Read Recently — June 2014 — Western

The Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher

Welcome Back to the weird west!

This book opens with Jim Negrey leading his horse through a particularely nasty piece of desert; he’s hoping to get the two of them through it alive to Virginia City, where he hopes to get a job working for the railroad. He is afraid that they aren’t going to make it, though, and even if they do Jim has a price on his head (we eventually find out why).

They don’t make it to Virginia City; but they are rescued from the desert by an ugly native man named Mutt who claims kinship to the coyotes. Mutt is a sherriff’s deputy in the town of Golgotha. Sherriff Highfather was on the wrong side of the Civil War; and someone tried to hang him three times and failed all three. Since then, Highfather has taken a lot of insane risks, sure that it wasn’t his time yet.

The town has a large chinese community, though we don’t interact with them too much (less than in, say, Emma Bull’s Territory (here) but they are there and Jim does interact with them a bit to try to find out the origins and importance of the jade artifact that used to be his father’s eye.

The town also has a Mormon community; the mayor is a Mormon whose two wives are a problem for him, since he’s gay. And he has a secret even deeper than that. As does the banker’s wife, whose husband is about to come to a sad end.

And above the town is Argent Mountain, home to a played-out silver mine that a new company is planning to re-open. That isn’t much appreciated by tavern-owner Malachi Bick, whose family has owned most of the territory for a long, long time. Bick doesn’t feel that he sold the mine, and he wants the digging to stop. And so would the people who live on the mountain, who are kind of going crazy, complaining that something on the mpuntain is singing to them in the night . . .

I don’t think it’s spoiling things too much (because it’s actually given away about 50 pages in) that what we have is a cross between the Cthulhu mythos and the Book of Revelation. It shouldn’t work, but Belcher makes it work, and well, in my opinion. All the characters are interesting and you care about their fates, the town is just weird enough to stand out while still working as an actual town, and every chapter is introduced with an appropriate tarot card as a title (eg–the sherriff arrives to the title “The Hanged Man”). Recommended.

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