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How the West Was Weird: 9 Tales from the Weird, Wild West Paperback – February 6, 2010
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Although it has been several decades since I last read something in the Western genre and many would claim the genre is dead (despite John Locke's "Emmett Love" Western series proving there is a market among Kindle readers), I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. As you can expect with an anthology, some of the stories resonated more than others, but the strange genre blending was weird in a way I liked. If you like westerns or paranormal, taking a walk on the weird side should feed your normal craving while adding a little of that spice that some call variety.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
As with any compilation, the transition between writing styles of different authors can affect the overall enjoyment of the book. I found the majority of the stories to be well executed and entertaining, particularly the action-packed "Wyrm Over Diablo" as well as "Of All the Plagues a Lover Bears" because I am a sucker for anything related to zombies, but I did struggle to finish a few. Although some stories are better than others, overall HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD manages to successfully unite the traditional western with a bit of weird.
"Camazotz" by Josh Reynolds suffers a fatal flaw in that it's too short and one wonders why it was even included. It's a nifty idea of a cowboy trying to get out of Mexico with an Aztec mummy. Unfortunately no sooner does it get going then it's over. Makes me wish the editor would have pestered Reynolds to expand it to a more satisfying length.
"Wyrm Over Diablo" by Joel Jenkins features a colorful pair of heroes that were so much fun to see in action, I'm hoping he had plans to use them again in the future. This was a non-stop action piece pitting a Native American gunfighter against a Cthulhu type monster that was thrilling stuff.
"Don Cuevo's Curative" by Thomas Deja is my favorite. Deja's tale of a spooky, thoughtful exorcist who is hired by a town to save a young possessed farm boy was skillfully laid out with intriguing, sympathetic characters. Deja's style is laconic in that it doesn't rush the story, pacing it carefully to a very rewarding finale. He's a writer worth watching.
"The Town With No Name," by Mike McGee is a comedic entry that never takes itself seriously. An emotional scarred outlaw is recruited to be the sacrificial lamb to the Devil on behalf of a dusty town of lost souls. How he accepts his role in their grand scheme and confronts Lucifer is reminiscent of the finer O'Henry tales.
"Sins Of The Past," by Barry Reese features a 2oth Century masked avenger traveling back into time to put to rest a trouble spirit that is the cause behind a genuine "ghost town."
"You Need To Know What's Coming," by Ian Mileham is easily the most frightening story in the collection, with a really creepy ending.
"Of All The Plague A Lover Bears," by Derrick Ferguson not only has the most original title, it also presents the pulpiest tale in which a mystic gunslinger is hired to clean out a town full of flesh-eating zombies. This is the kind of gem I read anthologies for.
The book has two remaining stories, but quite honestly, neither belongs here. One features asteroid miners in space and the other about a small town handy man who meets the Devil on Halloween eve. They are both well written and enjoyable, but I take umbrage that when you set a theme for an anthology, stick to it. Just because the space cowboy wears a Stetson does not make it a "western". Likewise the other tale, whose setting has no distinctiveness, could easily have taken place in the woods of Maine. Which is why I cry foul. Neither of these is a real "western."
That said, HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD, is a grand collection that is extremely entertaining and worth your support. In fact, I'm hoping it does well enough to warrant another volume. This are too much fun to end with just one outing.