I love Halloween. A weird, gothic edge adds spice to life.
I’ve always found my homeland to be a haunted landscape, anyway. D.H. Lawrence once said that the forests of America were “full of grinning, unappeased aboriginal demons, too, ghosts…” and so it always seemed to me. America, like all civilizations, is built on a pyramid of bones.
The macabre potential of the frontier story is given full, gory rein in Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian.” Is there a gorier slayer than John J. Glanton or a demon more frightful than the Judge? For my money, “Blood Meridian” is the Great American Horror Novel.
The haunted and the horrifying can also be found in less literary, more pulpy settings. (By now you all should understand that “pulpy” is no pejorative in the Frontier Partisans lexicon).
Tim Truman’s comic “Hawken” is populated with unappeased ghosts. They are the spectres of the men and women the frontiersman has killed over his violent and sordid career. John Marston of the wildly popular game “Red Dead Redemption” battles zombies in “Undead Nightmare.”
No surprise to find that Robert E. Howard wrote one of the very first Weird Westerns, “The Horror From The Mound,” a vampire story set in his native Texas.
And try this on for size: A Hasidic Jewish mystic roams the West, battling demons of the astral plane, relentlessly pursuing his renegade teacher. This is the premise of a series of tales by storyteller (and fellow Robert E. Howard fan) Edward Erdelac. By rooting his the mystical adventures of The Rider in actual Jewish folklore, Erdelac creates depth and resonance that no mere make-believe demonology can match. And he plays it straight.
The four tales in Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter have a skewed, bizarre Spaghetti Western feel — and that’s when they’re working in the “real” West. Things get really strange when The Rider abandons his body for extraplanar travel. The setting owes more to the Sergio Leone aesthetic than to the authentic West. However, there are a few obscure nuggets that make a Western history aficionado smile — like the True Name of Sadie in “The Nightjar Woman.”
Erdelac has published two more of the Merkabah Rider: “The Mensch With No Name” (!) and “Have Glyphs Will Travel.”
The mash-up of Western, horror and fantasy genres that is loosely defined as “Weird Western” is a fertile ground for strange tales. Venture down the trail of nightmares…
And have a horrifying Halloween!
John Maddox Roberts says
Joe R. Lansdale (a Texan, needless to say) has written quite a bit in this subgenre. I plan to write some myself, someday.
How could I have left out Joe R. Lansdale? He kinda pioneered the genre. As for you, JMR — get your weird on! That’s something I’d love to read.
Edward M. Erdelac says
I’m late to the game here, but thanks for the mention, Jim.
Eccentric Cowboy says
Weird West is one of the most awesome genre concepts to have ever graced literature. It offers so many possibilities for imagination, adventure and action all while capturing the spirit of the classic Western setting. I find Weird West to be criminally under-used.
Of course, I hope to change that a smidge myself. Ya’ll might find some interest in this Jim! 😉