by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
Cover Artist: Timothy Truman
Review by Mel Jacob
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596064324
Date: 31 January 2012 List Price $50.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Three screenplays by Joe and John Lansdale take the reader on a zombie tour of the Old West. The format allows the authors to make plenty of acerbic comments on the setting and the action. The first, "Hell's Bounty", begins with a nasty man who makes a Faustian bargain with the Devil to get his dead wife back. The second, "Deadman's Road", follows a pair of bounty hunters as they track and destroy werewolves and other haints. The last, "Dead in the West", follows a minister who has offended God and the progress of a curse on a town guilty of a lynching.
The action is fast and furious with plenty of gore. The Lonsdales are noted for comic book scripts. Joe has an extensive publishing record and has garnered a number of awards. John wrote for Tales of the Crypt. Satire and humor abound and each story features a breathless, but sometimes ambiguous climax. The language is raunchy and will offend some, yet young teens will love it, but their parents won't.
The Lansdales have no qualms about killing off supporting characters even those who appear sympathetic and help the main character(s). In "Hell's Bounty", the Devil is almost benevolent to the hero who initially blows himself up by accident with a stick of dynamite. The women in all the tales are resourceful and provide strong support for the men.
Each screenplay works, but taken as a whole they become repetitive. None has yet been made into a film. "Dead in the West" is based on Joe Lansdale novel of the same name.
Weird West stories go back to the 1970s and DC comics. Joe Lansdale helped pioneer the genre and his "Dead in the West" goes back to the 1980s. More recently, other authors have used the Old West setting for weird tales including Mike Resnick in The Doctor and the Kid. Zombies have been popular too, and Tim Waggoner featured a zombie detective in his noir Necropolis series. An urban setting is the milieu for Cameron Haley's Skeleton Crew with street gangs battling zombies. Given the time lapse, the Lansdales collection shows the beginnings of the modern genre. A variety of stereotypical character and situations are used effectively. Subterranean has reissued a number of classics and this collection fits well with the others.