Your Brothers Blood by David Towsey: Review.

Thomas is thirty-two. He lives in the small town of Barkley.
He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier.
Thomas is also dead- he is one of the Walkin’. And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.

We are all familiar with the archetypal Zombie story.
The dead return, they’re a bit bitey, the hordes of zombies grow, they eat, the world is doomed, the survivors discover the ol’ “Shoot them in the head” trick, and then they all go to The Winchester for a nice cold pint, and wait for it all to blow over. Ok, that last bit doesn’t happen so frequently, but you get the idea.

I (for one), absolutely love Zombie stories. From the classic George A. Romero films, to The Walking Dead, The Resident Evil games etc.
So a few months ago when I heard of the upcoming release of David Towsey’s debut novel (and the first of a trilogy), I was rather excited.

First and foremost, Your Brothers Blood is not your average Zombie story. Mr Towsey turns the zombie phenomenon on its undead head!

A hundred or so years into the future, after an unknown apocalyptic situation (known as The Second Fall). Mankind has reverted right back to basics and a more simple way of life, reminiscent of the old American West.
The story is set in the town of Barkley whose founder (J.S Barkley) paved the way for how the townspeople should live “Live a plain life: family, worship, and the soil – repentance for our ancestors.”
Barkley is a harsh place, and Mr Towsey describes it in such a way that you can clearly see the town as a character itself. In my opinion Barkley is the town that refused to die and could almost be identified as one of the undead.
The Zombies (identified in the novel as the Walkin) are identifiable characters, they have no desire for eating brains etc. The people of Barkley fear the Walkin, and this fear is backed up by the teachings of the late J.S Barkley, and Pastor Gray’s piety.
Pastor Gray’s sermons are all hellfire and brimstone, he preaches that the Walkin are damned souls forced to endlessly walk the earth, and that they are their ancestors sins personified. The Good Book is wielded as a weapon in the town of Barkley and is in fact the *only* book available to the town.

With most Zombie stories, the undead are quickly identified as the monsters. Towsey shows very early on in the book that mankind are the monsters and one can’t help but feel sorry for the Walkin and their plight.

Thomas wakes up dead. He is/was a soldier fighting an endless war. He wants to see his family again, but knows if he returns to Barkley, not only will he put himself in danger, but also his beloved daughter Mary. The anguish Thomas feels shows that even though he is now one of the Walkin, he is still very much a man. A man that feels and has memories, and loves even though he is no longer one of the living.
As previously mentioned Towsey avoids the usual horror element found in everyday Zombie tales. The horror comes from the ever looming danger that the Walkin face, and the blind conviction by the townsfolk to punish the unholy that plague their simple way of life.

From start to finish, I absolutely adored this novel. It had such a haunting and beautiful feel to it. The father and daughter relationship between Thomas and Mary was so touching and beautiful, and showed that even through something as terrible as Thomas went through, the bonds of fatherly love can never be bent or broken, and if anything, are a lot stronger.
The town of Barkley, Pastor Gray and Luke Morris the acolyte, reminded me of Silent Hill (the movie) in the way that they were so blinded by their faith and intolerance of the Walkin, it had started to unravel their own humanity.
Your Brothers Blood is part of a trilogy and Towsey has left a lot of pathways open for exploration in the future novels.
I look forward to finding out more about the Walkin and discovering more about the world that Towsey has built. Your Brothers Blood is one of my favourite reads of 2013

Welcome to Barkley!

Your Brothers Blood is out now! from Jo Fletcher Books

(Thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with a copy of this wonderful novel)

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Guest Post: David Towsey on the Genesis Of ‘Your Brothers Blood’

Church bells chime in the dusty streets. A lone wolf howls, and a tumbleweed rolls by.
No, I’m not talking about the aftermath of one of my jokes, but the setting of author David Towsey’s debut publication from Jo Fletcher Books. David was kind enough to contribute a guest post, talking about the process behind writing his debut work entitled ‘Your Brothers Blood’ (review at the end of the week) and the Zombie/Western genre blend.
So without further ado, over to David.

The genesis of Your Brother’s Blood is not a particularly easy thing for me to pinpoint. Ideas seem to snowball for me – as I’m sure they do for many writers. But the way in which the novel blends genres and incorporates a slightly strange future that resembles the past (reminiscent of Firefly) means the question is an interesting one.
A little while ago my girlfriend joined an organisation in our town called ‘Transition Town’. I wasn’t overly keen on joining myself – it’s a bit of a character flaw, but I’m immediately wary of groups that are self-governing and have a mandate for do-goodery. I’m a cynic. It’s not a pretty or productive thing to be, but there it is. I’m sure there’s much more to Transition Town than I realise, but as I understand it the group aims to prepare communities for a predicted change in our lifestyles – for example the effects of peak oil. My girlfriend would come home from a meeting and describe discussions about skill sets such as growing vegetables, fishing, mending clothing, gathering edible roots, etc. I started to think perhaps the modern era might end in a gradual decline, rather than anything apocalyptic. That perhaps in a hundred years our landscapes and cities be closer to those of the end of the nineteenth century than the images of shiny futurisitic urban sprawls we often see in SF. Historically this was a landscape dominated by the horse and the pistol. So I came to the conclusion I’d write a Western set in the future.
This decision had a few liberating features that are worth mentioning. The first, and most important, was that a future setting allowed me to avoid engaging too heavily with the clichés associated with the Western genre. Or, more precisely, to avoid those clichés that I didn’t like. I didn’t want my characters to speak in a John Wayne-esque drawl. I like my dialogue to be clean and clear, and largely free of accent – especially for main characters that do a lot of talking. Many of the characters do spit, sometimes for a dramatic pause, but more often because I felt there’d be so much dust and dirt in the air it would be necessary. There are plenty of wide-brimmed hats, again out of necessity. But there are no spurs and no swinging saloon doors. Choices – as an author I make a lot of them.
Secondly, I could make some fairly radical world-building decisions without worrying too much about issues of historical accuracy. I’m not by nature a historical researcher. I know plenty of authors who relish the opportunity to lose themselves in dusty manuscripts and piece together a narrative. For them there seems to be a real thrill in discovering people at a specific point in time at a specific place, often with the aid of old maps. I know a lot of them utilise artistic license for their fiction, but I still find this consideration to be restrictive. I like to be in complete control of my narratives – the god-like image of the author that some people enjoy wheeling out when I’m asked why I write. I tend to play down this nugget of pop-psychology, but it’s probably truer than I want to admit.
When deciding what kind of people to populate my future Western with I also had another major trope of SF dominating my though process: the issue of eternal life. Why is hard to say. I can’t remember reading any novel in particular that dealt with the idea, which in fiction is often more of a curse than a blessing. Like those other stories, I wanted my eternal-lifers to be complicated. So I came up with the Walkin’. This is the term I use in Your Brother’s Blood for the zombie characters. I’m certainly not the first to rename the zombie, and other writers do it for all kinds of reasons. Often human characters shy away for the z-word as if denying the reality of their situation. In my novel, it was more of an authorial decision to distance the reader from pre-conceived notions of the zombie. The Walkin’ talk. They think. They feel – emotionally, not physically. They are in a kind of suspended animation, in exactly the state they died in, and without outside interference would continue to live on indefinitely. They don’t eat brains. Or anything. The more eagle-eyed blog reader would have noticed I used the term “zombie characters” – and that’s because my zombies are characters. The reader sees the world from their point of view and is privy to their motivations and decisions. As a writer, this gives me a wide scope for playing with ideas and character interactions; some of which would not be available in a tradition zombie narrative. Purists might turn away from this kind of re-imagining, but I hope many zombie fans will find something interesting in Your Brother’s Blood.
With these two main strands in place – the future Western setting and the presence of the Walkin’ – I was ready to find my narrative. How I ended up at Your Brother’s Blood, and the two novels that follow it, is a whole other blog post involving short stories, an MA degree, and more beta-readers than I can ever thank. But I hope this post has suggested where this genre-blended world came from and why I made some of the major decisions for the trilogy.

Thankyou so much David. ‘Your Brothers Blood’ is released on 29/08/13 from Jo Fletcher Books, so pre-order your copy now! David can be found on Twitter @D_Towsey and also on his website http://davidtowsey.blogspot.co.uk
Check back here at the end of the week to read my review of ‘Your Brothers Blood’.