Friday, August 15, 2014

REVIEW: Last Chance Canyon and Last Stagecoach to Hell! by James Reasoner

James Reasoner is a titan of pulp. Since the mid-70's, he has been actively writing both short and long-form works, producing more than one-hundred short stories and over THREE-HUNDRED novels, sometimes under pseudonyms. While perhaps best known for his westerns, Reasoner has also done mysteries, fantasy, historical fiction, and other genres. Like the great pulp masters of old, he is seemingly able to write in any genre at any time with equal wit, intelligence, and quality. If you have visited this page, you probably know and like James Reasoner's fiction or you will.

My introduction to Reasoner was his Gabriel Hunt novel Hunt at the Well of Eternity. It immediately appealed to my pulpy, adventure-loving heart. However, as many of my friends know, there are few things in this world I enjoy more than a good weird western. Enter Rye Callahan.

Last Chance Canyon is a 6,000-word short story featuring bounty hunter Rye Callahan. It was originally published a number of years ago in Finnish and this year it has seen its English-language debut as an ebook. Spoiling the experience for the reader would be a shame, so I will not talk much about the plot of this story except to say that Callahan is a bounty hunter that finds himself in a very weird and spooky situation. As I mentioned before, Reasoner is a master of his craft and the pages fly by. Like any great pulp writer, it is as though you aren't even reading and soon you will be left wanting more.

And you'd be in luck! At the beginning of this month, Reasoner released another, longer, Callahan tale in the form of Last Stagecoach to Hell! A 10,000 word-novella, Stagecoach delivers a bit of weird menace with its pulp western. It opens with Callahan bringing outlaw Ike Blaine to justice. However, when Callahan and Blaine get on a stagecoach to a settlement in Arizona, things are not as they appear to be.

If you've read Last Chance Canyon, though, you know that Callahan is a tough-as-nails pulp character and all the deep, dark secrets in Last Stagecoach to Hell are no match for him. I enjoyed Stagecoach even more than Canyon and it recalled the sort of stories that I fell in love with growing up.

The weird western is a genre that few have mastered. Joe R. Lansdale and Heath Lowrance are pretty much the masters at this sort of thing. However, Reasoner is one of the best pulp writers alive and his weird westerns are every bit as terrific as you expect them to be. I fully expect every single one of you to grab these Callahan stories and clear your schedule for an evening of exciting, suspenseful, brilliantly-crafted pulp. The Chronicler demands it!

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