A Tale of Two Covers: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Covers by Mark Owen/Trevillion Images (left) and uncredited

While I was at Windycon here in Chicago last week, I stopped by Larry Smith’s booth in the Dealer’s Room and ended up buying a small pile of books from Sally Kobee. Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely was an impulse buy, but a good one, I think. It’s part of the James Patterson Presents line, and was an Amazon and B&N Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next pick. It’s also the tale of a female sharpshooter in a dystopian near-future West, and I like the sound of that. Here’s the description.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

My problem with the book is that I bought the trade paperback on the left, and when I was checking out the details online I discovered the mass market paperback edition on the right, with the gorgeously colorful cover. It was vividly different and inexpensive enough ($5.49) that I decided to get a copy of that one as well, this time as a gift for my daughter. I ordered it from Amazon… and promptly received a second copy of the book at left. Every edition Amazon lists online has the cover at right (including the audio, paperback and hardcover editions), but I don’t see any way to actually get one.

Well, I love a book challenge, and I’m not ready to give up yet. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Here’s the back cover of the trade edition.

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Tor.com on Six-Guns and Strange Shooters

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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It’s been a very good year for science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy, and overall I am content. But, you know, I’m never totally content, because really, what’s the point of that? This year my crankiness originates from a near total lack of Weird Westerns. It’s like the genre dried up and blew away in the wind in 2019.

At least there are a few Weird West books, movies and comics to fall back on. Earlier this year at Tor.com Theresa DeLucci shared her picks of some of the best in Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer, and she managed to point out more than a few I haven’t tried yet, including Emma Bull’s fantasy retelling of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Territory, and the 1990 film Dust Devil. And she reminded me I need to read more Jonah Hex. Here’s what she said about everyone’s favorite creepy gunslinger.

Forget the terrible movie. (You know Josh Brolin wishes he could.) The original 1977 DC comic is considered one of the first popular representations of the Weird West. The bounty hunter marked by a demon’s brand seeks out the West’s worst and also, sometimes, less earthly quarry. He also sometimes time travels and gets into a gun-fight with a T-Rex. Jonah Hex‘s best and creepiest run was written by east Texan horror master Joe R. Lansdale and come highly recommended.

Theresa also showcases The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, the Golgotha novels by R. S. Belcher, the great Deadlands: Reloaded RPG, and much more. Check out her article here.

See all our coverage of the best of the Weird West here.


New Treasures: Straight Outta Deadwood, edited by David Boop

Saturday, October 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover art by Dominic Harman

I was impressed with David Boop’s 2017 anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, one of the better Weird Western volumes of the last few years. So I was excited to see the sequel, Straight Outta Deadwood, arrive this week from Bean. Boop gives us a taste of what to expect in his Foreword, “Histories Mysteries.”

My directive to all the authors in these anthologies [was] to give me the Old West the way it really was, where applicable. I wanted the history within to be accurate, the voices authentic… But I also asked them to give me, and you the readers, the world we wished to see: dragons flying overhead, or the ability to drink with dwarves, or hear how grandpappy fought off zombies in Deadwood…

For those of you who read read Straight Outta Tombstone, this second anthology is my Empire Strikes Back. It’s darker, and include a couple pieces that left me shaken afterward… Don’t worry if you get scared easily, though. I have broken the narrative up with humor, victories over evil, and gunfights.

Lots of gunfights.

There’s been a distinct lack of decent Weird Western recently, and Straight Outta Deadwood addresses that nicely. It contains brand new short fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Charlaine Harris, Stephen Graham Jones, Lacy Hensley, Jane Lindskold, Cliff Winnig, D.J. Butler, and many others. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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New Treasures: An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

Thursday, October 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

An Easy Death-smallCharlaine Harris was the first really big interview we ever scored at Black Gate. This was thirteen years ago, before the breakout success of the True Blood HBO series based on her Sookie Stackhouse novels, but she was already hugely popular. Goth Chick met with her at a restaurant, before a big signing event here in the suburbs of Chicago, and came back totally charmed. We included the interview in Black Gate 8, the Summer 2005 issue, and it was a big hit with readers.

Harris has reached a point in her career where she can do whatever she wants. Fortunately for us, what she wants to do appears to be tell Weird Western tales. Her latest, An Easy Death, is set in a southwestern country known as Texoma, where magic is common and a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose takes a job to be a local guide for a pair of Russian wizards. But all is not what it appears to be, and dark forces are aligning against Lizbeth and her clients. It was published in hardcover earlier this month by Saga Press.

The beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood, and the Midnight Crossroad trilogy adapted for NBC’s Midnight, Texas, has written a taut new thriller — the first in the Gunnie Rose series — centered on a young gunslinging mercenary, Lizbeth Rose.

Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.

As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.

An Easy Death was published by Saga Press on October 2, 2018. It is 306 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $7.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Colin Anderson. Read the complete first chapter here.


A Love Letter to the Paranormal Western: The Shadow by Lila Bowen

Thursday, October 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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If you’re a Weird Western fan like me, you know some years are a lot leaner than others. Like pioneers on the prairie, you learn to survive by keeping your eyes sharp for unexpected bounty.

So I have no idea how Lila Bowen’s The Shadow series managed to evade me this long. I stumbled on a remaindered copy of the second book over at Bookoutlet, and quickly tracked down the other two volumes. And I just learned today that the fourth and final book, Treason of Hawks, arrives on Tuesday — perfect timing.

“Lila Bowen” is a pseudonym for Delilah S. Dawson, the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Phasma and Servants of the Storm. Wake of Vultures, the opening novel in The Shadow, won the RT Fantasy of the Year Award, and in a starred review Publishers Weekly said, “The unforgiving western landscape is home to supernatural beasties as diverse as the human inhabitants… the narrative is a love letter to the paranormal western genre.”

In a featured review last year at Tor.com, Alex Brown offered a tantalizing summary of the story so far. Here’s his take.

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The Devil’s Left Hand in the Weird West: The Devil’s West Trilogy by Laura Anne Gilman

Friday, September 7th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Laura Anne Gilman’s The Devil’s West trilogy is a Weird Western that follows Isobel, a sixteenth year-old who chooses to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. The opening novel Silver on the Road was a Locus hardcover bestseller and a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Pick for Fall 2015, and SF Signal said it “marks a major landmark in the burgeoning subgenre of Weird West Fantasy.” In his NPR review Jason Sheehan wrote:

Gilman… [has] chosen a fertile place to begin her new series (the broad plains, red rock and looming mountains of the American West), and amped up the oddity of it all by planting the Devil there as a card dealer, fancy-pants and owner of a saloon in a town called Flood.

And the Devil, he runs the Territory. Owns it in a way. Wards it against things meaner than he is, because Gilman’s Devil isn’t exactly the church-y version. He’s dapper in a fine suit and starched shirt. He’s power incarnate — a man (no horns, no forked tail, just a hint of brimstone now and then) who gets things done; who offers bargains to any who come asking and always keeps to the terms because, as everyone in the territory knows, “The Devil runs an honest house.” He never asks for anything you’re not prepared to give, never gives anything that doesn’t have a price.

So when Isobel, who has worked since childhood as an indenture in the Devil’s house, comes of age and has the chance to cut her own deal with Old Scratch, she gives the only thing she owns — herself — into the employ of the Boss and becomes the Devil’s Left Hand.

The sequel The Cold Eye arrived last year to similar acclaim; Library Journal called it “a fabulous coming-of-age tale of magic and power, set in a conflict-ridden alternative Wild West,” and NPR said “It’s like the Oregon Trail of magical voodoo western novels.”

The third and final volume, Red Waters Rising, finally arrived in June, and our friend John DeNardo at Kirkus Reviews called it “a gripping conclusion.” It’s been too long since I’ve had a great Weird Western to dig into, and finally having all three books on my shelf has proven irresistible. They will be my pleasure reading this weekend.

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Rebecca Roanhorse Celebrates the Launch of Trail of Lightning with a Reading and Q&A

Sunday, July 1st, 2018 | Posted by Emily Mah

Rebecca Roanhorse-smallTrail of Lightning-smallNebula Award winning author Rebecca Roanhorse released her first novel this week.

Trail of Lightning takes place on the Navajo reservation, where Roanhorse lived with her extended family (she, herself, is Ohkay Owingeh and African American). Environmental apocalypse has drowned most of the rest of the world, but the Navajo reservation — now called Dinétah — survived with some supernatural help. The Sixth World has dawned, bringing back the gods and monsters of old.

Main character, Maggie Hoskie, isn’t sure whether or not she’s a monster herself, but she excels at hunting them. When a new kind of horror starts abducting and killing innocent people, only Maggie, with the help of an unconventional (and rather attractive) medicine man named Kai, can hope to stop it; but can she defeat this great evil before it destroys what’s left of the world or will her own demons consume her first?

I had the privilege of facilitating a Q&A session with Roanhorse at the Jean-Cocteau Cinema on the day of her book launch. During the hour-long session, she read excerpts from her book and took audience questions about her work and process.

The video below is a record of that evening — unedited for the most part. The only parts it lacks are the signing session and the amazing cake that Roanhorse brought to celebrate.

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Experience the Terrors of the Mythos in the Old West in Down Darker Trails

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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One of the many things I love about the Call of Cthulhu RPG — besides the prospect of gathering with close friends to cheerfully go insane together — is the rich array of settings. The core game is set in 1930s America, where Lovecraft (who died in 1937) set virtually all of his fiction, and that serves the pulp horror aesthetic nicely. But over the years Chaosium, and other publishers, have produced several top-notch supplements giving players the option to adventure in a wide range of times and places.

These include Cthulhu Now (1987), Terror Australis (1987), King of Chicago (1992), The Cairo Guidebook (1995), Atomic-Age Cthulhu (2013), and many, many more. The Dreamlands, Victorian London, Scotland, even the Orient Express… no other game invites you to go stark, raving mad in such finely detailed surroundings.

However, CoC has been sorely lacking a weird western sourcebook, so I was very pleased to see Kevin Ross and his friends at Chaosium release Down Darker Trails, a massive full-color 256-page hardcover which lovingly brings Mythos horror to the old west. The book is an excellent addition to Chaosium’s catalog, and contains a splendid historical re-telling of the American Territories, plenty of famous individuals, two complete towns, four western-themed Lost Worlds (including the weird subterranean world of K’n-yan, and the eerie Shadow Desert), and two complete introductory adventures.

Down Darker Trails invites you to play American Indian heroes and famous gunslingers, visit famous sites, and discover just how deeply the terror and mystery of the Great Old Ones has seeped into the West.

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Vintage Treasures: Razored Saddles, edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto

Thursday, May 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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Razored Saddles is the first Weird Western anthology I can recall. It was published as a limited edition hardcover from Dark Harvest in September 1989; I don’t usually buy limited edition hardcovers, but for this I made an exception.

I wasn’t even aware there was a paperback edition until I came across a copy three years ago at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Show. I loved the spooky new Avon cover by Lee MacLeod, but that copy was priced at $25 — more than I paid for the hardcover! I’m pretty good at tracking down paperbacks though, and now that I knew it existed, I figured I could find one at a reasonable price. And sure enough, I did, although it took longer than I expected. With the help of an eBay Saved Search, I finally found the unread copy above in March… priced at $7, less than a brand new paperback.

Razored Saddles had two co-editors. Joe R. Lansdale needs no introduction; these days he’s best known as the author of the Hap and Leonard series, crime novels made into the highly regarded series on SundanceTV. But he’s also the author of over 50 novels and 26 collections, including The Nightrunners (1987), By Bizarre Hands (1989), and The Bottoms (2000). He has won ten Bram Stoker Awards. Pat LoBrutto began working with a summer job in the mailroom of Ace Books, and soon graduated to editing the US editions of Perry Rhodan with Forrest J. Ackerman in 1974. He won the World Fantasy Award for editing in 1986, and co-edited Full Spectrum 2 (1989). He is currently an acquiring editor for Tor Books.

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New Treasures: Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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As Rachael Acks, Alex Acks published some two dozen stories in places like Lightspeed, Shimmer, and Mothership Zeta. For novels he uses the name Alex Wells; his first, Hunger Makes the Wolf, was released last March by Angry Robot, and it got praised by a whole lot of people I respect. E Catherine Tobler said “It has a wonderful weird west vibe and some of the phrasing is simply delicious… Alex crafts a host of fascinating characters here – the Weathermen, the Bone Collector – and I reckon you’re going to love their adventures.” And at Tor.com, Liz Bourke said “It’s a science fiction Western thriller, and it is great, and I’m really, intensely, eagerly looking forward to the sequel.”

Well I have good news for Liz: the sequel has arrived. Blood Binds the Pack was released last week, it sounds as engaging as the first, and I ordered a copy as soon as it was available. Here’s the description.

War is coming to Hob Ravani’s world. The company that holds it in monopoly, TransRift Inc, has at last found what they’re looking for — the source of the power that enables their Weathermen to rip holes in space and time, allowing the interstellar travel all of human society now takes for granted. And they will mine every last grain of it from Tanegawa’s World no matter the cost.

Since Hob Ravani used her witchy powers to pull a massive train job and destroy TransRift Inc’s control on this part of the planet, the Ghost Wolves aren’t just outlaws, they’re the resistance. Mag’s miner collective grows restless as TransRift pushes them ever harder to strip the world of its strange, blue mineral. Now Shige Rollins has returned with a new charge — Mr Yellow, the most advanced model of Weatherman, infused with the recovered mineral samples and made into something stranger, stronger, and deadlier than before. And Mr Yellow is very, very hungry.

Blood Binds the Pack was published by Angry Robot on February 6, 2018. It is 496 pages, priced at $8.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Ignacio Lazcano. Read the first two chapters here.


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