In speculative fiction, the use of real-world settings can profoundly impact a story’s atmosphere, depth, and resonance. Counted With the Dead by Peter O’Keefe, set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of late ’90s Detroit, is a compelling case study of how a city’s real history and landscape can inspire and enhance a fictional narrative. As we approach the book’s launch on June 3rd, let’s explore how authors like O’Keefe, and others, have successfully blended reality with imagination to create unforgettable worlds.

Detroit in Counted With the Dead

Detroit’s storied past, marked by its rise as an industrial powerhouse and subsequent decline, provides a rich backdrop for Peter O’Keefe’s “Counted With the Dead.” The novel follows Jack Killeen, a hitman trying to leave his violent past behind, only to be pursued by a monster created from his victims. The city’s decayed landscape mirrors Jack’s internal struggle and adds a palpable sense of desolation and tension to the narrative.

O’Keefe’s choice of Detroit is no accident. The city’s real-world challenges—economic hardship, crime, and racial tension—are woven into the fabric of the story, creating a setting that feels both authentic and eerily dystopian. This approach not only grounds the speculative elements in reality but also allows readers familiar with Detroit to see their city through a new, haunting lens.

Real Cities, Real Histories, Unreal Stories

The use of real-world settings in speculative fiction isn’t new. Many authors have drawn inspiration from actual cities to lend their stories authenticity and depth. Consider Stephen King’s “The Stand,” which vividly depicts the desolation of Boulder, Colorado, in a post-apocalyptic world. King’s meticulous attention to detail in describing Boulder’s landmarks and atmosphere immerses readers in the story, making the fictional epidemic’s impact feel all the more real.

Similarly, Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” transforms London into a fantastical realm, yet it retains the city’s essence. By reimagining well-known locations like the British Museum and the London Underground, Gaiman creates a magical world that is both familiar and strange, inviting readers to explore the hidden depths of a city they thought they knew.

In “Counted With the Dead,” O’Keefe employs a similar technique. Landmarks like the abandoned factories and crumbling neighborhoods of Detroit are not just settings but integral parts of the story. They reflect the protagonist’s journey and the monstrous transformations taking place. This fusion of real and unreal blurs the lines between history and fiction, making the horror elements more visceral and the narrative more engaging.

Emotional Resonance through Place and Time

Setting a speculative fiction novel in a real city offers a unique way to connect with readers. Those who know the city can appreciate the accuracy and creativity with which the author reimagines their environment. For others, the detailed depiction of a real place can serve as an immersive introduction to a new locale, enhancing their experience of the story.

Peter O’Keefe’s Counted With the Dead leverages Detroit’s complex history to add layers of meaning to the narrative. Jack Killeen’s struggle for redemption is set against a backdrop of urban decay, reflecting broader themes of guilt, loss, and the possibility of renewal. The city becomes a character in its own right, influencing the actions and fates of the protagonists.

An Experience Worth the Journey

By grounding their tales in real places and histories, authors like Peter O’Keefe craft narratives that are not only imaginative but also deeply rooted in the human experience. Whether you’re familiar with Detroit or discovering it anew through O’Keefe’s eyes, Counted With the Dead promises to be a gripping journey through a city where the boundaries between reality and horror blur into something truly unforgettable.


Counted With the Dead launches June 3rd in your favorite online stores!
Counted With the Dead is available for preorder now!