Friday 10 December 2010

Ghost Towns

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis
Pinnacle, July 2010

The sound of a crowed saloon… The cry of a train coming through the night… The pounding of horses ridden by friends or foe… From the searing sun to snow-steeped winters, towns called Sentinel, Iron Mountain and St. Elmo stood strong and fierce – before they finally died.

From a soldier on the run from the fires of war… From a gambler who has long since played his last hand to a solitary, singing rifle man protecting a besieged town… With dreamers and schemers, with men and women of courage, conscience and faith – here is a collection of adventures that see these ghost towns return to life.

The Water Indian by Steve Hockensmith
The Ghosts of Duster by William W. Johnstone, with J.A. Johnstone
St. Elmo in Winter by Margaret Coel
Mr. Kennedy’s Bones by Johnny D. Boggs
Gunfight at Los Muretos by Bill Brooks
Iron Mountain by Candy Moulton
The Defense of Sentinel by Louis L’Amour
Paradise Springs by Sandy Whiting
Silent Hill by Larry D. Sweazy
End of the Line by Lori Van Pelt
The Town That Wouldn’t Quit by Deborah Morgan
Now We Are Seven by Loren D. Estleman
Contention City, 1951 by Jeff Mariotte
The Ghost of Two Forks by Elmer Kelton
Kiowa Canyon by James A. Fischer

This anthology brings together a fine selection of tales that are all extremely well written; all offering elements of the supernatural thus blending the western with ghost stories. Like any collection I have my favourites and there are a couple I wasn’t sure about – in fact there was one I gave up on. Not all the stories are set in the Old West, some are set right up to the present day, although these do have links to the past.

Most of the authors above will be familiar to western readers and fans of the Johnstone books should be pleased to discover that the story The Ghosts of Duster features Bo Creel and Scratch Morton from the Sidewinders series. Similarly fans of Steve Hockensmith’s two would be detectives, Big Red and Old Red from his excellent Holmes on the Range series should be equally pleased to find another story about them here.

I’ve always found it disappointing that the editors and/or publishers of anthologies like this feel the need to include yet another, already widely published, story by Louis L’Amour. The only reason I can see for doing this is hoping his name will help sell more copies of the book. L’Amour’s story, as expected, is well told and is in fact one of my favourites in the collection, but it is the tale that doesn’t quite fit in with the theme of ghost towns as well, if at all, as the others.

Other than wanting to read all the work I can by authors I enjoy, the main reason I read anthologies is to try writers that are new to me, or those I’ve been meaning to try for some time. And, as should be the case, I know have a longer list of authors I want to explore further.


Oscar Case said...

Your's and my list of authors to explore grow, mine about every day to the extent that I'll never get around to reading all of them. This book is sounds like a good one. Nice review.

Steve M said...

I know what you mean, the list grows, the collection grows, time to read them all is never going to arrive...


D.M. McGowan said...

I have a similar list which ... similarly ... keeps on growing. And it interferes with my writing. Readers waiting for the sequel to my "Partners" will have forgotten what it was all about when I get around to finishing it.