Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Snake Oil and Other Tales of the Weird West

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I've put this off for way to long, and it's about time I do this collection some justice! This was actually one of the very first Weird West things I picked up when I began lurking through the backdoors of the Amazon Kindle areas, so I'm actually rather ashamed that it's taken me so long to get around to it. Well, better late than never, right?

This is a three story anthology, all written in slightly different styles and different setups with some very interesting ideas.

The first up is the Snake Oil story, which I think is very solid. An airship trundles on into this backwater town and the captain begins selling his famed snake oil that can bestow all sorts of fantastic qualities upon those who drink it. Almost everyone takes to getting a bottle, figuring that it'll be worth the investment. Our main character, a young boy, finds that his father is forbidding he or his brother from buying the stuff, being a suspicious man. Low and behold, his brother has already purchased a bottle! The effects however are not what were advertised...

I'm not gonna go much into spoilers, as I try not to reveal too much in a book that I feel is worth reading, so I'm hoping you'll take my word for it and give it a look. It's a solid story and one that sticks out pleasantly in my mind. The perception of things going on from Ben as a youngster with his innocence and fear of everything going on yet standing up bravely in the face of it all is very well done and you can't help but feel admiration for his pluck. Jennifer does a great job on that mark. Way to go!

The second one is Cowboy Jake and the Moon Men. In terms of writing style I like this one the best. It's done as if Jake was sitting across from you at a table and relating a fun yarn, a style of which I'm fond of and Jennifer does a wonderful job here. My only complaint is that I'm just a little bit sketchy on the presence of the Moon Men. They are just kind of accepted and not seeming strange to anyone at all. They are pretty much aliens with a fondness for bison, (Not buffalo, bison! Bison darned you! I declare war on you common word usage!) but overall seem like they're just kinda there. They are somewhat mysterious with motives that no one much understands, but you'd think with aliens visiting there would be more fascination about them from everyone else.

I should stress that this isn't a huge problem, as they aren't actually the primary focus of the story, but kind of on the side and spectators, but it did kind of stick out to me. Anyway, it's basically a fun story where Cowboy Jake gets into a duel that is in the more old European style what with seconds, weapon checking and such, with another trail trekker that certainly does not go as expected. Again, it's really the writing style that makes this particular story shine as it really does feel like a fun story swap from a guy who was actually there.

The last is The Great Ghost Train Robbery. I confess that this one rubbed me the wrong way, but for a reason I admit is completely petty. It has Annie Oakley as the main character who is going on a journey to try and sort out some strange goings on with train robberies.
Now this is just me, but it annoys me when characters from history are reused in this manner. Now don't get me wrong, I love Annie. She's actually one of my personal heroes! But taking her and making her into something that she wasn't irks me. I had a similar problem in Cowboys of Cthulhu when the main character pretended to be Jessie James. It just plain didn't sit right with me. I know, I know, I should change from my skirt into a pair of big boy pants and get over it, but I still feel I should be honest.

That complaint aside this isn't a bad story by any means and deals with some interesting ideas with ghosts going around robbing stuff, although I do wonder how they plan on using the money they get.

Anyway, this is a competently written compilation that I encourage you to check out if you like Weird West writing, as it certainly delivers.
You can buy it on Amazon right here:
If you're interested you can also check out the author's blog here:

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