Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dead in the West, Jo R. Lansdale. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2005. Hardcover $25.00. ISBN: 1-597800-14-7.

Hey wait a minute, that's not new. That book came out like almost two decades ago. What gives? Okay, you got me. Night Shade Books recently reissued Lansdale's Zombie Western in a nice little hardcover edition. I didn't write reviews in 1986, when it originally was released. Plus, it's a zombie western. I mean come on.
Originally written as a serial in the style of the great old pulps like WEIRD TALES, this particular version of Dead in the West tells the story of Reverend Jebediah Mercer, a heavily armed preacher with a sweet tooth for sour mash. Mercer arrives in Mud Creek hoping to set up a tent revival and stir up a little bit of that old time religion. And he could use it, but it might be a little late for the town. It seems that strange things have been happening in Mud Creek ever since they lynched an Indian medicine man and his wife. And what have we learned about lynching Indian medicine men? Now, it looks like the dead are rising and Mercer might just be the only one who can do anything about it, if he can get himself together. (Good thing he's so good with that pistol, huh?)
I hate to sound biased, but I'll go ahead and say that if you buy just one zombie western this year, make it this one. It's got zombies. It's a western. It's even got a snappy cover. In the last couple of years, Lansdale has released a handful of well written, thought provoking stories of young people coming of age and dealing with race issues, sexism and generally important social problems. A FINE DARK LINE, THE BOTTOMS, these are good, strong novels that are giving Lansdale's oeuvre respectability and firmly entrenching him in the annals of American literature. But this one has zombies in it.

-Originally published in Ghoti Magazine

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