Red Dust by Sam Campbell & Ben Dixon

Red Dust
by Sam Campbell & Ben Dixon
Self-Published, October 9, 2013
91 Pages
On sale for $0.99 until November 20th

Red Dust is a series of zombie western short stories. 

Red Dust: The Fall is the first trilogy of short stories in the Red Dust series. These stories are The Lost Party, Feud and The Last Rider. 

The Lost Party 

"When a party of settlers go missing on the Wasatch Mountains of 1846 America, a lone mountain man tasks himself with finding the lost pioneers. Upon the discovery of the remnants of a diary, George Masterson finds himself pulled into the dark story that befell the ill-fated travelers."
I'm not usually a fan of anything western, but The Lost Party wasn't indicative of a gunslinger cowboy. More so, it focused on the setting. The desolate landscape was the real star of this piece of work.

Party members are lost to the elements as they traverse the winter landscape. Stalked by an unknown evil, the long journey leaves them starving and forced to commit the unthinkable (think Ethan Hawke in Alive). The story doesn't just ram zombies down the readers throat, but builds up tension and suspense as their presence in the shadows is hinted at.

Despite being apprehensive of the era, I enjoyed reading The lost Party. It was a nice change of pace from traditional zombie fiction. The writing style has an elegant, classic feel and quality editing made it an easy read. 

The Lost Party is a chilling read unlike anything I've read in a usually predictable genre.


"America 1853, seven years since the disappearance of the lost party, the undead have emerged from the wilderness crossing the Great Plains to assault the civilized world. Communication has broken down and settlements now stand alone as the Rising Plague spreads across the eastern border. 

In the town of Little Rock inhabitants of the New World thrive to create normality in the midst of chaos. With the arrival of a mysterious rider named Griffin, the true dangers of the town become clear. The illusion of civilization quickly dissolves as Griffin’s appearance sparks the violent conclusion of a deep-rooted vendetta."
Feud fueled my fire with it's literary excellence. I really need to emphasize the fact that Campbell and Dixon make a great duo. Their writing is like a good song. It has a harmonic balance with crescendos and moments of innuendo. 

I found this story riddled with successful one-liners that made stop and say 'ooh, that's a great line.'
"Seems to me, God doesn't want you to have this land and has unleashed hell to take it back."
Fast forward seven years, well into the undead plague, where pockets of civilization fight for their survival and to keep what's theirs. Enter Griffin, a man faced to come to a difficult decision and take sides in an ongoing battle for power between two men who both think their path is a righteous one. 

Feud has much more zombie scenes, and while it does provide us with some great blood and guts fiction, it does a great job humanizes the monsters.

I enjoyed how they chose to introduce the name of the collection, Red Dust. 
"He had left nothing behind in his wake, except for dust, red dust."
The Last Rider 

"The Rising Plague continues to spread mercilessly across America, leaving the remnants of the US government to lead a desperate defense in defiance of the undead. Yet in the face of their doom, the beginnings of a civil tension arises, as the Southern State’s succeed, leaving a dire split across the US and its people hopelessly divided. 

Isaac, a young courier, volunteers himself to deliver a mysterious package for the Union military. His task will lead him deep into the heart of the unknown, through the decaying civilization of a country that he can no longer call his home, as his eyes are opened to the horrors of the New World."
The last of the three story's, The Last Rider, takes place eight years after the second story. Isaac, a horse messenger embarks on an important government mission to deliver a satchel to the military. Along the way, Isaac comes across some new characters, and even some we've previously met.

I like how the of story's progression escalated up to the final battle. All three very different, yet connect to the previous in some way. These short stories were complete tales of their own, but all three managed to cohesively tell a full undead tale.

It's rare that a work of fiction will make me turn to a dictionary, but the use of 'Blunderbuss' stumped me. Don't know what it is? It's a short-barreled large-bored gun with a flared muzzle, used at short range.

The third and final story, while my favorite, didn't flow as easily as the first two. Surprising, I know, to hear that it was the story I enjoyed the most. It came off a little more vulgar and gritty than the others. It was also the only story with editing errors. Not to say the editing was an issue. A word missed here and there. It didn't detract me from enjoying the book.

If you're interested in a deviation from the cookie cutter zombie fiction, Red Dust would be a great choice. I award it 3.5 stars, mainly because while eloquently written, it lacked moments of brevity, making it difficult to find moments of relief. The short story format, however, does this book justice and provides the moments to breathe that the book needs.
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