As Halloween approaches and with Day of the Dead celebrations on the horizon, San Antonio-based author Rudy Ruiz’s novel Valley of Shadows beckons readers to embrace the spooky season spirit. The novel’s eerie ambience and supernatural elements make it a fitting choice for those seeking a bone-chilling tale to enjoy by the glow of a jack-o’-lantern.
Publishers Weekly called Valley of Shadows “an engrossing blend of historical fiction, ghost story, and mystery,” and a Booklist starred review crowed, “Ruiz deftly combines elements of romance, historical mystery, horror, and magical realism to deliver a richly satisfying adventure.”
And the novel proudly boasts its presence on esteemed lists, including being a CrimeReads Pick of Best Horror Fiction Books of 2022, as well as securing spots on Publishers Weekly and Gizmodo’s Best Horror Fiction Lists.
CrimeReads gushed, “Ruiz’s latest is a chilling meditation on life and death in the 1870s borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico, a neo-Western that brings a fatalistic noir sensibility to a story with deep spiritual and literary roots.”
But what do horror-loving readers think?
Rudy Ruiz ‘Has a Trick up His Sleeve’
Rabid readers with a taste for the macabre have rallied behind Rudy Ruiz’s creepy creation. Bruce F. gave it five stars on Amazon, writing, “The novel covers a lot of ground: part-Western, part-horror story, part-mystery, commingling in a kettle of magical realism. A daunting juggling act, to be sure, but Ruiz has a trick up his sleeve — an all-encompassing gift for infusing humanity in his characters and the struggles they face.”
And over on the Goodreads website, Jennifer G. raved, “Rudy Ruiz’s Valley of Shadows haunts with its trenchant historical accuracy woven dazzlingly with magical real elements that make this borderland Western horror leap off the page. Indeed, this powerful story wriggled into my heart and gut like a snake seeking shelter in the scorched desert earth.”
A Journey Into the Unknown: The Plot Unveiled
Without spoiling too much, the novel is set in the late 1800s against the rugged backdrop of West Texas, a land known for its vast deserts, mystique, and whispers of the supernatural. When the mythical town of Olvido becomes stranded on the American side of the Rio Grande due to the shifting river, the burg is left in a state of isolation and uncertainty.
When a sinister happening befalls the remote town, ex-lawman Solitario Cisneros must confront the dark forces at play, embarking on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. However, Solitario isn’t an ordinary cop; he possesses a unique gift — the ability to communicate with the dead. This extraordinary power becomes both a blessing and a curse as he’s drawn back into the world of crime-solving.
Sound sinister? The book actually has a rather wholesome origin story.
Rudy Ruiz: ‘It Was a Lot of Fun To Rise to the Challenge’
In an interview with the Compulsive Reader website, Rudy Ruiz shared, “To be honest, my son asked me to write a Western horror story. My children have always inspired me to spin yarns and tell stories so it was a lot of fun to rise to the challenge in my own personal style and literary voice.”
His voice sings in Valley of Shadows, defying genre boundaries and creating a unique blend of horror and crime fiction. The novel’s supernatural elements infuse the narrative with an eerie atmosphere that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
Don’t believe it? Popular pop culture site Nerdist named Valley of Shadows one of its “15 Awesomely Atmospheric Books to Read This Spooky Season,” calling it a “genre-defying literary thriller.”
When Real Life Inspires Horror
In a breathtakingly terrifying turn of events, Rudy Ruiz took a deep dive into horrible history to weave his menacing tale. “A number of atrocities committed by the Texas Rangers back in the 1800s and early 1900s inspired me to imagine a world where the unheard voices of the Native American and Mexican American communities of the time could be brought to the forefront and cast as heroes rather than only villains and victims,” he explained. “The Porvenir massacre was one such event, in which Texas Rangers slaughtered innocent Mexican children. I yearned to create a world where heroes like Solitario and Onawa could save those lives and reshape reality.”
The Porvenir massacre of 1918 saw 15 unarmed Mexican American men and boys brutally murdered by a group of Texas Rangers and U.S. Army soldiers over a dispute regarding cattle. While it took nearly a century for the incident to be recognized by the Texas government, the impact of the massacre continues to affect border communities to date.
Awards and Accolades: Recognition Well Deserved
Valley of Shadows has not only captured the imagination of readers, but has also earned more than its fair share of prestigious awards. Among its accolades is the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction, a recognition of the novel’s exceptional storytelling and ability to transport readers into a world of mystery and the supernatural.
The novel’s success has also been acknowledged by the International Latino Book Awards, where it earned finalist status, further solidifying its place among the best in the genre.
In addition to its awards and critical acclaim, Valley of Shadows has embarked on a new chapter in its literary journey: Blackstone Publishing recently released the paperback version of this haunting masterpiece. This development brings the novel to an even wider audience, allowing more readers to experience the thrill of the supernatural and the intrigue of a crime narrative set against the backdrop of the American Southwest.
“Weaving together historical events, family lore, local legends, and sheer fantasy in a seamless way is what makes writing magical realism so exhilarating and immersive for me as a writer,” Rudy Ruiz told Compulsive Reader. “Hopefully, it is also an engaging way for readers and new generations to learn about the complex past while dreaming of a better future.”