Monday, May 12, 2008

Dead in the West, by Joe R. Lansdale

There are two types of people in the world: Those who think a Zombie Western is an awesome idea, and those who, strangely, don't.

Dead in the West is written for the former, but is good enough that even the latter may be converted. The story opens with some good old fashioned horror. A stage coach is set upon by...well, we don't see what the stage coach is set upon by, but it comes quick and is deadly. There is a creature, we know that much.

A Reverend comes to town, Jebediah Mercer. He carries a gun. Reverend Mercer is the quintessential Western man, owing much to Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider as anything else. He is a man of the cloth, but a hard and dangerous man, doing God's work with his gun.
The man was dressed in black from boots to hat, save for a dusty white shirt and the silver glitter of a modified .36 colt Navy revolver in his black sash waist band. His face, like many men of the Word, was hard and stern. But there was something definitely unGodlike about the man. He had the cool, blue eyes of a cold killer - the eyes of a man who had seen the elephant and seen it well. - pg 8
It isn't clear exactly why the Reverend has come to Mud Creek, but he has, and just in time to find himself in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Is there a better time to come to Mud Creek?

In the hands of any other author, Dead in the West could come across as exceptionally campy, but instead we are given a hard driven story laced with black humor and outstanding zombie action. There is a curse on Mud Creek, and that curse is the blessing of the reader because Lansdale is a master of this blend of action, horror, western, fantasy, and comedy, laced with dialogue so sharp it'll leave a scar.

The narration of Lansdale is not to be missed. The attitude drips off the page.

Dead in the West begins with the horror occurring off the page, with the screams cut off and the damage unseen. As Lansdale spins the story, the horror is more and more real, more in the face of the reader and builds until the violence and tension has to burst out and explode into one hell of a conclusion.

A Joe Lansdale novel is a vicious treat and Dead in the West has to be one of his best. This is not to be missed.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Night Shade Books.

One thing I Reverend Mercer from Dead in the West the same as Reverend Rains from the Lansdale story "Deadman's Road"? There are differences, sure, namely how the choice of firearm and how said firearm is carried (sashes vs holsters), but how many gun toting Reverends can there really be?

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