A Town Called Pandemonium edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

Cowboy fiction is making a resurgence. For me it started with the Beat To A Pulp Cash Laramie novels. This though is not crime noir and it is certainly not Bonanza (I’m showing my age again). These stories really are about the weird west and can be pretty scary too. From flesh eating worms to mysterious aliens via tales of greed and jealousy this book really does cross a lot of boundaries without the quality of the writing being negatively affected.

All anthologies need a stonking good story to really pull the reader in and Will Hill does an incredible job with this one. I hadn’t read any of his stuff before, but I’m going to go and get Department 19 as soon as possible now. This story sets the scene and introduce some of the characters and locales that will be revisited throughout the book. The story is tense and engaging – at the end of it I was left breathless and wondering how on earth the next story was going to live up to that opening. I really shouldn’t have worried as it was Sam Sykes up next. His description of grief and depression was unbelievably good. I was instantly taken back to when my mum died and the way I felt at the lowest point in my whole life. Truly remarkable writing that although in style and content is nothing like his first novel shows the high quality of writing I would expect from Mr Sykes.

Although the two stories above are my favourite ones the rest of the anthology kept up the high quality and built an overall picture of an old west town that I can almost taste (mainly dust).Sometimes anthologies don’t really end but Osgood Vance manages to somehow tie up everything that came before without explicitly doing so. A really good job by all involved and well worth a read.

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