Friday, April 10, 2015

Red River Rangers: A Whiskey & Wheelguns Novelette

Now this is what a Weird West story ought to be! Whiskey and Wheelguns really caught a gem with this story. I had high hopes after seeing the good ratings on Amazon, and I was not dissapointed.

Where to begin? Well, let's start with our primary character, Catherine Cartwright, the owner of a cat-house out in one of the zillion western towns, being found at the scene of a pretty grissly multi-murder and holding a bunch of weapons, literally getting caught red handed. She passes out from exhaustion and the sheriff regards this as a pretty open and shut case, as there generally aren't a whole lot of good reasons to chop up a small group of teenagers like in a Jason movie.

Cat is actually a pretty decent character. She's attractive but doesn't fall into the pitfall of some over-sexed bimbo. Nor is she a steely ice queen without emotion. She is very much a strong-willed caring woman that is very practical although not a scholar. I really like her and she helps bring the story alive. Good on you Jessica West!

Okay, before I go on I've gotta mention the author of this story, Jessica West. Aside from having an awesome name that I'd expect from a pulp character, she seems like a promising author and couldn't help but check out her Amazon page to check out what else she has. Here's an excerpt from her bio that I couldn't help but laugh at. It should tell you all you need to know: "She leaves a trail of blood or pixie dust in her wake, but such is the life of a Horror and Fantasy Writer."
Okay, what sane human being wouldn't find that entertaining? Sold!

Without spoiling too much, there are undead involved in this story. I say undead and not zombies or vampires, because the lines are actually quite blurred. The creatures involved definitely lean towards the vampire side, but it's not quite clear cut, which I'm actually okay with. In the wake of the cultural plague known as the Twilight series, many fans of vampires can get a might touchy about anything that differs from the tradional lore, myself included. I've read Bram Stoker's Dracula and hold that as the standard and am liable to start nitpicking when something deviates without a good reason, even though I'm not really a big vampire fan. I mention this now so that I can analyze the next portion in greater depth, since it is fascinating, at least to me.

Spoiler alert, beware ye who proceed!
Cat is hung for her crimes which she doesn't regret, being savvy enough to know what happens if you don't kill undead monsters, but she is ressurected shortly after her hanging. The way the author portrays her coming to understand what is going on with her is excellent, and truly does get you invested. You learn about the transformation and the character as we explore what she can do now along with her.
Some of her abilities do deviate from the classic lore, specifically in not instantly being horrifyingly evil. And yet this didn't bother me, and I began to wonder: Why? Why did this not bother me? All the other vamps up to this point had been like teenagers on an MMO if they exploited cheats. Why wasn't she? This is actually never explicitly explained, and somehow this seems to help. Cat is just as in the dark as we are. She feels temptation for certain things, but she has enough self control to not pull bad stuff. And yet will she remain that way? Will she become more aggressive over time? We don't know!

The way this is set up really makes it somehow feel more real and gets you interested. I want to know what's going on with her dangit! Is she naturally different, or does she simply have greater willpower? Will we ever find out? Beats me! But take note aspiring authors: If you want to deviate from classic lore, this is a great example of how to do it. It's executed so well and Cat comes across so well that it really helps you let go.
And in case you're wonder about what happens in broad daylight, she takes the original style, that of digging into the earth and going to sleep, rather than bursting into flames. Works for me!

We have another strong character along named Jesse, and I actually find him to be rather endearing. He's a broad-shouldered tough who can shoot straight, but unlike most other classic cowpokes he isn't a guy that eats nails and sweeps ever woman off of her feet. On the contrary, he's actually very shy around women-folk and tries to be a real gentleman. He does have some level of innocence, which actually couples very nicely with Cat's undead situation. How does he react when she rises from the grave? How does he react to her acting the way she does? All pretty good ways I think. They have an interesting dynamic. It's not on par with Firefly, but it's good enough to get me invested and actually caring about them.

Zarahemla Two Crows actually pops up here, much to my surprise, but as is standard, he's frigging awesome. Ah, but that's not all! We get a decent roster of other characters ready to cut down any unnatural critters popping up to start trouble, and one character in particular, Snakeblade, one of the most awesome names I've ever heard, has a great backstory. So many cool characters, squee!

Don't fret though, there is plenty of good action. Very well done, and the story overall comes together quite nicely.
After finishing I was delighted to discover that there is a sequel, which you can bet your boots I'm going to purchase, and you should too. I hope that it keeps on going after that too, as there is a lot that can be done here!

Overall, yes, an excellent Weird West story that sets the bar rather high in my opinion.

So start saving your pennies and buy yourself a copy! You can get yours here:

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