Sour Lake

Or, The Beast

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Pub Date 01 Dec 2011 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2021

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It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas's Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night--and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.


It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas's Ochiltree County savagely...

Advance Praise

"Set in 1911, Sour Lake follows a set of grisly and bizarre murders in the Big Thicket section of Southeast Texas. Sour Lake pulled me in so deep and fast I'm not entirely sure I remember anything about the day I sat reading his incredible book other than the sound of rapidly turned pages. Texas deserves its monsters to be like everything else here, big and badass. McCandless delivers perfectly."

--The Houston Press

"A well-executed journey into the macabre."

-- Kirkus Reviews

"Not that long ago, this part of the country was a lawless, treacherous place...Sour Lake is a cautionary tale for today."

-- San Antonio Express-News

"Set in 1911, Sour Lake follows a set of grisly and bizarre murders in the Big Thicket section of Southeast Texas. Sour Lake pulled me in so deep and fast I'm not entirely sure I remember anything...

Available Editions

ISBN 9780615544861
PRICE $10.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 4 members

Featured Reviews

230 pages 4 stars Part horror, part western, part science fiction with a touch of fantasy, this book gives the reader much to think about. It is also very real in the sense that it discusses the reality of being Black in Texas in 1911. I enjoyed this little novel. I found the writing fascinating. Mr. McCandless has a real talent. There is a spate of horrific killings going on around the little town. People are literally being torn apart. All watched over by the eerie and mysterious Thicket that stands nearby the settlement. The sheriff is determined to find out who is doing the killings, as is the town doctor. They are joined by a few other unlikely heroes who set out to discover the perpetrator. The town people want to blame the few Blacks in the town. What they discover is far beyond imagination. I would like to thank NetGalley and Ninth Planet Press for forwarding to me a copy of this interesting and dare I say, fun, book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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Horror In the Big Thicket Texas has grown a bumper crop of exceptional writers and Bruce McCandless III has garnered a good reputation, so I signed up for this ARC as soon as I saw it. I wasn't disappointed! Written in an eclectic style of Texas gothic horror, the tale reminds me of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and Irish author Sheridan LeFanu, leavened with the folksiness of Mark Twain. Sour Lake is and was a real place. Set in the hot, humid, overgrown edge of the Big Thicket, the events took place about as far from an urban center as you can get. Venturing out after nightfall must have been terrifying in a place so sparsely settled, where no end of vicious predators--with four legs or two--could hunt without fear of discovery or capture. I was riveted from the opening chapter and the first horrific attack. The ensuing investigation introduced the characters and more than a few complications as the search for the killer began. One problem they faced was that, though the story takes place in 1910, for many Texans of that day, it had never made it beyond the Civil War. "Doc" Walter McDivett and his nephew and ward, Jake Hennessy, were interesting characters. Doc was a man whose best years had been in the past century, while Jake revelled in the progress of the 20th. Though Doc wouldn't concede that young Jake was a grown man and viewed his interests as a childish hobby he hoped that he'd outgrow, they weren't so unalike. Jake's interest in building flying machines may not have earned him his uncle's respect, but their conflict illustrated how the impact of the era's new technological and scientific discoveries was changing society, which added depth to the plot. In a sense, the resistance of the old against the new foreshadows the very nature of the evil that has come to their town. I received a free ARC of Sour Lake from NetGalley courtesy of the author and Ninth Planet Press. Though I'm grateful for the opportunity to read this excellent book, my views are my own, delivered without obligation. If you like southern gothic horror, especially with a Texas twang, you'll love this book. Bruce McCandless may be the third, but he's second to none!

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A colorful mix of western, sci-fi and vampire tale, 'Sour Lake' is a gory story about a bloodthirsty creature in East Texas and a group of men fighting the evil threat. While the plot was OK, I had some problems with the often discursive writing, telling too much detail especially about side characters which distracted from the real story. However, after about the first half the book concentrated more on the events going on, so that pace and tension went up a bit. Overall, an interesting and entertaining different take on vampire lore.

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So this is the sequel to In the Land of the Dead Horses, a weird western. In this outing we follow Jewel Lightfoot once again on a weird and wonderous adventure.  This time he is investigating gruesome murders that are occurring in East Texas's Ochiltree County in which the Big Thicket is located.  The Big Thicket is a forest/swamp which has been described as "America's Ark" and the "Biological Crossroads of North America" (Wikipedia). Something in the Big Thicket is kidnapping and murdering people.  Jewel Lightfoot is joined by two doctors, his engineer nephew, the sheriff and a reclusive local naturalist to track down and kill the devilish thing threatening the citizens of Ochiltree County. Again, McCandless has a great talent for creating characters that are vividly real. In fact, I think the characters are more interesting than the actual mystery. I could read about these characters just playing cards all night-that's how interesting they are. The mystery itself is ok. I wasn't scared by any means and the resolution was a bit out there but still within the parameters of weird westerns. But, I feel like there is a volume missing between this one and the first novel. Some story lines from In the Land of the Dead Horses appear in Sour Lake but are never really cleared up or explained. We want to know what happened in between the stories. I really hope McCandless will go back and fill in some of the blanks. If you are looking for an entertaining, strange western, this is the series for you.

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