Deadman’s Road by Joe R. Lansdale
Written by: Joe R. Lansdale
Published by: Tachyon Publications
by: Joe R. Lansdale
In the introduction to Deadman’s Road, author Joe R. Lansdale explains he grew up loving movies, comics, and books. He also talks about how bending and mixing genres is something he enjoyed back then and has practiced throughout his career. In the more than 250 pages that follow that introduction, Lansdale shows what happens when one of the best storytellers in contemporary fiction decides to pay homage to the Westerns, horror, and comics of his childhood with the writing chops and humor of a multiple Bram Stoker Award winner.
Deadman’s Road is a collection of five western/horror stories, all featuring Reverend Jebidiah Mercer, a gun-slinging preacher who’s on a mission from God: to seek out all incarnations of evil and send them back to hell. Mercer dresses entirely in black, has an incredibly fast draw, and has a unique perspective on religion, especially for a reverend: “God play dirty dice. And he does not really forgive. Jesus was a liar.” Lansdale’s dialogue is always witty and entertaining, and Mercer is a perfect vehicle for that. In fact, the dialogue is so entertaining and the comebacks so sharp that readers will have a hard time putting the book down simply because they will be expecting the next exchange, and Lansdale consistently delivers.
Between horses, thick accents, cowboy boots, and guns, there’s plenty in Deadman’s Road to satisfy fans of Westerns. However, it’s the mixture of horror, humor, and action elements that makes this collection a must-read for fans of dark literature. Regardless of where he is, Mercer always finds trouble. Despite his rugged exterior, the man is on a mission from God, and he repeatedly risks life and limb to ensure the safety of others.
While Mercer, witty banter, gore, and humor are the cohesive elements that brings the collection together, most readers will get great pleasure from the evil the reverend fights because it resembles a museum of the classic creatures of horror the author enjoyed as a kid. In “Dead in the West,” Mercer is up against zombies that try to kill everyone in a small town that has been cursed by an Indian. In “Deadman’s Road,” the wickedness comes from a ghoul that haunts a stretch of road at night looking for revenge. Then comes “The Gentleman’s Hotel,” where the reverend rides into a town full of ghosts that has been decimated by werewolf Conquistadores who escaped from their tombs thanks to a fatal mistake by some drunks. “The Dark Down There” sees Mercer facing off against an army of kobolds and falling in love with an unlikely lady. Last but not least is “The Crawling Sky,” which puts a Lovecraftian spin on things as Mercer has to tackle an eldritch entity that lives in a deep, dark well.
With Deadman’s Road, Lansdale has paid homage to the things that inspired him to pursue a career in dark literature. However, the best thing about it is that he has used his tremendous talent to bring horror, pulp, and Westerns together and make them available and entertaining for the variety of generations that read his work.
Written by Gabino Iglesias
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