Queho: The black man of the West | Review

Queho: The black man of the West | Review
A news story that dates back to the early twentieth century, a serial killer who, in addition to his brutality, seems to have extraordinary powers and abilities and the old and dusty Western atmosphere, are the ingredients of Queho: The Black Man of the West of Christian Sartirana (Black House, 2019), a strongly experimental novel, not for everyone, but able to entertain with the power of a film and a book put together. Let's find out how in our review.

Queho, superstar serial killer

As we wandered around the ALEcomics' only indoor pavilion, held last weekend, we passed by the Black House booth, the independent publishing project conceived and edited by Christian Sartirana. The Piedmontese writer, born in 1983, was born as a bookbinder and restorer of ancient books, but for several years he has found great success in the new Piedmontese literary gothic current, with works such as Ipnagogica (Acheron Edizioni, 2017), the story for very young straw (La Compagnia del Libro, 2019) and his latest novel Unborn (Acheron Edizioni, 2020) just arrived in all physical and online stores.

Sartirana presents the latest discovery Unborn, a horror novel that draws heavily on the horrors of Carpenter and HP Lovecraft, but our curiosity and attention is all for another volume present at the stand: a small volume, with a singular narrow and long format, entitled Queho: The black man of the West.

Christian explains to us that, like all artists, he likes to experiment, to make even the most bizarre ideas tangible, counter-current, but capable of attracting those who truly love books like him. In addition to loving books (remember his initial profession as a restorer), Sartirana is fascinated by unusual figures, "special" characters who really existed who, if given the right attention, could very well be the protagonists of a film or a novel.

Thus was born the idea of ​​Queho: The black man of the West.

If it were not for the rivers of words that over the centuries have been imprinted in the printed paper of papyri, chronicles, newspapers and books, surely many historical events would have been lost with only oral handing down. But by focusing precisely on the attitude used by some journalists and on the talent of some of the greatest writers in history, we could realize their importance in impressing some news events and their protagonists in the collective imagination.

Because, you see, the writing of chronicles and specific literary genres strongly evolved in the second half of the 19th century, when it was found that the crime news was enthusiastically participated in by readers, in turn influencing journalists, passing on to practice so-called "investigative journalism" to the point of "fictionalizing" their articles, and even the investigations underway by the authorities (The judicial error: legal aspects and practical cases, Giuffrè Editore, 2009).

Yet, this is the only way to enter not only in history, but also in legend, some characters such as Jack the Ripper, or crime events such as the 112 Ocean Avenue massacre in Amityville, just to name the most famous serial killers and one of the massacres that more than many others has inspired over twenty films.

In this novel, Sartirana stages a character who is literally inspired by a figure really existed and deepened by him in the reading of the book "The mysteries of the Far West" by Gian Mario Mollar (which lends itself to the afterword of this novel with a dedicated essay). The subject therefore portrays Queho (pronounced Cheio), an imposing thug, born to a Native American woman of the Cocopah tribe and an unknown father, presumably in 1880 on Cottonwood Island, an island in the Colorado River in the State of Nevada. br>
Queho was born with some malformations: a deformed foot, a double set of teeth and an extraordinary height given its origins. Due to a series of childhood traumas suffered for its diversity, in the early twentieth century, Queho will suffer a violent nervous breakdown that will lead him to commit his first murder: his brother Avote.

The alleged discovery of Queho's remains

Since that fateful moment it has never stopped. The chronicles speak of about 28 deaths against him, all with the same modus operandi, which bears the signs of an angry exploit of a brutal force. On the sidelines of a hypothesized discovery of his remains, albeit documented, Queho has never officially been captured, which has made him an "immortal" being and an unstoppable serial killer. Perfect for a novel or for the cinema. Don't you think?

Queho: a successful experiment.

In Queho: The Black Man of the West Sartirana composes a novel with an atypical structure, alternating the form of the story with that of an authentic screenplay, with a description of the scene in progress, the characters involved and their dialogues. A formula that could have given rise to a strong discontinuity to the detriment of a linear reading. But this is not the case. Indeed.

In fact, the strange formula adopted by Sartirana manages to better immerse the reader in the saloon atmosphere, one perceives the heat, the dust of the places in the town of White Crow, which really smells of an old western, but above all, it brings its characters to life, providing a solid bond with protagonists like the beautiful saloon owner Janet Pourcell, the hysterical old Nathan Butcher, the taciturn and resolute Leo Cunningam and finally Sheriff Cold could not be missing.

In the course of history we witness the coming of the unstoppable serial killer Queho in the town of White Crow, while with some flashbacks his genesis, his suffering and marginalization are told that make him a freak in the eyes of the world , winking at the case of Joseph Carey Merrick, known as the Elephant Man. Adding fictional details to Queho's story (in reality, we doubt he was immune to bullets!), reading the test or you have the sensation of witnessing a mashup between a Tarantino film - thanks to the settings and borderline characters - and John Carpenter's legendary Halloween, and then in the end take a drift that could recall Ridley Scott's mythical Alien. In short, a real joy for all horror lovers.

In fact, reading the novel, one realizes the similarities with the grotesque Queho with Michael Myers, but also with Jason Voorhees (the protagonist of the saga of Friday the 13th, probably honored in the novel with the eponymous Crystal Lake) as the traumatic childhood background and the brute force used on their victims.

The story flows pleasantly, with remarkable peaks, even putting in the spotlight the racial question of the natives in those years, a story that seems to be written especially for a screenplay (and in part it is), delivering even the classic edifying ending to the reader. Some characters will remain etched in your mind for a while, although they do not boast great insights or, even, with scarce descriptions of the same provided by the author.

Read also: The best films and horror tv series to watch on Netflix

A separate note, but deserved for the format chosen in the print edition (due to its size, it looks like a museum brochure ... maybe a museum dedicated to Queho); in addition to the superb cover created by Lucio Coppa.


If you want to discover the character of Queho halfway between history and legend, we advise you to put on the notes of Good Times Gone by Nickelback and immerse yourself in this short but intense story from a typically horror character. Queho: The black man of the West will prove to be a very pleasant discovery, a small pearl that could make you passionate about the story of this incredible character. A little like what happened to the author himself.

Unborn is the latest novel by Christian Sartirana, which has just been released in all bookstores, offered at a special price on Amazon.

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