Thursday, March 2, 2017
Weird Western: Fangs of the Dragon by David J. West
I don't know much about David J. West. We follow each other on Twitter and he posts on the Castalia House blog, so I guess he's one of us. Out of the three author's I'm reading for the three for three challenge he seems like the one who needs the least help, as this novella and his novel, Scavengers, are pretty highly ranked in the Western Horror section of the Kindle store. Maybe that just means there isn't much Western Horror, I don't know, if so that's a good section to write for, but it's no stretch at all to believe that people just like his stuff and pass it on.
"Fangs of the Dragon" is a Porter Rockwell story. If you're not familiar with Porter Rockwell he was a gunslinging Samson figure in the early days of Utah settlement. You can look him up, he's real, but this novella is a decent introduction to him. It's a nicely structured story of Porter coming to a frontier town to deal with a lake monster, with refreshingly straightforward twists and turns after it. It's 54 pages as Kindle sees them, so it's not a long read. It was previously published in the Monsters and Mormons anthology, but I didn't really get into that one.
That's a really neat cover, so it's a shame it doesn't reflect the story, except as much as it's about weird things happening around Mormons. It's action-packed, with enough breaks you don't get exhausted. By my count there were five punching-action scenes, and a few suspense builders, although this is much more of an action story with suspense sprinkled in than what I normally think of as a horror story.
I didn't mind that at all. The action was fun, the characters all had their own personalities (they're almost all real people), there's even a dame, a fiery frontier woman who isn't forced to kung-fu anybody and with whom Porter has a brotherly relationship (he's a family man, they're all family men, this is Utah). There are plenty of disparate Western elements put together without being overshadowed.
It's well put-together. Things that happen in the beginning are reflected later on, good and bad things come back around, it never dragged for me. West has an excellent storytelling voice, and I found myself making one up. This is a story I wouldn't mind coming back to in audiobook form.
I would have appreciated better copy-editing, as somebody at the West ranch apparently left the comma barn doors open and they're all over the place. The peril advertised by the book blurb is marred by Porter Rockwell not having been recorded as perishing in the jaws of a lake monster, and while there's other peril in there I didn't feel it too much. That might be a good thing though.
Anyway it costs a dollar, it's a fun western, it's got that good pulp spirit we've all been loving, rough heroes and Injun shamans and everything. I recommend.