WHERE LEGENDS RIDE
Edited by Matthew P. Mayo
Express Westerns Publication
Available on-line at Lulu.com
What with having recently read and reviewed the collected short western stories of Elmore Leonard, it seems I’ve suddenly found myself caught up in this uniquely American pulp sub-genre. Happily so, I might add. This particular volume is made up of writers, most of them British, who write western novels for the Robert Hale publishing outfit across the pond.
Oh, there are a few American scribes among this talented bunch, but oddly enough only one of them actually lives out west, while two of the four reside in the woods of
The Prodigal by Chuck Tyrell is a poignant, classic cowboy tale of right and wrong with a dedicated marshal having to hunt down his own son. Likewise The Man Who Tracked a River by Derek Rutherford offered up a story of guilt and redemption that was seeped in the dust of the badlands. Desert Surrender by Kit Churchill is a raw, grim adventure that had me turning the pages fast. These are all classic western gems.
Once Upon A Time In Mirage by I.J. Parnham and Snows of Montana by the editor, Matthew P. Mayo read like saddle-tramp sagas inspired by O’Henry, their twisty ends fun.
For outright horsey humor there is Hard Times For The Pecos Kid by Les Pierce and Pretty Polly by Duane Spurlock. Both could have been made into movies with James Garner, they have the same light, hilarious flare to them. Whereas Hectate by P. McCormac tells the story of a mule from hell that is just too funny. I actually chuckled out loud while reading these entries. Proving that all westerns need not be straight laced and melodramatic.
Among the others, I thought Bubbles by Ross Morton was a creative mistake as it really isn’t a short story. It’s a tale so large it is clearly an outline for a novel that I hope some day he chooses to write. While as much as I enjoy anything Lance Howard writes, his The Ballad of Jesse Barnett did not belong in this collection. There is a larger-than-life theme to the eclectic collection and this story just does not fit that mold.
Fourteen horse-operas presented for your enjoyment by skilled writers who clearly know their stuff. There is so little good short fiction done these days, when an excellent book like this comes along, you dare not pass it up. So tighten your cinches, belt on your holster and get ready to ride. This is one hell of a literary round-up.