Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Deadman's Road is a collection of the tales starring Reverend Jebidiah Mercer, a gun-totting preacher in the Old Weird West. I think I've read most of the stories before in Dead in the West and The Shadows, Kith and Kin but since I don't remember much, it was like a brand new read.
Dead in the West: The Reverend rides into a town that's in the grips of a curse that makes the dead walk and crave the flesh of the living.
This is the story Lansdale used to introduce his Weird Western character, Jebidiah Mercer. Mercer is a conflicted preacher and is like a western version of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane. He's also quite a bit like Edward Eredlac's Merkabah Rider and Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John and I'm getting a nerd chubby thinking about the team up possibilities.
The story is a zombie splatterfest and if I was going to rate the entire book based on the first story, it would be an easy four. The pace is rip-roaring and the writing is pure Lansdale.
Deadman's Road: On the road to Nacogdoches, Mercer falls in with a deputy and his prisoner and runs afoul of an undead murderer with a beehive in his chest...
This is short story, more like a bump in the road for the Reverend. It relies on mood more than action and gore, through the gore is well written when it splatters on the page. I did notice that the Reverend is wielding two converted .44's instead of his old converted .36 from Dead in the West.
The Gentleman's Hotel: In a hotel full of ghosts, The Reverend and a young working woman named Mary prepare for a pack of werewolves to set upon them once it gets dark...
Mercer takes on Lansdale's version of werewolves. There were some nice touches, like oak hurting them, and the one ghost that was able to talk to the Reverend and Mary. It's becoming readily apparent that it's dangerous to be a friend of Reverend Mercer.
Crawling Sky: Mercer wanders into a town and finds a half-wit in a cage being pelted by rocks. Mercer frees the man and the two of them go to investigate the haint that killed the man's wife.
This was the creepiest story of the book. An ancient evil someone summoned and trapped escapes and starts eating people. I love the connections to HPL in the Mercer stories. Also, in addition to it being life threatening to be Mercer's friend, being his horse wouldn't be a safe occupation either.
The Dark Down There: A mining camp is terrorized by Kobolds and the Reverend aims to put a stop to them.
The final story in the book is a creepy bloodbath, kind of like a Dungeons and Dragons dungeon crawl with guns. Since it actually ends on a positive note, it was a good way to end the collection.
Closing remarks: Deadman's Road is a fun pulpy collection and Lansdale fans and weird western fans won't want to miss it. Four easy stars.