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Gutshot
Edited by Conrad Williams
Review by Sam Tomaino
PS Publishing Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781848632134
Date: 10 January 2011 List Price £19.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Publisher's Website / Show Official Info /

Gutshot is an anthology blending the supernatural with the Old West with stories by Passage by Alan Peter Ryan, James Lovegrove, Cat Sparks, Michael Moorcock, Zander Shaw, Thomas Tessier, Stephen Volk, Gary McMahon, Joe R Lansdale, Amanda Hemingway, Christopher Fowler, Simon Bestwick, Mark Morris, Paul Meloy, Gemma Files, Peter Crowther and Rio Youers, Peter Atkins, Sarah Langan, Adam Nevill, and Joel Lane.

The people at PS Publishing have given me access to a review pdf of their anthology Gutshot. I loved this book! Here are my reviews of the individual stories.

"Passage" by Alan Peter Ryan: Trask and Beauchamp are looking for Sarney, a rider recently hired who had been sent into Alameda in an errand. It was a four-day ride up and back. It has been five days and he has not returned. They go looking for him and find him brutally murdered. They capture the Comanche who killed him. Justice is served in more ways than one. This makes for a good start to the issue with a story by one of the best short story writers the field ever had. One who has, sadly, left us.

"The Black Rider” by James Lovegrove: Two boys, Graham and Viv (yes, that’s a boy) go out riding a bicycle in 1970s England. They find a place to play their favorite game about a television character called the Black Rider. It's a western series about a sheriff and his deputy in pursuit of a mysterious figure called the Black Rider. The two always wind up helping someone else while the Black Rider escapes. The opening narration to the show says that to meet the Black Rider is to meet death. The boy's story is interspersed with sequences about someone who is gravely wounded meeting the Black Rider. You might see where this is going but it's a well-told story, nonetheless.

"The Alabaster Child" by Cat Sparks: Gehenna Diel kills a man in self-defense and then accompanies his pregnant wives to a town called Brokehart, there to await something mysterious called the Tide. References to relics and artifacts hint that this takes place in some post-apocalyptic future, Gehenna finds out what she had been sent to Brokehart for. This one was just okay and did not fit the theme particularly well.

"The Ghost Warriors" by Michael Moorcock: Tex Brady (the Masked Buckaroo) and his sidekick, Windy O'Day are trailing a mysterious band of Apaches who have taken his wife and his oldest friend. They are joined by Tex's friend, the English detective, Sir Seaton Begg. It becomes apparent that something of a supernatural nature is going on. Old-time readers of Moorcock will find some very familiar characters and ideas in this wonderfully atmospheric tale.

"Blue Norther" by Zander Shaw: A young boy witnesses the murder of his parents by two men. He is left for dead, buried with them. Fifteen years later, he is grown and meets the men again. The strength of this tale was how it portrayed one of life's tragedies: the death of your parents.

"In the Sand Hills" by Thomas Tessier: Near Skinnerville, Nebraska, September 1985, a man named Driscoll is looking for a man named Walter Bopp who has stolen $100,000 from a man named Mr. Lee. He finds Bopp's family's house but finds no one there. Later, he smells cigarette smoke, but still sees no one. This is another of the stories in this volume that builds nicely to a satisfactory conclusion.

"White Butterflies" by Stephen Volk: In Kazakhstan, Olzhan Sergeievich Sheremet'ev and his brother, Mirat, (ethnic Russians) leave their father to go out on a trip into the drop zone. What they are looking for is parts of rockets that have been shot into space and they find the booster section of a Proton. Things go wrong in this grim tale.

"El Camino de Rojo" by Gary McMaho: A man called Badge travels through Texas seeking el Lobo, the man who raped and murdered his wife and two year-old daughter. We follow him and see what he has become. When he finds el Lobo, a truth is revealed. This was a story not for the squeamish but very effective.

"The Bones that Walk" by Joe R Lansdale: Our narrator has found the map to the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine. He has also found diary entries warning to beware the "bones that walk". As has happened to others who have sought the mine, he has lost his family and fortune. Now he has set out alone to seek the mine. Lansdale does a great of developing his story, telling us details of the legend and giving us insights to our narrator and what drives him. The best thing is that the build up pays well at the end.

"Ghosts" by Amanda Hemingway: This one's a narrative that tells the story of the many people that have come to the continent of North America, have lived and died there. It's told in different parts, from the different viewpoints of the many ghosts that haunt the continent. Nicely done.

"The Boy Thug" by Christopher Fowler: Giddens and Parsons run a gang of outlaws in the old West. They meet them, gradually winning their trust and then murder them, stealing whatever they are carrying. When they kill the members of one such group, they spare the life of Samuel Franks, the eight year-old son of those they killed. Giddens thinks he can groom him to become part of his gang. He quickly helps them with gaining the trust of travelers. Time passes. Parsons dies. Giddens begins to love the boy like a son and waits for him to turn sixteen to take part in the killings. More I won't say except that this is another of Fowler's great stories.

"Kiss the Wolf" by Simon Bestwick: This takes place in present day England. One night, when Mike sat in his parent's house with them and his pregnant girlfriend, Hannah, they hear a rumbling. They look out to see three men riding by in horses like something out of the Old West. One shoots his rifle at Mike's Dad's car and it explodes. Mom and Dad die and Mike runs with Hannah. The Riders cause chaos all over the land. People flee. Food gets so scarce they resort to cannibalism. Mike hears of a woman who can give him magic to kill the Riders, but at what price? This was a good solid little horror tale.

"Waiting for the Bullet" by Mark Morris: Chris, Fran, Jed, and Abi are friends visiting the U.S. from the U.K. They have traveled around and are now visiting the Frisco Site. What's that? It's the site of a famous shootout in the 19th century. It's that one Elfego Baca survived. Why are they visiting it? Because seven years ago, at the site of another shootout, someone was killed by a bullet that had to have been fired more than 100 years before. There have been a number of such incidents over the years and the sites of old shootouts were extensively mapped out. The chances that they might get shot are infinitesimal, but that's the fun. What actually happens though, isn't much fun. This one was pretty nasty.

"Carrion Cowboy" by Paul Meloy: This is a brief tale about Iktomi, a Native American imp who works his mischief on a dead Dakota cowboy. The mischief ensnares the trickster god Coyote and another legend is born. I liked the way this turned out.

"Some Kind of Light Shines from Your Face" by Gemma Files: During the Depression and Dustbowl, a young girl named Persia Leitner comes across a traveling sideshow and meets two women she thinks are sisters, Miz Forza and Miz Farwander, who are part of the cooch show that she wants to join. Part of the cooch act is a Mask that reminds Persia of the story her mother told her of the Medusa. Persia cannot wear it yet because she has not bled. Her boyfriend, Lewis Boll, helps her take care of that problem. Then, she puts the Mask on and I'll leave this fine story right there.

"Splinters" by Peter Crowther and Rio Youers: This starts out with fifteen-year old Gus riding into the town of Retribution, running into Saul Steanzer's Saloon and telling all in there that something horrible was happening and they've got to head out to his family's place. When they head out, we go back a bit to when things started. Gus's older sister, Clementine, is our narrator and tells us that her Uncle Jack came walking up to the house: her dead Uncle Jack. The horror builds from there to a towering crescendo and one great ending. This was one of the best horror stories I've read in years.

"All Our Hearts are Ghosts" by Peter Atkins: Our story begins in Los Angeles in 1934. Henry Burgess is a staffer working for the movie company producing Outlaws of Calico Creek. He has been sent to the set of the movie to deliver some revised script pages and he sees a scene being filmed. A stunt man named Addison Steele, in his 60s, playing a bad guy dressed in black, gets shot by the hero and falls from a high place very impressively. For their second encounter, Henry meets him in a bar, Steele calls him Hank and tells him some of his life story. He also delights Henry by talking about gunfights and wasted bullets, "you do it right, it only takes one". Their third encounter completes this well told story in classic style.

"Beasts of Burden" by Sarah Langan: The story begins on July 4, 1876 when a man named Master Brown finds a baby boy on his doorstep. The number 666 on his neck tells him who his father is. He guesses that his mother is Inez, a woman he had known from childhood who had become a whore. Inez soon dies and Brown raises the boy but does not give him a name. As time passes, the Foundling discovers a talent for handling horses. He waits for the day when his father will come for him. This was a good enough story but the author needs to read a little history. Amongst the many sins of the New World, she lists burning witches. Wrong! We hanged a bunch and pressed one with stones, but burning witches was one of those things we left behind in Europe.

"What God Hath Wrought?" by Adam Nevill: In 1848 Utah, a former Dragoon of the US Cavalry named Sergeant Ephraim Lisle, comes across an old man headed for California for the Gold Rush. He is after people that have taken his sister. They are not Indians or Mormons, but people that Lisle calls Fair-skinned Nephrites led by a name calling himself Lehi who had broken away from the Latter Day Saints. Since these Nephrites make converts by biting them on the neck, we can guess at what they are. Lisle leaves the old man and hunts down Lehi. We get some grim action and a great conclusion in this atmospheric yarn.

"Those Who Remember" by Joel Lane: Gary visits an "old friend" named Dean. Their past has not been a good one. Still he cleans him up and tells him that he has to kill two other old friends, Wayne and Richard. He doesn't, but that's not the end of the story. We see the past and then find out what is going on: a chilling way to end the book.

Gutshot is a great anthology. Go to http://www.pspublishing.co.uk and buy it!

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