EVE OF EVIL
By George G. Gilman
NEL, September 1978
To the townspeople of Rayne, Wyoming, the coming Christmas was going to be very special. They reckoned they were about to witness the birth of the new messiah.
Edge did not. There were the shepherds, the three wise men and one or two miracles sure enough, but there was also the Lassiter gang, the robbery and the killings. And to Edge, once again fighting for his life, that did not add up to a nativity.
I first read this book when it was published all those years ago and it left a lasting impression on me then. It’s probably not the best Edge book but it sure falls into the category of those with the strangest plots, and it’s this storyline that makes it so memorable. In fact I can’t remember ever reading any other western with a similar plot either.
The whole story takes place over two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The book contains all the elements you’d expect from an Edge story: fast pace, lots of violence often graphic in its description, and loads of gallows humour.
Even the sceptical Edge begins to wonder about the chain of events that sees him become involved with Joseph and Maria – who is about to give birth at any moment - a group of shepherds, a dead man named Starr lying to the east, and a priest and his woman named Angel. But it’s the three Oriental wise men who are the source of some of the best lines in the book. For instance these, when it’s realised they haven’t arrived with gifts:
‘They was supposed to bring gifts,’ Basset growled.
‘Frig the heathen bastards!’ the deputy named Frank snarled. ‘We don’t need ‘em. I got my gold watch I can give the baby. Sheriff?’
Karnes delved into a pants pocket and brought out some loose change. ‘I didn’t count on takin’ no trip today. I just got a dollar, Frank. In cents.’
And does this tale finish with the rebirth of Jesus Christ? Well that is something I can’t reveal here other than say the birth of the baby provides a great finale to the story.
If you want a Christmas themed western to read at this time of the year I’d say Eve of Evil should definitely be one you should consider, I’m sure you’ll find it just as entertaining as I did.