ONESOME WYATT, HALF OF THE GOTHIC COUNTRY DUO THOSE POOR BASTARDS, DOESN’T WASTE TIME WITH NICETIES. On the fourth page of his debut novel, an “ungodly western horror” yarn called The Terrible Tale of Edgar Switchblade, the title char-
acter stabs a priest in the heart, delivers a few sharp kicks to his nether re- gions, then jams an arm down the dying man’s throat and pulls up a fistful of intestines. If you’re reading the book while listening to its companion album, Behold the Abyss, all this should be going down as the first track, “Thee Beginning,” which proclaims Edgar to be “obscure and violent and obscene / a man of God, a cannibal.” Though the album, made up of thirteen doom-laden
dirges, is par for the course for Wyatt and the other Poor Bastard (the banjo-plucking, bass-strumming enigma known simply as The Minister), the novel is uncharted territory for the Madison, Wisconsin-based duo. “I’ve always wanted to write a book, so one day I de-
cided to finally sit down and see what would happen,” Wyatt says. “There was really no preconceived idea as to what the book would be about or who the main character would be. I just wrote and wrote whatever came into my mind and finally ugly ol’ Edgar emerged from the chaos. After I figured out who he was, his peculiar adventure seemed to ooze right out onto the page without any guidance from me. What oozed out is baroque, gory and gloriously weird. Edgar
Switchblade is a bounty hunter convinced he was sent here by God to rid the world of monsters, though his appearance – not to mention his gruesome proclivities – seems to indicate the opposite: Edgar has hooves instead of feet and a bloodlust that is unmatched even by the demons he hunts. He adores animals and can’t abide the thought of eating them, so he subsists on jerky made from human flesh. His beverages of choice? Rot- gut whiskey and the blood of sinners, of course. In true western fashion, Edgar’s only friend is Old Red, his beloved horse. The story finds Edgar tracking an albino werewolf that might hold the key to his own mysterious origins.
The book is styled to resemble an old, banged-up pulp novel, but the sim-
ilarity to vintage dime store debauchery goes beyond the weathered cover and red page-edging. “I love old pulp science fiction, horror, crime, western and adventure books,
so those were a big influence,” Wyatt explains. “Just looking at the amazing painted covers on those things was a huge inspiration. [Comics from the ’60s and ’70s], such as Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex and Conan the Barbarian helped shape the world. I think some of the aesthetic values of John Wa- ters and Ed Wood movies might have crept in there too.” Though Wyatt (above right) is named as the sole au-
thor of Edgar Switchblade, he credits The Minister with “invaluable spiritual guidance.” Wyatt originally con- ceived the book as a solo, stand-alone effort, but it didn’t take him long to realize the novel was only half of Edgar’s twisted tale. “They both grew together like parasitic twins,” Wyatt says of the book and album, which were released to-
gether on September 11 – “really just an odd coincidence” – from Wyatt’s own Tribulation Recording Company. “When I first started the book I didn’t plan on making an album with it. I actually wanted to take a little break from recording, but this world of Edgar’s just took over my brain and then the songs came out too.” It’s easy to see how a poor soul like Wyatt, who also serves
up platters of gothic gloom as Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks, could find himself dallying in Edgar’s universe. The cloven-hooved cannibal clip-clops his way across a landscape dotted with places such as Hangman’s Pass and Hellpit River. The ghoulish geography helps connect the book to the album; for instance, when Edgar pauses on the shores of the Phantom Pool to belt out a mournful dirge about the place, you can cue up the sixth track, “Phantom Pool,” and listen along. Though the novel weighs in at a trim 146 pages, we probably haven’t seen the last of Edgar and Old Red.
“I had a good time there, so I plan to return very soon,” Wyatt says. “There are so many more monsters and shitbags he needs to destroy.”