Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…
Except in this novella Toto is actually the band Rot in Hell and Dorothy is the lead singer’s slutty girlfriend. Wesley Southard’s One for the Road is a rock ‘n’ roll nightmare crossing horror and bizarro genres.
Spencer Hesston has finished his last set with Rot in Hell. He and the drummer Vinnie are sick of the lead singer Steve, their spoiled bassist Les, the Lurch-looking bodyguard D-Rail, and Shelly—Steve’s girlfriend who slangs their merch but is just as bored and over the whole thing as Vinnie and Spencer. The two friends are especially tired of the cliché chugging deathmetal riffs they're forced to crank out and are ready to start their own band. And they’ll be breaking this news to the rest of Rot in Hell as soon as they get back home…
Unfortunately, they never get the chance. After gathering some beers and joints for the long haul home, Spencer blacks out. They all do. Like Dorothy’s house plopping down in Oz, when the motley crew regains consciousness, they find the van has crossed them over a void and into a sandy ghost town. At first, that is... What follows is the band’s journey through an ever-changing landscape. Living trees, pale blood suckers, were-cat bikers, tarantulas with human fingers for legs, and a whole lot more are waiting to dissect the band.
In my last heavy metal horror review my gripe was that the novel was an LP that should have been an EP. Well, I got my wish for a fast and heavy single with One For the Road. I was able to devour this novella in two sittings. And once the band drops into the hellish Oz, the action never slows.
If you like surprises, STOP NOW and download your copy here. However, if want to know the full set-list, I’m eager to share my concert experience below—in case you’re a dense rocker like D-Rail, this means I’m dropping spoilers in the next section.
Southard does an awesome job setting the stage for Spence and Vinnie’s departure from R.I.H to chase their own musical dreams. The character development is strong in the short first sections and gets you amped to see what will happen to them. The creatures of this hell world are bizarre and the deaths are graphic. But there’s something missing…
When Dorothy finally woke up, she had learned a valuable lesson from her stay in Oz. When Spencer wakes up though…nothing. If there was a moral to the story, I missed it—which is possible. I know what you’re thinking, you just can’t please this music/book snob. And truth be told, I do feel a little bad sharing my view since it was such a cool book, but this is solely my opinion and you know what they say about opinions lol
Spencer goes through hell, and when he finally makes it out, he’s lost his best friend, his ability to play guitar, and even his parents are dead—or missing. The great character development and action led to an unsatisfying end. To use a music analogy, it’s like attending a concert and the band skips your favorite song. They don’t close with their hit or have an encore! The concert was great and you had a blast, yet you walk away a bit disheartened, wishing you could have heard that tune.
Granted, this is bizarro fiction, and I think for a lot of Deadite fans the violence and death scenes are what they love and buy the books for. In that regard, One For the Road is a homerun. No one expects Obituary or Deicide to sing a love song—unless it’s about Satan or necrophilia—and I did say I like my horror fast and heavy, but… Maybe it’s the lady in me, but I need a ballad every once in a while. I can enjoy a hammer-smashed face as much as the next gal, but every once in awhile I love for my dark music to have something a bit deeper to say.
Although, literally as I type this, an idea is forming in my head. Perhaps there is a message. The title One For the Road referred to the beers and joints the band took on their drive. When Spencer escaped hell, he woke in a crushed van on the side of the road, his band gone and his body bruised. Maybe that is the message. Be careful. Cause drinking and driving, drugs, playing in a band with little morals, all this, in the end will put you through hell. One day you’ll wake up alone—if you wake up at all—with nothing but crushed dreams and a broken body.
Nah, what am I saying? Metal can’t be that deep. And neither can bizarro horror books. We’re just freaks without a message 😉
Either way, if you’d like to dissect the “lyrics” of One For the Road” with me, snag a copy here and tag me in your discussion. Until then, make sure you stay off the highway to hell. I know I will.
Please find more of my reviews here and take a look at my own personal horror and erotic fiction here. Never miss a big release by subscribing to my newsletter—don’t worry, I barely send anything so you won’t fill up your inbox.
Thanks to Wesley for this review copy and if you'd like to see more of him, here's his author page