Blending a bit—-and sometimes a lot— of the supernatural with the western, author Heath Lowrance created Hawthorne Tales Of A Weirder West. This is a west long before it became civilized when things moved in the night. Native peoples knew what areas to stay away from and did so while the white man failed to see the signs. A west of old where one man with a cross cut into the top of his head made it his mission to destroy evil in its many forms.
After an introduction by author James Reasoner, the book is primarily broken into four parts before being concluded with a short story. Each part contains a story further split into two parts or chapters. As Reasoner tellingly notes in the introduction “Sharp things lurk ahead.”
He neglected to mention they will often be foul and disgusting or that Hawthorne really needed a big time flame thrower instead of a Smith & Wesson Schofield .45. There are very bad things out there and Hawthorne is almost always the only one dealing with some seriously evil things.
It begins with “That Damned Coyote Hill.” Hawthorne had been warned in the last town not to go to the next town called Coyote Hill. That there were things there with demons, black magic, and maybe way more than that. Even though he saw something in the surrounding desert that should have scared off anyone, Hawthorne kept going right into town. Before long a fight, a kidnapping, and out of this world justice and more play out in this complicated two part tale.
“The Long Black Train” features a large man who just boarded the Denver & Rio Grande train in Denver. He also carries a large rat on his shoulder that is unseen by anyone else. While the rat may or may not exist, the man has serious plans for everyone on board the train, including Hawthorne when he intervenes in this two part tale.
Hawthorne finds what is left of the Lakota camp in the Black Hills one fall afternoon. It initially appears to him that it was the work of the Army. After he examines a couple of the bodies he realizes something else is at work in “The Spider Tribe.” He will need the help of the two remaining survivors if he and they are to survive in this very creepy two part tale.
The final part is titled “Bad Sanctuary” and involves a two part story set in the ruins of Fort Mason. Plague drove the Army out of the fort the year before and never came back. The local Indian population, the Utes, don’t come within ten miles of the place. A few outlaws and others make the abandoned fort home because they don’t have the smarts the Indians had. Hawthorne knows there is something evil at the fort. Whether it has anything to do with the man he is tracking is another thing.
The stories end with the short tale “The Unholy; Or, How the Gowan Gang Died” that tells the quick story of what happened and why. Compared to the rest of the stories in the book the violence depicted is tame by comparison as is the supernatural angle. The story flows quickly and wraps up the book nicely.
Combing the western with plenty of flat out strange Hawthorne Tales Of A Weirder West” is heavy into the weird. Those who are very much into horror will find plenty to like about this read. Those of us who aren’t will appreciate more the science fiction and fantasy elements at work here. The tales are good ones and will burn their images though your brain. That is when you are not laughing from time to time at the dark humor dryly present in each tale.
Hawthorne Tales Of A Weirder West
Beat To A Pulp Press
E-Book (also available in paperback form)
Material supplied by the publisher a long time ago for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2014