West Of Hell: James A. Moore, R.B. Wood & Michael Burke.
Reviewed By Priscilla Bettis.
This is the second three-novella anthology that Crystal Lake has published in their Dark Tide series. James A. Moore, R.B. Wood, and Michael Burke bring the Old West back to life and throw in some humor, hooligans, and a touch of history.
First up is James A. Moore’s Dead Men. Slate and Crowley are monster hunters. This time they face dancing ghosts and walking dead, but there is more going on behind the scenes. An evil sorcerer, perhaps?
There is a lot of banter-type dialogue between Slate and Crowley for a chuckle now and then. Humorous bits appear elsewhere, too. Humor and horror put together are tricky and vary with readers’ preferences. I thought the story came off as almost funny, but other readers might find the story laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Dead Men has the most gruesome up-close scenes of the three novellas, and readers will need strong stomachs.
I enjoyed Dead Men and especially appreciated the surprises and mystery and reveals. Not all is as it seems!
The second novella is The Trickster of Paradise by R.B. Wood.
There are two stories going on here, a teenager named Thad with his friend White Feather, and a hateful captain with his own agenda. Parts of the captain’s story were difficult to read because of the cruelty involved. (Not for sensitive readers.)
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Western unless a stranger rides into town, and one does.
I appreciated Wood’s deft handling of Western tropes. I also liked the theological questions Wood raises. They give the story depth and the reader something to think about afterwards.
The final novella is Michael Burke’s Last Sunset of a Dying Age. A supernatural monster is killing people and livestock in Copper City, Arizona. The Old West setting is palpable, and Burke layers a diverse cast with a literary mode and his plot.
Shibuya is a disgraced Samurai, and he’s the star of the story. He helps the fine folks of Copper City hunt the monster. Leland Meade–don’t you love that name? It sounds like “Lake Mead”–is a greedy SOB and wants to strike another copper vein in the mine. Pastor Wilburne is greedy, too, in his own way. He wants an influx of parishioners that a new vein would bring. Burke’s characters are so real they held me spellbound.
Overall, I’m not sure “Weird Western Horror Stories” is the right subtitle for this anthology. I thought the stories ranged from splatter-Western to lit-horror and skipped the weird part. Nonetheless, it’s another entertaining book in the Dark Tide series and worth a read.
West Of Hell is out now via Crystal Lake Publishing.
West Of Hell
Want to go on a Western Adventure?
Join three highly talented authors on a thrilling journey into the past that’s perfect for readers of Western thrillers, horror, mystery, fantasy, and of course the supernatural.
DEAD MEN by James A. Moore: And the Dead shall rise. Jonathan Crowley is having a problem with dead men. They just keep getting back on their feet. From the ghost dancers at a strange burial site to the corpse of a man he literally just killed, the dead refuse to lay down and die, and now it’s up to Crowley and his traveling companion Lucas Slate to try to figure out why the dead are restless and determined to kill whatever crosses their paths.
THE TRICKSTER OF PARADISE by R.B. Wood: Never trust a cave painting with an agenda.
In the old west, the people of Paradise live in harmony with the local Sioux tribe until the U. S. Army arrives with false accusations and their deeply rooted prejudices. While the strange newcomer known as “Mortimer” watches; a sixteen year old boy and an ancient legend must come together to fight the invaders, save the town and win the day. Can the desires of an ancient legend and the wishes of a young man survive the encounter with Death watching their every move?
LAST SUNSET OF A DYING AGE by Michael Burke: Ibuki Shibuya is a disgraced samurai, a fugitive from the vengeance of his former master. His flight leads him to the American Southwest where he discovers a mutilated body in the Arizona desert. He eventually finds himself in Copper City, a frontier town plagued by a series of grisly murders.
A motley cast of characters populate the town and Ibuki becomes embroiled in affairs both mundane and extraordinary as he resolves to assist the sheriff in solving the strange murders. Perhaps he will even meet the honorable end he seeks in doing so. All the while, a strange man, dressed in black, who knows more than he says, lurks outside of Copper City.
Events come to a head when the truth is laid bare. Ibuki, along with both friends and foes, learns that not all remnants of a dying age have given way to progress.
Priscilla Bettis is an avid horror reader and passionate horror author. She’s also an excellent swimmer, which is good because vampires are terrible swimmers. Priscilla shares a home in the Northern Plains of Texas with her two-legged and four-legged family members.
Amazon author page: Priscilla-Bettis