Friday, January 28, 2011



By Ron Fortier


Edited by David B.Riley & Laura Givens

Science Fiction Trails Publishing

284 pages

I’ve made it a habit that after reading and reviewing a whopping big novel, I like to follow it up with an anthology. Sort of allowing my literary palette to enjoy smaller treats after having digested a weighty tome. With anthologies one can read them at a leisurely pace, choosing one or two tales every few days and not worry about remembering a single narrative over a long period of time. This I picked up “Six-Guns Straight From Hell,” a collection of weird western stories produced locally here in Colorado by editors David Riley and Laura Givens.

Now deciding whether any anthology is good or bad is simply a matter of mathematics. If the collection has more good stories than bad ones, it’s a good book and just the opposite if the clunkers outnumber the decent yarns. This volume contained a total of twenty stories and in the end the break down was four truly great pieces, ten good ones and six duds. Ergo, an excellent package all around, to include Laura Given’s humorous cover which tips its Stetson to the old TV series, the Wild Wild West.

Among the stellar quartet was “Chin Song Ping & the Fifty Three Thieves” by editor Givens. It’s the first story and my personal favorite. A Chinese rift on the Arabian legend of Ali Baba with a little Jackie Chan kung fu humor thrown in for good measure. Original, surprising and fun, it has all the elements to make you glad you picked this book up. Whereas “The Road to Bodie” is a sensitive drama about a young Mexican woman caught between two untenable situations, desperate to take her widowed mother and flee to a better life in Texas. And then there’s “The Enterprising Necromancer,” about a shrewd fellow whose business is raising the dead. A deliciously twisted fable that had me chuckling aloud. The final gem is “Snake Oil” by Jennifer Campbell Hicks about an elixir salesmen who arrives in town in a new, fancy dirigible.

Without listing all the other ten tales that I liked, let me add honorable mentions to David Boop’s “Bleeding the Bank Dry,” “The Last Defenders,” by Carol Hightshoe, “Smile” by Kit Voker and “A Specter in the Light,” by David Lee Summers. Coupled with the others, these adventures into the strange and scary west all proved to be entertaining. As for those I labeled duds, you’ll just have to pick those out yourself. All art is subjective and who knows, maybe one of them will tickle your particular fancy.

The bottom line here is “Six-Guns Straight From Hell” is a solid, marvelous anthology for those of you who like to mix your genres. So grab a copy, load your six-shooters and saddle up for some macabre adventures. It’s one “Hell” of a ride.