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Since I started reading this anthology of western tales, I limited myself to no more than two a day, all the while knowing they were going to run out no matter what I did. Enjoying them immensely, the editors, Ed Gorman, Dave Zeltserman, and Martin H. Greenburg have put together a solid collection of western stories, all with an edge of crime. Make no mistake, these are not polite tales, certainly not meant to be either. A wide range of writers contributed, some I was familiar with, some I knew of, and some I’d not run across in my years as a reader. Some involved here I would not have equated with westerns, crime certainly, but all did a fine job. Of the twenty-one stories herein, only one of them did I figure where it was headed. I can’t think of any more to ask of a group of tales.

Some of my favorites were by the usual suspects: Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Robert J. Randisi(Bat Masterson pops up in his story, not to mention a couple of other notable authors and if you’ve never read Randis’s Masterson novel, THE HAM REPORTER, it’s well worth tracking down), James Reasoner. Others with fine entries were Harry Shannon, Ken Bruen, Dave Zeltserman, Jeremiah Healy, and Gary Lovisi. But as I said, no dogs in the bunch.

There’s been a bit of controversy with one reviewer’s take on a story. He didn’t like it and I had no problem with that. No writer has ever written a tale that everyone liked. Different readers demand different things. But the reviewer here spent three quarters of the review touting his creds and research for his opinion before even mentioning the story itself. He classed it as an “Indian hater” story and, though he never said it outright, the implication was there that he considered the writer a racist. He took the author to task for his character names for one thing. Ironic because of his horn-blowing of his own research, he was quickly taken to task by a number of writers who pointed out that the story, while fictional, was based on a true incident and the characters, both Indian and white, were real historical figures. Five minutes more of research would have told him that(actually it took me all of about ten seconds to type in the character names and hit enter).

The reviewer apologized and admitted that it was the only story he’d read by the author and said in his zeal to get his feelings out about that type of story, he overlooked that. If that is how he works… In checking recent comments, I found a new entry where his sycophants fall all over themselves to agree with him and that those of us who didn’t agree were reduced to “twits,” a status he seemed in no hurry to correct.

A top notch line-up, here is a list of the contents:

Introduction: James Sallis

HELL – Bentley Little

ALL GOOD MEN – Terry Tanner

BURL LOCKHART”S IN TOWN – Steve Hockensmith

CANTICLE – Desmond Barry

COLT – Ken Bruen

PIANO MAN – Bill Crider

DESERT RECKONING – Trey R. Barker

LUCKY – Harry Shannon

GOING WHERE THE WIND BLOWS – Jan Christensen

THE OLD WAYS – Ed Gorman

IN SOME COUNTRIES – Jerry Raine

THE CARTOONIST – Jon L. Breen

DURSTON – Norman Partridge

EMMA SUE – Dave Zeltserman

HELL HATH NO FURY – T. L. Wolf

VANITY – Jeremiah Healy

COWARDS DIE MANY TIMES – Robert J. Randisi

LEAD POISONING – Gary Lovisi

THE CONVERSION OF CARNE MUERTO – James Reasoner

LAST SONG OF ANTIETAM – Patrick J. Lambe

THROUGH THE GOLDEN GATE – Terence Butler

A fine set of of western noir tales available from CEMETERY DANCE PUBLICATIONS. Check it out.

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