STRAIGHT OUT OF DODGE CITY
Edited by David Boop
Here we have the third in Baen Books’ weird western Straight Outta series edited by David Boop. It’s a nifty collection of fourteen stories by both veteran writers and a few newbies. As always, we judge an anthology via a hierarchy of stories we thought exceptional, those we thought okay and finally those we simply didn’t care for. Then we tally it all up and if the pluses outnumber the minuses, we’ll gladly recommend the book to you, dear readers. So let’s get cracking.
Among our favorites were “The Hoodoo Man and the Midnight Train” by the always reliable Joe R. Landsale. A tale of dark magic and cursed gunslinger collecting doomed souls on his train from hell. “The Murder of the Rag Doll Kid” by editor/writer David Boop is poignant and beautiful told. “The Dead Can’t Die Twice” by Samantha Lee Howe is a chilling tale of a haunted gun seeing vengeance on those who did its owner wrong. Julie Frost’s “Rara Lupus” is a different look at werewolves, while Kim May’s “Stealing Thunder from the Gods” offers up a transcontinental airship service encountering a Native American deity.
Also worth your attention are James A. Moore’s “Kachina” doing a nice job of pitting an ogre against a shapeshifter. “Ghost Men of Sunrise Mesa” by Jonathan Maberry has a bit of H.G. Wells thrown into the mix. Mercedes Lackey’s “As Long as Grass Shall Grow” centers around a land rush to claim prairie lands containing sacred spirits of the earth. It’s both fanciful and romantic. James Van Pelt’s “A Simple Pine Box,” is whimsical and fun while “Fang for Fang, Fire for Blood,” by Ava Morgan packed a nice surprise punch at the end.
Whereas we didn’t care for the other remaining four. We should mention that Irene Radford spins a decent tale, but honestly, it really isn’t a western, weird or otherwise and didn’t belong in this collection.
Final tally, ten of these fourteen get a big thumbs up and kudos to Mr. Boop for another stellar anthology. It’s a lot of fun and we recommend you pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.