How the West Went to Hell (2010)
by Eric S. Brown
Review by Nickolas Cook
In my opinion there aren’t enough western/horror stories out there. Razored Saddles, the classic western/horror anthology edited by none other than Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto, still stands in my mind as the best of that sub-genre. When I found out that Eric S. Brown was tackling the western/horror sub-genre I was excited, to say the least. So it’s with some misgivings that I give this review, and that’s mostly not because of Brown’s story, but the shoddy editing job that was done.
Unfortunately, with the advent of easy-to-afford publishing technology, it seems that just about anyone with a few bucks and some time to waste have decided to become publishers. Editing is not a priority with most of these small press companies. It seems as if no one is actually checking product for grammar and spelling mistakes in these places.
When did it become okay to shove shitty material onto the market, with no regard for professionalism and craft?
Some of that blame probably does fall on Brown’s shoulder as well; after all, he should be going over his own material with a fine tooth comb before handing it over, especially in these days of lax editing jobs on otherwise decent books.
And How the West Went to Hell is a decent read. Sure, it has a few narrative flaws (less than solid characters, a few jumpy sequences where the action isn’t so clear, etc., etc). But let’s be honest, we come to Brown, and his many published and forthcoming projects, for fun, not thematic or moralistic tales. He is not Peter Straub, and I daresay, he probably isn’t trying to be. What Eric S. Brown is trying to be is great entertainment. And he does that fairly well with this homage to everything from Argento/Bava’s Demons to Eastwood’s Man With No Name. I do feel, however, that this was a bigger story than could fit into the less than one hundred pages of this novella, and I feel a little cheated because of that. He appends a short prologue and a tiny epilogue around the story of a band of newcomers to the small desert town of Reaper’s Valley, where all Hell is about to break loose in the form of ancient demon who wants to destroy all mankind. Why? No one knows? Will anyone care? Probably not, because Brown keeps the pace moving with gory, violent demon kills against a once possessed and powerful human vessel in black, and his small group of demon destroyers.
No worries: I won’t give away anymore than that.
So overlook the editing flaws and give How the West Went to Hell a shot. If you like rousing tales of blood and death, you won’t be disappointed.