REVIEW: ‘Showdown at Midnight’ is an entertaining anthology of ‘classic’ contemporary Weird West Tales


edited by David B. Riley (Science Fiction Trails 2011)

This anthology of original Weird West Tales falls comfortably within the parameters of western horror/supernatural fiction. It’s refreshing that these stories exhibit a great deal of creativity and variety without feeling the need to “push the envelope” and go genre-bending. As with any anthology, some stories will appeal to you more than others, but they all push the right buttons.

Showdown at MidnightThe Incorruptible, by Don D’Ammassa

Two cowboys find a ritually dismembered corpse, fight a Choctaw hunting party and encounter a lethal skinwalker. (Outstanding, as the “good guy” doesn’t realize what he’s done until it’s too late.)

Ghost of a Chance, by Bill Craig

A bounty hunter from hell tracks an escaped demon to a saloon. (Good showdown, with a vampire thrown in for good measure.)

The Shadow Walkers, by Joel Jenkins

Two gunfighters stumble over a mining camp massacre outside San Francisco and track the nearly-invulnerable Shadow Walkers who did it. (Very good “buddy” rapport, with interesting wraith-like foes.)

Lycanthropy Unbound, Sam Kepfield

A professor investigates a werewolf attack using the scientific method, seeking a cure. (Well-researched and plausible, with plenty of action.)

Low Noon, Henrik Ramsager

A gunfighter makes an unwise wager with a necromancer and tries to shoot it out with an undead adversary. (Scarier than you’d think.)

The Great Ghost Train Robbery, by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

Body-hopping ghosts rob a train, and it’s up to Annie Oakley to defeat them. (Fun adventure, well written, with the added twist of a sharpshooter who mustn’t shoot the innocent bodies of the possessed .)

Samurai Blade, by John M. Whalen

The ghost of a murdered samurai seeks vengeance on those who brought him dishonor, and a “spirit lawman” assists. (Interesting characters, and cameo appearance by Dodge City lawman Bill Tilghman.)

Wolves of the Comancheria, by Carol Hightshoe

Inadequately developed but intriguing origin story about a girl who becomes a Spirit Avenger, and the pack of wolves who help her hunt down those who have betrayed the Comanche people.

The Banshee Mine, by M.H. Bonham

A prospector is lured into a haunted mine and encounters flesh-eating, humanoid Tommyknockers. (Scary as all get-out.)

A Promise Made, by Jennifer Brozek

Classic ghostly hitchhiker tale with a Wendigo thrown in for good measure. (A bit confusing because two souls share the protagonist’s body and he spends a lot of time talking to “himself.”)

Belfry’s in your Bats!, by Aaron B. Larson

Thrilling adventure featuring a strange leaning man, swarms of gigantic vampire bats, an assassination attempt on President Grant at Carlsbad Caverns, and a vagabond who receives welcome assistance from a well-known but unnamed Secret Service agent. (A rip-roaring, wild, wild western “yarn,” filled with jargon and colloquialisms.)

Night Thunder, by David B. Riley

Tall tale about a happy-go-lucky saddle tramp and his horse who face off against a ghost horse that is terrorizing a small Nevada town. (A little cavalier with its violence and amoral attitude, but entertaining.)


About Patrick Dornhttp://patrickdorn.wordpress.comPlaywright, Fiction Writer, Theatre Critic.

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