Wanna get amped for another Halloween-perfect read? Then you are definitely gonna wanna keep Wranglestone by Darren Charlton on your radar! This debut gay zombie UK YA releases from Stripes on February 6, 2020, and we’ve got a gorgeous cover and an excerpt for you! But first, here’s a little more info on the book:
In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there’s nothing to stop them from crossing the ice.
Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he’s forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he’s always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over. But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they’ve ever known.
Zombie lore meets a gay coming of age tale that defies genre expectations at every turn. An action-packed and thought-provoking debut, for fans of Patrick Ness, Marcus Sedgwick, Dread Nation and The Walking Dead.
And here’s the utterly chilling cover, designed by Pip Johnson with art by Jana Heidersdorf!
On approaching the cover design, Pip said: “I wanted to work on Darren’s cover as soon as I heard about Wranglestone – such an intriguing story, in such an epic setting… Working with Jana to create a cover that conveys the sense of place, atmosphere and heart as well as the troubling undertones of the story, has been a thrilling challenge. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands!”
When it came to capturing the feel of the novel in her artwork, Jana said: “The best part about my job is getting to read the books I have the privilege to illustrate covers for. Unfortunately, some manuscripts set the bar very high for me. How can I create an artwork equally as intriguing, as atmospheric? In the end, I believe we have found a way to do Darren’s story justice, if only enough to lure people into experiencing the world of Wranglestone themselves.”
Darren set out to achieve certain things with his story. Here’s how he approached the novel in his own words: “Wranglestone is a love story between two boys set in the American wilderness fifteen years after a zombie apocalypse.
When I was growing up in the 80’s, the only way I stood a chance of seeing myself (or future self) reflected in books and film, was in the troubled adult worlds of Joe Orton and Edmund White, when all I needed was for Tom Sawyer to fall in love with Huck or Luke Skywalker to swing across that chasm with Han.
For my debut I wanted to give LGBTQ+ teens not an issue based or coming out story, but their very own adventure and for other readers, a coming of age thriller and mystery that just happens to have a gay relationship at its heart.
So, Brokeback Mountain meets Walking Dead, for teens! I hope you enjoy!”
And speaking of enjoying, here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure!
Peter was born into a world of unwelcome visitors. And winter on Lake Wranglestone sure as hell was one of them. Just when the bears had started to leave for higher ground, those damned dark clouds came down off the mountains, carrying something far worse inside.
Peter drove his axe into the woodpile and looked out across the water. The lake, tucked in between the Great Glaciers to the north and the Shark Tooth mountains of the south, was among the most remote of all the refuges built for the nation’s National Park Escape Program. A dozen little islands, all peaked with pine, dotted the deep blue eye of the forest.
His island, Skipping Mouse on account of it being the smallest, was down one end. Eagle’s Rest, where Cooper lived, was all the way up at the top. On a clear day, you could watch him skimming stones in nothing but his undershorts, but not this morning. Fingers of icy cloud hung so low over the water that the islands disappeared inside them. Peter steadied himself on the grip of the axe. The lake took on a special eerie feel now that the year was dying, and the air was thick with log smoke and bull elks grunting. But there was something else.
A loon bird wailed like a wolf in the night.
A canoe broke through the mist.
A moment later, it came.
“No,” Peter whispered. “Not yet. Please go away. I’ll be real good, I promise.”
A single snowflake bobbed over Peter’s head and settled on the blade of the axe. He chewed the skin around his fingernail and the snowflake dissolved to nothing. But it wasn’t nothing. It just wasn’t. Soon more snow would be on its way. More than just the snow too. Soon they would come.
Peter swung round, furiously scanning the shoreline. Over on the mainland, yellow leaves shimmered down from silver branches like sunlight on water. The lake clapped the rocky shore. He sighed. At least there was no sign of the ice forming yet. Their clawing hands couldn’t get to the islands for now. But the big freeze was coming and it was coming fast, and no one was going to dig out their box of sleigh bells and Christmas stockings for First Fall. Not any more. Not ever.
Peter turned back. Above him, candlelight twinkled from inside the island’s piney chamber. They were safe in their little timber tree house. The six wooden stilts that held it up there in among the pine cones and black squirrels were built to withstand a heavy knock, even a herd. That’s what his dad had always promised him anyways. Not that it made much difference. Nothing stopped those stilts from looking as flimsy as matchsticks at this time of year. But then winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than a bald eagle’s gaze, but because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.
Darren Charlton lives in London with his partner and works in the voluntary sector for a homeless organisation. His lifetime obsessions with the National Parks of America, horror, film music and 80s kids movies have all worked their way into his writing.