REVIEW: Six-Guns Straight From Hell

Six-Guns Straight From Hell

Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy From the Weird Weird West, edited by David B. Riley and Laura Givens (Science Fiction Trails Publishing, 2010). This is yet another, very welcome addition to a series of weird west short story anthologies. Overall, the writing and editing isn’t quite as strong as Showdown at Midnight, but there’s a nice variety of weirdness.

Chin Song Ping and the Fifty-Three Thieves, by Laura Givens

A clever, lazy, but resourceful Chinese immigrant outwits a sorcerer and wins the treasure in this amusing weird western take on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Clay Allison and the Haunted Dead, by Bill D. Allen & Sherri Dean

A mercenary gunfighter kills a murderer who won’t stay dead until his bruja wife can exorcise a demon. (Sharply penned, surprising twists and developments, and loaded with thrills and chills. Excellent protagonist.)

Six Guns Straight From HellDecently and Quietly Dead, by Matthew Baugh

An outlaw and a sheriff work together to stop a cult led by a hanged, self-healing preacher with a god complex. (Outstanding action and weirdness.)

Trouble Huntin’, by Bill Craig

A hunter on the trail of a werewolf finds the people in a frontier saloon less than helpful. (Abrupt shift in point of view and tone mars the big plot twist.)

On the Road to Bodie, by Lyn McConchie

A poor Mexican girl is harassed and pressured into a forced marriage by a local ranch hand until she receives supernatural assistance by a legendary and kindly ancestor. (Deftly written, emotionally engaging, offers a small supernatural thrill.)

Spook, by John Howard

A contingent of Buffalo Soldiers confronts a town of serial killers. (Excellent sense of danger and empowerment.)

Bleeding the Bank Dry, by David Boop

Would-be bank robbers convince an old vampire to help them rob a bank, by turning one of them into a bloodsucker. (Inventive, fun, a bit cynical.)

A Specter in the Light, by David Lee Summers

In New Mexico, a couple of science professors use Nicolas Tesla’s electricity generator to illuminate a mine, revealing more than anyone expected. (Very well researched and plausible, with a couple of chills.)

As Ye Sow, by Renee James

Riding rough through Kansas, Civil War terrorists meet their match in an elderly former slave woman. (Sadistic bad guys, and their comeuppance reads like a classic supernatural revenge comic.)

Night Bird, by Dorn Hornbostel

A reluctant temporary sheriff locks up an attractive, shapeshifting witch who can’t be restrained, except by the limits of her own spells. (Haunting in more ways than one. A lovely, sad story.)

Smile, by Kit Volker

A Civil War battlefield photographer struggles with her portrait business until she taking pictures at night in a haunted cannery. (More about a liberated woman finding empowerment than the weird west, but still interesting.)

Ghost Dancers, by Sam Kepfield

Alternative history in which an Irish journalist records the successful Ghost Dance campaign to unite the Indian tribes against the genocidal white men. (A bit preachy and politicized, but an excellent premise.)

Justice, by Nicole Givens Kurtz

A homicidal prostitute takes refuge from a posse in a Navajo hogan. But is she safer inside with the ancient Indian woman, or outside with the lynch mob? (Unreliable narrator causes over-the-top emotion, and there’s too much reliance on coincidence, but well-intended.)

The Man from Turkey Creek Canyon, by Lee Clark Zumpe

A confused gunfighter makes a deal with the devil to kill some Apaches but doubts his mission. (Mischievous and more than a little confusing, with bookending scenes that aren’t quite weird west.)

The Last Defenders, by Carol Hightshoe

Written in present tense, which I skipped as a matter of principle.

Long Night in Little China, by Joel Jenkins

A Lone Crow, Indian bounty hunter adventure set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, in which he rescues a mysterious woman from pursuing Tong gangsters and a supernatural beast. (Excellent action, lots of magical mystery, a touch of romance, with a forehead-slappingly obvious way to defeat the monster.)

The Enterprising Necromancer, by Henrik Ramsager

An entrepreneur with the power to reanimate the dead fends off disgruntled customers, resists giving refunds, and otherwise tries to keep his shop open despite his serious “illness.” (Rambling, unfocused series of vignettes. More of a character sketch, but still interesting.)

Snake Oil, by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

A traveling salesman with an airship sells a strange brew that affects the townspeople adversely, and it’s up to a little boy to save the day. (Steampunk and zombies. Exciting and action-packed.)

The Murders Over In Weirdunkal, by James Patrick Cobb

A sheriff is in over his head when townsfolk are murdered by something that leaves strange puncture wounds on the bodies. (Starts off as a delightful comedy of western incompetence, throws in a possessed Saguaro cactus for weirdness, changes tense several times in the narrative, and ends badly.)

Grumpy Gaines, Texas Ranger, by David B. Riley

A curmudgeonly Ranger dispenses Texas-style justice to a vampire, then runs afoul of a coven of alchemists. Good thing he has a loyal Alaskan sled dog. (Whimsical, loads of fun, healthy dose of weirdness, but way too short a story.)

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

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