Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Harry Shannon and THE WEIRD, WEIRD WEST
One of the hardest reading itches to scratch is the “weird western” itch. Honestly, there’s just not tons of great weird westerns out there. That’s frustrating, because sometimes, as a reader, I really really want to read a supernatural-tinged gunslinger tale. I know. My reading urges are VERY specific.
So you can imagine how happy I was to come across WEIRD, WEIRD WEST, an absolutely top-notch collection from the great Harry Shannon. After reading it, I can tell you: itch scratched, man.
WEIRD, WEIRD WEST consists of five beautifully crafted and creepy stories, all with the great American West as the backdrop. Most of them take place in the mythical Wild West, a couple extend that concept to the modern day West. But they all have the same sense of eerie isolation, trading quite nicely on the uneasiness of the open plains, the pitch black desert night, the sinister solitude and uncertainty of the frontier.
“The Names of the Wicked” actually did something to me that’s almost impossible to do to my jaded sensibilities: it kept me up that night. The imagery in this story is evocative and horrifying and more than a little Robert E. Howard-ish. “Them Bones” is also chockfull of images that stay with you, most notably the image of a man hanging suspended in mid-air, his bones mysteriously snapping one by one, his screams echoing through the night. Jesus, that’s powerful stuff.
That’s Harry Shannon’s real strength, this uncanny knack for strong, disturbing images that linger in your mind and take on a life of their own outside the story.
Added bonus: Shannon includes a preview of his novel CLAN, which promises to be every bit as moody and intense as WEIRD, WEIRD WEST. Can’t wait to read it.
I’d like to see more work like this, I really would. Because I can feel that itch starting up again just thinking about this superior collection.