Murder Ballad

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Murder Ballad is a story written by shukyou and illustrated by cerine. It ran in Issue 31 and can be found at and


Two cowboy ghost hunters investigate a haunting at a railroad construction site.

From "Jake and Will are con artist-cum-exorcists who get called by the Government to the site of a prospective railway where something odd is going on and there are mysteries to solve, not least exactly what the relationship is between the two of them. Slash."

From "Jake is a conman by trade, and he knows enough about making up spooks that he can spot the real deal from a mile away. When he's called to investigate strange events at a track site where the men are laying down rails for a train, he knows he's got a real ghost on his hands."

"Just, you know, thrash about a bit. Moan some." Jake lit one of the candles and placed it at a precarious angle on the side of the bureau. "I'll go downstairs, see if the old woman's got some baking powder."
S2b2warning.png Content Warning: Violence, Racism, Death

The author wishes to note that this story contains some sensitive material, including descriptions of period racism, homophobia, bodily harm, ghosts, and murder, as well as brief references to rape.

It is, nonetheless, largely a comedy.

Related Links[edit]

This story has been featured at GoodReads. It has also been featured in an interview with shukyou at Boys in Our Books, where the story is described as follows:
On the other hand, sometimes I write about cowboys who hunt ghosts. This story was absolutely envisioned as one of those USA Network series powered entirely by the force of bromance, except that in this case, the characters who would usually be gay-baiting are actually boning. I also like to make a point of keeping awesome female characters as important parts in several of my boyslash stories, and Bao Yu is one of my favorites.

This story is available for download/purchase on Smashwords.

Author's Notes[edit]

I actually had this story finished back in early April, but I haven't written up the notes for it because I've just had the devil's own time coming up with a title for the stupid thing. I tried to find a more specific murder ballad title to riff on, but most of them are either proper names or have some specific geographic reference to them, and those don't parody well. So generic will do.

...However, I will admit that a USA buddy show called Murder Ballads, based on this very premise, would be awesome. This could be the pilot! Anybody know someone in the industry? Call me!

Speaking of TV shows, relvetica is actually responsible for this whole mess, though semi-indirectly: she shared the link to this gallery of pictures, which appears to be from an episode of Supernatural that appears to be about cowboys. (Please do not tell me what the episode is actually about; Supernatural and I broke up years ago, and it pains me, like meeting up with an ex who's fallen on hard times, to see what's become of it.) Anyway, then I said to lynadyndyn, wouldn't it be great if there were something out there about cowboys and ghost hunting that didn't suck. Thus, this idea was born! lynadyndyn is pretty much single-handedly responsible for getting Will and Bao Yu's characters up and running, for writing both Will and Bao Yu's cleverest lines, and for cheering me unfailingly through the process. Couldn't have done it without you, love!

I was intentionally vague about things like geography and the mechanics of rail construction for reasons of being way too caught up in personal shit at the time to do sufficient research, but hey, it's a version of reality where ghost hunters wander the plains, I think I can fudge a little.

It should probably go without saying in a historical setting like this, but I'll put it out there anyway: sorry about all the racism. There was unfortunately a great deal of it in nineteenth-century frontier America, especially in the form of terms that seemed perfectly inoffensive at the time (like 'Negro Seminole') but which no doubt wouldn't fly today. Even guys like Jake, whom I would not consider strictly racist, have a lot of notions about race and language that are not what you or I would think of as being racially sensitive -- and since this all gets filtered through Jake's Euro-American point of view, well, there you have it. At any rate, I apologize on history's behalf.

Finally, the art: cerine went above and beyond the call of duty for this one, spending literally months getting all this right via traditional and digital media, and instead of waxing poetic about how amazing of an artist she is, I think you just need to see some of her process/concept sketches, arranged from earliest to most recent.

(from, where said pictures are located)

Artist's Notes[edit]

External Reviews[edit]

  • "So, I love gay cowboys, I love shukyou, and I love boys who don't know they're in love. Somehow, shukyou turns a story with rape, murder, racism, and prejudice and makes it an incredibly sweet and touching story. If I could only read one slash author for the rest of my life, it would be this lady right here."
  • "It's like Supernatural if it was set in nineteenth century America and featured gay ghost whisperers and was considerably less racist. :D (so nothing like Supernatural at all okay)"
  • "AHHH I LOVE THIS STORY. Two guys who make their living as (fake) exorcists get called in to help with a real ghost, in the mid-1800s Wild West. There are railroads and racism and True Love and everything is beautiful."