mysterious young man who is seriously caught up in some bad business. He has a Texas Ranger hunting him down, which I wish I could say is the worst thing hunting him; unfortunately, something far more dangerous has an eye on him as well.

Aimlessly wandering, his travels take him to a barely operating motel run by Annabelle and her young son, Sandy. Something follows him there.

Annabelle is now a favorite female protagonist. I immediately fell in love with her quiet spirit and her fierce love for her son. She made so many brave choices. I haven’t invested in a character like I did with her in a long, long time. Truly a new favorite.

This story is dark. Pitch-black. It’s one of those tales that reaches far back enough into everyone’s past that almost nobody is a villain here—and yet, there are villainous acts. There is wickedness. Blood is shed. There are scenes so terrifying, I shudder to think that there would ever be a cinematic adaptation…but I long for one, too.

There’s enough meat on the bones of this story to satisfy any fan of any genre. This isn’t just appealing for horror fans—this book would appeal to readers who love the chase between detective and fugitive; the chase between a man and a woman; and, especially, the chase between good and evil.

I could have read this book for hundreds more pages and I know I’ll read it again someday. One of my new favorites. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Mindi.
803 reviews268 followers
December 11, 2019
This book was sent to me by the author, and I buddy read it with my friends Sadie and Tracy. I had not heard about this book previous to it being sent to me, and after reading it, and learning that it was a finalist for the 2017 Bram Stoker Award, I'm shocked that I didn't know about it. So far this is my favorite read of 2019, and it's going to take something that literally knocks my socks off to take its place. Why are more people not talking about this fantastic novel??

This book is for me the new gold standard for contemporary vampire novels. This novel does for vampires what MONGRELS does for werewolves. It makes them seem completely real and believable. And speaking of MONGRELS, both Stephen Graham Jones and Cormac McCarthy are listed in the blurbs at the front of the book, and while I can see the influences, Davidson's voice is wholly his own. Both of the aforementioned authors are fantastic writers, and I was really excited when I saw their names in connection with Davidson. So I was utterly delighted to discover that this is some of the best writing I've encountered all year. Davidson is wonderfully skilled at description, and he doesn't hold back or shy away from some really dark subject matter. There's a incident in this book that takes place in broad daylight, and it's utterly terrifying. I can guarantee that scene will be burned into my brain forever. And it's certainly not the only shocking thing to happen in this story.

And the characters. All of the characters are amazing. Every single one of them is flawed, but you could almost argue that none of them are true villains. Each character is a product of circumstance, and pretty much all of the characters in this book were dealt a bad hand. Travis Stillwell, the protagonist, is especially fascinating. His story is layered, and Davidson deftly peels back those layers that shaped his life. The reader doesn't truly know Travis until almost the end of the book, and so he remains a mysterious figure throughout most of the novel. Annabelle Gaskin and her son Sandy own the motel that Stillwell ends up at one night early in the novel, and as he develops a relationship with these characters I really started to care about them. Annabelle is a strong woman who has also been through a lot, and I found myself really rooting for her and Sandy and wanting them to have a happy ending. However, this story has very few happy endings.

I think I said this in a post on social media, but this book is brilliant, and brutal, and an absolute must-read for horror lovers. I'm going to continue to gush over it all year, because it's that good, and I want people to have to opportunity to enjoy it as much as I did. I sincerely have to thank the author for sending this to me. He must have had some idea that his book would be my jam, and damn was he right. I loved every minute spent reading this one, and I have no doubt that at some point in the future I will revisit it.
Profile Image for Latasha.
1,281 reviews367 followers
February 20, 2020
I finally got around to listening to this! It's read by Dan John Miller and he does a great job. His country accents are perfect.
I have no idea how to write this review. The story is so good and written so well. The characters are real and complex. There is some gore and lots of blood. if the summary sounds interesting to you, just read this book then you'll see what i mean when i say i loved it but i don't know how to tell you about it without spoiling everything.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,558 reviews2,312 followers
April 30, 2020
In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson was a book I do struggled to finish! I like fantasy and horror but this was... hard to follow.
Profile Image for Chris Berko.
466 reviews115 followers
March 29, 2019
"Monsters," he said. "The world's just full of monsters."

Who knew that a book about monsters drinking blood could be so... beautiful. I read about the comparisons to Cormac McCarthy but that was not what made me read this. The only McCarthy book I've read is Blood Meridian and to tell you the truth I thought it was kind of boring. I read this because a lot of people whose reviews I trust gave this high marks. This book is anything but boring, and I have to agree with those high marks. This has sat on my Kindle for years as I repeatedly asked myself, "How good can it be?" Well the answer is, good. Damn good. Great in fact. There is not a wasted word in these pages and while there is not much action it is in no way a slow read. The prose is gorgeous, the characters vividly depicted, and the story is as terrifying as it is heartbreaking. Relationships, friendships, family ties, sense of duty, and the lies we tell ourselves and others are just a few of the topics addressed in here all the while remaining scary and entertaining as hell. Near Dark and Sling Blade are two movies I thought of while reading this and as I have read a bunch of tremendous books so far this year it is not too early to say it will be among my favorites and most remembered by year's end. Very highly recommended and an easy five stars.
Profile Image for JasonA.
292 reviews52 followers
August 10, 2021
The writing in this book is absolutely fantastic. The characters are some of the best developed that I've read in a long time. One of the marks of a great writer is when they can make you feel sympathetic towards the "villain" after they've done terrible things.

That said, this is more of a character study than a thriller or horror. It's about characters dealing with their inner demons, some more literal than others. There isn't much action to it, so some people will probably find it boring.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
998 reviews235 followers
March 28, 2019
“Travis lay the knife on the floor and shuffled forward on his knees like a man about to perform a tender act. He put his face between the girl's white legs and touched his lips to her wound, and his mouth filled instantly and he was forced to spit.


But there was something else now too, wasn't there? A warmth. A kindling.
He put his lips against the wound again and this time swallowed when his mouth had filled and the horror and revulsion he had imagined were not the things he felt. He felt only a bright relief as the blood slicked his throat and struck the furnace of his gut and its heat spread, and before all of this had even happened he had swallowed again, and again. . .

Take it all, Rue said. Take it all.”

Clearly I've been super buried in SFF, because I somehow missed In the Valley of the Sun, the debut horror novel unleashed upon us by Andy Davidson back in 2017. It was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, which is well-deserved! Yet it didn't seem to garner the attention it should have. I'm so thankful that Skyhorse Publishing sent me a copy of the new paperback release, otherwise I may not have known about it! (LIES. Everyone on Bookstagram is in love with this book right now! I began to see it everywhere after I received my copy!) That cover with the skull, blood dripping from the eye hole and vampire teeth caught my attention immediately. I mean.. HELLO.

This follows Travis Stillwell, a deeply troubled drifter who also happens to be a serial killer. He takes women home from country bars and then murders them in horrific ways. Except one night he meets someone who is more fucked up than he is. The mysterious Rue. He wakes up in the parking lot of a motel in his camper covered in blood and without any memory of what went down the night before. There he meets Annabelle, a single mother that owns the barely-functioning motel. She offers him a few odd jobs in turn for allowing him to stay. Annabelle has a 10-year-old son named Sandy, who Travis builds a somewhat reluctant bond with. As the days go on, Travis starts to feel sick. Soon, he is unable to work during the day. While this is happening, a Texas Ranger named Reader is tracking him across the state, unaware of the fact that Travis is now trying to conquer another demon within him. Something more horrifying than imagined.

"Rue takes the tissue from her pocket and touches the dried blood to her tongue, and though it is faint and stale, and the kleenex dissolves, she feels him. Hears his heart beating, pumping. She hears his tires and radio and the music of his voice, and she knows that if she feeds now, feeds heavy, grows stronger than she ever has before, she will be able to close her eyes and cross the great wide open valleys and mountains between them with little more than thought, an act of will, and when she opens her eyes, she will be with him."

Taking place in 1980's Texas, this had a grimy, humid, claustrophobic, ominous atmospheric vibe. The intensely vivid imagery sets the stark tone. A glorious amalgamation of vampires and cowboys.  This element catapults it from a tired old blood-sucking story for me. There's just something about the old West that is so haunting, so isolating. Throw in horror noir/crime thriller.. I couldn't help but envision a screen adaptation as I read. Almost something along the lines of No Country for Old Men, with the cinematic feel of Westworld but with vampires! FUCK YES!!

The writing is truly exquisite. Like brutal poetry that drains your blood with every chapter. It's in a league with the likes of Joe Lansdale and Jim Thompson - two absolutely brilliant writers! AND THIS IS DAVIDSON'S FIRST NOVEL!! Goddamn.

With influences from the typical vampire novels like Carmilla and Dracula, In the Valley of the Sun dares to be a modern classic. There is an incredibly special quality to the story. It bleeds together in such an organic way - hurt, anger, revenge, pain.. and it's more than a little sexy. I'M A MASOCHIST, OKAY?!

"Monsters," he said. "The world's just full of monsters."

This was a haunting, unflinchingly brutal and darkly poetic story that closely examines human nature, the deep horrors and the profoundly beautiful. It sunk it's teeth into me, completely.

(Thanks to the radical folks over at Skyhorse Publishing for sending me a copy!)
Profile Image for Philip Fracassi.
Author 57 books751 followers
July 18, 2017
A novel about serial killers, vampires and family that reads almost poetic, albeit with lightning-flash bursts of violence and horror. Mr. Davidson is a rare stylist who can make even the most intense horror seem like a nasty daydream, one that lingers in the back of your mind for weeks afterward.

A lush, tense novel that felt to me like a combination of No Country for Old Men and Let the Right One In. And I can't think of higher praise than that. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,220 reviews224 followers
April 21, 2021
She put her lips to his ear and whispered, "I know your name, boy."
Her breath was terrible, like something gone off, spoiled deep inside.
A thing was happening to him, a momentous -
Still holding his hand, still smiling, she pulled him up and out of his chair and now he was leaving the table, stumbling along behind her, helpless not to follow as she drew him across the floor and out of the bar and into the dark, and the old woman never looked up from her whiskey and the bartender never looked up from his puzzle.
The man in the box sang on.

I was in the mood for bleak when I started this one, and I may be a mood-driven reader, but even so I'd say you'll need to be in the right frame of mind for this one. It's almost perfectly written, but as a nameless sheriff says (too far through the book to be a warning), there is no comfort to be found in any truth here.

There's a truly vintage feeling to this book; tone-wise, it hits right about where I remember Salem's Lot hitting, and not once does it feel artificially aged. The scope's narrower here, though, one bad man and his inevitable path of destruction, because as slow and measured as the story might be, there's no stopping that juggernaut once it's rolling. The story dips into backstory more than once, letting some of the tension off the reader, but it's waiting, and I knew it.

I really did enjoy this, so hopefully that all doesn't sound too negative - just because a thing is bloody and bleak doesn't mean it can't be beautiful, and the writing here is just absolutely pitch perfect and a joy to read. I'm happy this came along when it did, when it could be appreciated.

For those who need to know if the dog (figurative in this case) dies -
Profile Image for Tyler J Gray.
Author 2 books218 followers
April 2, 2020
DNF at 17%. I can't take it anymore. I am so bored and uninterested and I am just unable to push on. Not to mention all the stress right now, no sense in reading a book that feels like a chore. It sounds like something up my alley but it just isn't working for me. I'm sorry.
February 12, 2020
Travis Stillwell travels the roads of West Texas in search of isolated honky-tonks where he can go unnoticed and find a woman to quiet his demons for the night.
The problem is that the demons never stay quiet and the Texas Rangers always find these women eventually.  

Then one night a mysterious woman in red boots finds Travis.

Travis wakes up in his cabover camper bloodied and worn with no recollection of the previous night.  He's parked in the lot of The Sundowner Inn, a rundown motel owned by widowed Annabelle Gaskin, and he's short on money.

Annabelle gives Travis odd jobs around the place to cover his board and he uses the time to lay low from the law and try to heal.  He gets to know Annabelle and her ten-year-old son Sandy while realizing that something has followed him to The Sundowner Inn.
Memories of the woman in red boots return and a hunger begins in Travis so strong that he begins to worry it can't be contained.
At the same time, a seasoned Texas Ranger is tracking Travis for his past crimes.

On a quiet autumn evening there will be a reckoning as Travis makes a choice that will change the lives of everyone around him.

In the Valley of the Sun is everything I could possibly want in a horror novel.  It's a contemporary Western with a paranormal aspect (vampires--- not the glittery kind!).  It's full of flawed characters with secrets and the building anticipation of retribution for a number of wrongs.

I loved that readers are offered glimpses into the past that give insight into the current storyline and allow the characters to develop at a believable pace.

Dark, compelling, and rich in atmosphere; In the Valley of the Sun is a must-read for those who enjoy horror, Westerns, psychological suspense, and vampires (the truly creepy and non-glittery kind).

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Tracy Robinson.
484 reviews149 followers
April 12, 2019
“For him, the world was now a picture knocked crooked. He could barely judge the ground beneath his boots and the stars in the sky shimmered and blurred and became long straight lines of light, as if time itself were stretching to the breaking.”

In the Valley of the Sun
At the time of this review, it has been 11 days since I read the last sentence of this novel. I have no worries about forgetting anything as I write this, I’m still thinking about it daily. I was happy to buddy read this with a couple of bookish friends. They also wrote amazing reviews for this. You can read Mindi Snyder’s here on Goodreads: And Sadie Hartmann’s here on Cemetery Dance:

I found Davidson’s writing to be familiar as well as wholly unique. The “coming home” part I attribute to this author’s straight up skill with the English language. The quote above is just one example of the many quotes I just HAD to take note of while reading. His prose is gorgeous without being overdone and concise without being too brief or gimmicky. Like others have mentioned, there are hints of McCarthy in his storytelling, I’d even add that notes of Jack Ketchum exist here as well. But make no mistake, in the future I will definitely be noting that some other book is reminiscent of Davidson’s work.

I read a tremendous amount of horror fiction that runs the gamut from extreme/bizarre to atmospheric, and everything in between. This? This was still able to surprise and horrify me in ways that made my dark heart joyous. The characters have depth and grit; some of them do despicable, wretched things and I still loved them. Travis, Rue, Annabelle, Reader, Sandy, and others are expertly crafted. The multiple story lines are tightly woven in such a way that allows for some mystery and discovery. I appreciate a book that doesn’t do all the work for me and that also doesn’t just flop the answers in front of me like I’m a child.

The short of it? This novel is a literary juggernaut while still remaining accessible, fresh, and appealing to a wide variety of readers. Not sure about horror? Read this. Not a fan of “literary” fiction? Read this. Over reading about vampires? Read this. I know I’ll be picking up everything Davidson comes up with.

Profile Image for Jen.
608 reviews261 followers
June 21, 2017
In the Valley of the Sun reminds me of my experience with The Girl with All the Gifts. I went into it not knowing what kind of horror book it was, and my experience was much better for it. In the Valley of the Sun never actually names the horror so I'm not going to either. My hope is that you will give it a chance without finding out too much about it. It's a really great book, but it's a great experience, too. One of my favorite things about In the Valley of the Sun was the slow unveiling of what was really going on.

In the Valley of the Sun is scary, too. I was so nervous for everyone, even the villains. Only the best of horror novels can make you love the villains, and In the Valley of the Sun is one of those books.

As much as I love the horrors in In the Valley of the Sun, every bit of the credit goes to Andy Davidson's writing. This book is so well written and so well crafted. He has given us a really beautiful addition to an old horror myth, and I could not be more excited about it.

This has been an amazing year for horror releases, and you will definitely see In the Valley of the Sun on my best of list for the year (maybe even in the top spot).

4.5 stars
142 reviews85 followers
November 14, 2019
4-1/2 Stars. One of the best vampire stories I've ever read. I was rootin' for the "would be vampire" all the way; Mr. Davidson gets a big thumbs up from me.
Profile Image for FanFiAddict.
548 reviews133 followers
December 27, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

Thanks to the publisher and author for a copy of In The Valley of the Sun in exchange for an honest review. Receiving a copy of the novel did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

A bit long overdue is my review of Andy Davidson’s debut novel. I actually had the opportunity to meet him at an author event called ‘Noir at the Bar’ here in Birmingham, AL back in November and also had him on my ‘Authors on a Podcast Talking Books’ podcast a little over a week ago. To say these instances sort of sparked my instantaneous need and craving to read this novel doesn’t really equate. Having said that, I will be keeping this review rather short and succinct as anything extra could lead to immediate spoilers.

In the Valley of the Sun is one of those novels that sinks its teeth in early and often, draining of you any and all emotions by the turn of the final page. The fact that this is Davidson’s debut is beyond comprehension as it has some of the finest writing I have ever come across. If this is any indication of what we can come to expect from the author in the future, the horror community and those on the cusp will be clamoring to get their claws on his novels.

What really grabs you is the Prologue chapter, introducing you Travis Stillwell on the evening he meets the mysterious pale-skinned girl. The prose alone in that chapter was enough to enrapture me, but to see it continued throughout the rest of the novel with deft fluidity allowed me to be utterly engrossed. It is poetic yet terrifying in its grace; a snake in the weeds winding itself along, waiting for the perfect time to strike.

I enjoyed how Davidson tells the story as a “present-day” narrative, but also gives us glimpses into the backstories of the characters. It allows the reader to find those hidden puzzle pieces into how these behaviors manifested, but also as intriguing road maps across the storylines.

In the Valley of the Sun may be one of the best debuts I have ever come across. If you are a horror junkie, or enjoy novels by the likes of Cormac McCarthy or Joe Landsdale, this is a perfect addition to your collection.
Profile Image for Vickie.
189 reviews1 follower
June 14, 2021
This is a tough one for me to review/rate. I mean, it was a different take on vampires, which was cool, but yet the story on a whole just didn't wow me. It was also super slow at some parts, and there was way too much dreaming going on with all the characters. A couple of the characters I couldn't have cared less about, but the main character, Travis, had some decent character development. He had many layers. There was also a lot of time jumping from past to present (sometimes out of the blue), which I can understand why readers complained about that and how it got a little confusing at times. And I don't know how I feel about the ending... Hmm... I don't know, just sticking with 3 stars for now.

Profile Image for Jamie Stewart.
Author 10 books159 followers
September 26, 2020
This is a book with a great premise but I found myself losing focus or interest after a hundred pages in. It seemed like the writer wanted to write about too many subjects at once such as vampirism, a serial killer being on the loose, a police procedural, a insight into child abuse and Vietnam. It was too much for me to keep up with and that’s my flaw not the authors.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,300 reviews384 followers
October 11, 2021
Yet again I was surprised over a book. I hope it keeps being like that. Best surprises ever. The book was so good, so intense and thrilling. A book that is in every sense of the words page turning! Need to see if the author have written more books and if I can find them.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews754 followers
November 10, 2020
This might just be the best vampire novel I’ve ever read. It’s unlike any other vampire story I’ve ever read, it is unique and dark and gritty and I loved every second I spent reading it. Once I started I couldn’t stop, I read this from start to finish in one sitting. It’s just a book that’s meant to be devoured! I loved how it combined vampires and serial killers, it was so damned brilliant and it made my little black heart so happy to read a book that combined those two things. But what I really loved most about this book was the atmosphere. It’s so dark and gloomy the whole way through, there’s not much happiness in this book and it just sinks into your bones in the most delicious way. This book is an absolute must read for any vampire fan or actually just any horror fan in general! Trust me, just buy this book, devour it immediately and thank me later.
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,324 followers
September 27, 2017
It is inevitable, when one writes a dark novel about the contemporary west , he is going to be compared to Cormac McCarthy especially when the novel is steeped in literary prose. It makes sense since McCarthy is both very literary and usually quite dark. But in reviewing this particular work, I'm going to mention another name. Larry McMurtry, the author of Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show is the other modern master of the western novel. In my eyes, his novels, especially those of the contemporary west, are more sensitive to the changes in the west to the family, the decline in optimism and lifestyle, and a shrewder if cynical exploration of relationships and dreams, especially those dreams which may have missed their chance and long passed.

On reading In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson I see more McMurtry than McCarthy. Davidson's very literary horror novel may be much darker than anything McMurtry wrote but there is still the sense of the struggle and hope of people in the forgotten parts of the West. That struggle and hope rings through with the characters of this excellent novel (all but one to be precise) even if the final result is not what they or you would like it to be.

Travis Stillwell is a man haunted by his past and acting on his past in an horrific manner. In the Fall of 1980, he leaves a chain of murders which catches the attention of a Texas law officer who begins hunting for him. In a West Texas bar he meets a woman named Rue who has her own designs on him, attracted to him by sensing he has an evil past and can be as evil and corrupt as she is. When Travis wakes up the next morning he is changed, He has a hunger that regular food does not fulfill and an allergy to sunlight. He finds his camper truck in back of a restaurant and shut down motel that he does not remember pulling into. Annnabelle, the widowed proprietor of the barely surviving restaurant has pity on him and offers odd jobs to pay for his stay. Travis , Annabelle and her son Sandy start a odd and tenuous relationship that is in direct conflict with what he is becoming and the hold Rue has on him.

I might has well say it and get it over with. This is a vampire novel. But it is far from any vampire novel that you may have read before. The form of the vampire and the nature the transformation makes this fairly different but the psychological horror aspect takes center stage and we become immersed in Travis' dilemma. He is transformed at the same time he is offered something that may be his way out of his murderous addiction and senseless searching. Annabelle has similar concerns, caring for a child by herself, still grieving the death of her husband and fearful to move on. Annebelle is tied down to many social and psychological restrictions too. "Men have dreams. Women have secrets" she says. Both see a possibility through each other to break the chain but hovering over this hope is Rue who needs Travis to fulfill her own demonic goals in a symbiotic relationship with Travis that is dependent on his feeding and her enslavement of him.

So what we have is a horror novel but one that touches upon more than just vampires and visceral horror even though much of what we get of that is truly frightening. If one is looking for Salem's Lot or Interview with a Vampire, they will probably be disappointed. Setting it in the West Texas of 1980 is an inspiration, before the advent of the internet and when these small Texas towns still had a sense of isolation and the sense that their best days were behind them. I can see those readers into the modern western dramas of McMurtry and McCarthy really getting into this but those who are into horror and vampires will also like the unique take of a well-traveled horror genre. I cannot see anyone not being moved by the ending of this novel and I can only give it my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Horace Derwent.
2,226 reviews170 followers
Want to read
January 24, 2020
since enter, night and those across the river, for years haven't i read a vampire novel that has teeth on its pages

perhaps it's not your typical vampire novel, but it is mine typical vampire novel. it's not sexy, it's cruel, but cabernet sauvignon like full-bodied. it's just a wild ride, really souther, really texas, feels like hitting the road to drink some blood
Profile Image for Sjgomzi.
224 reviews126 followers
March 23, 2019
On my shortlist for favorite book of the year. An astonishing debut! Davidson takes a concept that’s been done to death and crafts it into something original and breathtaking. The writing is gorgeous, and the characters are truly alive. Not a page wasted. I can’t wait to see what he follows this up with, and you can bet your ass I’ll be the first in line to buy it. My highest recommendation! 😉
Profile Image for Denny.
94 reviews11 followers
February 22, 2020
A very good first novel,but darker than a moonless night.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,384 reviews209 followers
February 1, 2018
Blood, bloody, bloodier, bloodiest...

It's 1980. Travis Stillwell lives life on the road, travelling from small town to small town in Texas, running from the memories of his earlier life, seeking something lost. Some nights he'll pick up a woman in a honky-tonk bar, but not for love – these women are victims, killed almost as a sacrifice to those demons he can't shake off. But one night he picks up Rue, a beautiful young woman who is more evil than even the horrors in his own mind – a woman searching for her own kind of mate, who will change him in ways he could never have imagined even in his worst nightmares. When he wakes up the next day, he is wounded, bloodied, and prey to a strange and terrible hunger – a hunger he must satisfy so that he and Rue can live.

OK, so it's a vampire novel. Let's get that out of the way straight off. It has scenes of the bloodiest horror written in language so vividly, viscerally descriptive that I may never be able to wash my mind clean of them. But the odd thing is, I'm not sure I want to...
“Travis lay the knife on the floor and shuffled forward on his knees like a man about to perform a tender act. He put his face between the girl's white legs and touched his lips to her wound, and his mouth filled instantly and he was forced to spit.
But there was something else now too, wasn't there? A warmth. A kindling.
He put his lips against the wound again and this time swallowed when his mouth had filled and the horror and revulsion he had imagined were not the things he felt. He felt only a bright relief as the blood slicked his throat and struck the furnace of his gut and its heat spread, and before all of this had even happened he had swallowed again, and again. . .
Take it all, Rue said. Take it all.”

...because the book is so, so much more than that. Part examination of the hard-scrabble life of rural Texans and part-metaphor for the lasting shockwaves of the traumas visited on America, and its young men in particular, by the Vietnam war, it's right up there with the best of American fiction writing. I've seen it being compared to McCarthy and McMurtry which makes me want to go and read both those authors straight away. The prose is gorgeous, moving seamlessly between melancholy beauty and savage brutality and creating indelible images in both. I could see the landscape and the sky; feel the dust, the burning sun, the rain; smell the stale beer and cigarette smoke and the all-pervasive stench of blood and death.

The characterisation is intense and flawless, so that we come to know and care about each individual. Travis stops at a run-down motel, where young widow Annabelle ekes out a precarious existence and does her best to help her young son Sandy deal with the death of his father. Her kindness to this stranger, who is indeed strange, leads her into mortal peril, at the same time as it awakens in Travis a kind of longing that tears his dual nature apart. Meantime, Travis is being pursued by veteran detective Reader for his earlier, human crimes. Dogged and determined, Reader has seen too much horror already in his life and is haunted by his own personal tragedy, but he's a good man – a moral man, who provides a rock of decency for us to cling to, a promise of hope amid the darkness.

Remarkably, the author makes us care too for Travis, serial killer turned vampire, as he gradually reveals the experiences that have formed him, first as the child of a stern, forbidding father and a pleasure-loving mother, and later, in Vietnam, a time which branded him physically and mentally. Even Rue, the disgusting, monstrously evil thing that gives the novel its truest horror, has her own back-story. Perhaps it's too hard to sympathise with Rue, but Davidson makes us understand her, and oh, how we feel her hunger! For blood. For love.

To me, the vampire thing felt very much like an allegory for the rot and horror of Vietnam, for these men who returned to no hero's welcome, whose stories were left untold for too long, left to fester in the darkness of silence. For most of the novel I wasn't even sure whether the vampire aspect was real or a kind of figment of Travis' tortured imagination. A part of me wishes Davidson had left it fully ambiguous, because inside here is a great American novel and I fear it may be sidelined into genre fiction. And at the same time, although the horror is handled superbly with some fabulously gory imagery, it may be too slow and too literary in style for many dedicated horror fans.

Certainly, the vampire element would have ensured I'd never have read it, had I not been sent a copy by the publisher. Even then I started it with reluctance, expecting to read a few chapters and then abandon it. But these are not the vampires of modern fiction – sexy heroes who seduce as they suck the blood of their victims. There is more of the original Dracula or Carmilla perhaps, lust and insatiable hunger, but much darker, more brutal – bloodier. But even nightmares are bearable when they are revealed with integrity and meaning and relayed in such astonishing language and imagery. There are scenes I will never forget – scenes of utter brutality that made me cry for the sorrows of the world. Nor will I forget the people – the desperate search for humanity and love that we see in each character, however distorted. And the writing! Ah, the writing!
He watched her go, thinking of the children they had been when they were married. He eighteen, she seventeen. She a half-breed, he a white Texan boy, theirs a romance, Reader had always thought, befitting the romance of the land itself, the wide open spaces and faraway horizons, where the hearts of the young were as big and green as the vast sweep of the eastern grasslands, and the land and the courses of the lives lived on it moved and rolled in ways no man could ever predict, as though the breath of giants were easing over them, shaping them, turning them.

Do I recommend it? I hope I've made it clear how graphically horrific some parts are, and also how exceptional I think it is, how it transcends horror to become something altogether more profound and strangely beautiful. The decision has to be yours. Personally, I am so glad to have read it.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Saraband.

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