Gutshot
Edited by Conrad Williams

PS Publishing Hardcover
Review by Mario Guslandi

The old West was certainly a frequent scene for violence and horror (between settlers, between farmers and outlaws, not to mention between Indians and Whites). Therefore a horror anthology devoted to this topic appears very appropriate. Editor Conrad Williams has assembled twenty tales (mostly originals) by the likes of Michael Moorcock, Paul Meloy, Peter Crowther & Rio Youers, Simon Bestwick, Adam Neville, Sarah Langan and Stephen Volk, to mention a few.

Each author has addressed the topic in his own way, sometimes strictly sticking to the canons of the Western, sometimes developing the subject with great liberty, in a very loose way. I must say that all the stories are entertaining and, even if I try hard, I cannot pinpoint any major misfire.

Needless to say, however, some tales are more accomplished and deserve a special mention.

“Passage” by Alan P Ryan is a superlative, atmospheric piece, filled with horror and human pity, told in a terrific narrative style.

Thomas Tessier’s breathtaking “In the Sand Hills,” set in a queer geographic location, features a killer hunting a thief who needs to get his punishment, while Gary McMahon’s “EL Camino de Rojo” nicely reshuffles the clichés of the Western genre to create a violent and sinister story endowed with the vivid features of a comic book.

“The Bones that Walk” by Joe R Lansdale is a tense adventure depicting the search for a cave where a golden treasure lies awaiting more greedy, doomed men.

In the splendid “Waiting for the Bullet” by Mark Morris bullets from past shootouts hit people living in the present (which turns out to be a much more dangerous place).

Christopher Fowler’s “The Boy Thug” is a compelling western describing the rise and fall of a gang of bandits, while “All Our Hearts are Ghosts” by Peter Atkins skillfully recreates the atmosphere of the showdown between two armed men as the final act of a long and painful story of love and violence.

If you’re a horror fan and you miss the emotions elicited by classical Western movies this is definitely the book for you.

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