I'm late coming to the shindig here. I bought Deadneck Hootenanny when it first came out and I intended to read it right away. But I have so many damned books and such limited shelf space for them. Deadneck Hootenanny ended up buried under a bunch of crap and then it fell behind a dresser and got all bent up. God, I hate that.

When I first heard about the short story, Deadnecks, I wasn't very enthused. I remembered a chapbook from several years ago with a similar theme (Zombie Mafia) that I didn't like at all. Rolling my eyes, I dismissed it. But at the time I didn't know Mr. Mark Justice.

Mark is the voice of horror fiction, with his Pod of Horror show. He's also, like me, a huge fan of the old Doc Savage pulps. And Mark Justice is also a hell of a nice guy. So of course I was going to check out his first book.

Deadneck Reckoning opens with a Forward by southern horror writer Scott Nicholson. It is a surprisingly serious piece that deals with life, death, humor and horror. The book ends with an Afterward by James Beach, who traces the history of the Deadnecks cycle. As for the stories themselves...

The book is comprised of two novelettes. One is simply called Deadnecks and the other is Deadneck Reckoning. The first deals with a zombie outbreak in a rural community and the second concerns that community dealing with the plague.

Folks, don't expect Peter Straub here. The emphasis is on fun. That is, if your idea of fun consists of blood, guts and cannibalism. Deadneck Hootenanny is light reading. The perfect way to breeze through an hour or two between novels on your shelf waiting to be read. I'd say that the stories are silly, but Mark manages to throw in some shrewd observations about rural life. This book hints that its author has not only intimate knowledge of rednecks (or hillbillies or shitkickers; you know what I mean), but that that Mark Justice feels affection toward them. And having worked and lived on oyster boats here in Virginia, I know when I'm encountering the real thing. And the first person narrator of these stories bears a certain resemblance to Mr. Justice.

Deadneck Hootenanny is out of print from the publisher, but at the time of this writing, a few copies are available at the secondary markets for reasonable prices. If you want one, I wouldn't wait.

Deadneck Hootenanny is, as previously stated, the first book by Mark Justice, but I'm certain it won't be his last. Already he has a collaborative novel out with David Wilbanks and his is a voice that is too strong to be silent for long. If you don't believe me, check out his Pod of Horror.

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