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Six-Guns Straight From Hell 2
David B. Riley
Science Fiction Trails, 231 pages

Six-Guns Straight From Hell 2
David B. Riley
David B. Riley has been writing for a very long time. He decided to put together some of his earlier stories into a collection. For some reason, his earlier works seem centered around the subject of flying saucers.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Devil Draws Two
SF Site Review: Low Noon
SF Site Review: Six-Guns Straight from Hell
SF Site Review: Flying Saucer Stories

A review by Sandra Scholes

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The days of straightforward Western stories have evolved from the Louis L'Amour's of yesterday to be considered Western horror, strange Western and even crossover stories, but one thing we can be sure of, they are well written. Edited, yet again by David B. Riley, this second offering takes the Western story to a whole new level with a haunted house, ghost hunter, vampires and gunfights -- every western story needs gunfights. These stories are created by the usual suspects we have come to know and adore; Kit Volke, Sam Knight, JA Campbell, Joel Jenkins, David Boop, Vivian Caethe and Jason Andrew.

Artist Wayne Miller has illustrated the cover using the usual western themes of a redhead, gun-toting undead sheriff, train and sun-drenched plains in the background. he uses bright colours to show off his style and introduce readers to the sort of book that does what it says it will.

In the introduction by David B. Riley, he talks of the fact that diverse themed western stories have been around for over 100 years, so they don't deserve to be stereotyped as a "new kind of horror." Labels mean nothing to a writer who has the insight and the inspiration to pen a story they think will open and encourage the minds of readers. The editor likes to have his stories kept in the theme of otherworldly creatures like vampires as it is called Six-Guns Straight from Hell after all. Volume one was a thrill ride of its own, so let's see if he was right to gather the stories together for a second book.

All in all, there are nine tales and every one concentrates on a theme.

In "Blood for the Jaguar," by Joel Jenkins, Lone Crow, the popular Native American gunfighter and his sexy sidekick, Six-Gun Susannah are the two inseparable characters. From the start of the story you get the impression that Lone Crow and Susannah have been through a lot together tracking down the Hennesy Brothers, thieves and murderers, but there's a serious problem they discover when they slay their mother--- she comes back! Strange happenings could be linked to an old jaguar god, or some evil twist of fate, but either way they have to sort it out. While "Blood for the Jaguar" by Joel Jenkins is about an Aztec Jaguar god, it is also more about the relationship between Lone Wolf and Susannah. Since he has taken a vow of celibacy around her, she has been making it harder for him to keep his yearnings in check as she is a strong-willed and desirable woman. Susannah on the other and came from rich stock and prefers rough and ready to having a privileged life.

In "The Life," by Dakota Brown, Carolina leaves her saloon and goes out on a trail with Makey, Wilson and Clayton and feeling better about hiding her real gender -- Makey and the others call her 'Vaquero,' so when they rest for a while one night and take turns to watch over the horses, she is shocked and annoyed when a vampire is also on their trail. It takes all their strength and guile to take not just one, but three vampires on at the same time. As it turns out there are more vampires around the plains than Carolina thinks possible. What works more than anything else with this story is the setting and the anticipation of the vampires trying to take them by surprise.

"The Feast of Hungry Ghosts," by Vivian Caethe has Beatrice Jones, the famous Pinkerton detective who sets off of a train to meet Miss Chin, a Taoist priestess who has noticed some strange goings on in a Chinese encampment -- the white men have been frightened by ghosts of the Chinese men who were killed and had their valuables stolen by them. Miss Chin believes that as the dead were not properly buried and had their deaths avenged, they rose up as hungry ghosts out to punish those who killed them. It was a good idea to pair up a Western detective with a Chinese one as there had been many reasons for mistrust by the two during the Victorian era. Miss Chin puts her mistrust aside, realising not all white people were intent on doing her some harm. I found this story an original one that hit the spot with different themes of acceptance and realisation.

We travel to Arizona in 1900 in "Brown and the Lost Dutchman Mine," by JA Campbell, where Elliot and his dog Brown find a talking lizard who takes an interest in riding on Brown's back as they try to solve the case of the ghost of a miner who has a deep desire to kill all those who have been trespassing in his mine. This is one of the funnier ones in the whole series with Brown having to cope with a talking lizard. I've never heard of anything quite like this, so like the story above, it's an original tale, and once you've read it you can go see other stories from JA Campbell as his Brown stories are legendary.

In "Uncle Benjamin's Triple 'T' Tonic," by Sam Knight, it looks like another 'snake oil' merchant is desperate to sell his wares in Georgie and Miss Lace's town but as Miss Lacey is a whore and he is the child of a murdered whore in that very saloon, they don't have much hope of moving onto better pastures. Uncle Benjamin and his assistant arrive to the awaiting people who hope the tonic works for them, but it works for different people in different ways, and no payment of money is needed. But when Georgie tries to buy some, he is pushed away as they think he has probably stolen what he's giving. Uncle Benjamin and his assistant misunderstand Georgie. He's had a hard life and deserves a chance to see if he can change his life from that moment onward. There is only one way he can, and that is with the tonic -- the question is, will it work for him?

"A Dream of a Country Cottage," by Jason Andrew is about the Pinkertons again (like that of "The Feast of Hungry Ghosts" by Vivian Caethe). This time it's with Jonathan Heller who is invited by Anthony Dalton to investigate his haunted plantation. No one will stay at the house as many have seen the dead walk around, terrifying the workers, so Dalton is the only one who lives there and suspects that Heller won't want to spend too long there with him while he conducts the investigation. However Heller has been called for and will do the job. Things don't go as well for Dalton as he'd hoped because there is something he hasn't told Heller -- not that he won't find out though and when he does, it's devastating for him.

"Hired Hand," by Kenneth W Cain introduces James Wyatt Hanlin and his woman, Sadie. He'd known her from the age of eighteen and she'd never acted as tough as she did now as they tried to evade the disease that spread across town. He even wondered if he would ever survive as Sadie has it too. For anyone who has watched Philip Kaufman's The Invasion of the Body Snatchers or (pick any zombie movie) this is the sort of feeling you get from reading this. There is the horror that there is a disease that has the ability to spread to others, then the realization that one of them has the disease and the rapid decline of that person to the point where he has to try and survive.

"Another One," by Kit Volker has Johnnie, a black lawman who has just arrested some bad looking vampires. He usually kills them, but this time he spares his wife and kid for other reasons. Once Johnny goes to see Luke, he sees it isn't the same kind of vampire he is used to dealing with. He is a man with a dark past he would rather soon forget, but something darker still is out to get them, and they had better be on their guard. Kit's story is a darker one, but one that has a good result. Humans and vampires could probably co-exist if it weren't for others who want to upset the balance.

In "The Tale of Uji the Griot," by David Boop, Uji wants to explore America and in some ways find himself, but elsewhere, a young Native American woman, the wife of a dead tribal leader has to flee her land due to a new evil that wants to see her child dead. The Native American Indian stories are very popular in many of David Riley's publications, and here it is very much a memorable story with a Native woman having to be strong alone with her child when there are other, more dangerous enemies hunting her.

Six-Guns Straight from Hell Volume 2 has some unlikely stories with similar themes to them. I liked the simplicity of the stories, and the way I easily got into the characters and the settings in all of them. It is hard to say I had favourites even though I did as they were all equally as well written as the previous ones.

Copyright © 2015 Sandra Scholes

Sandra has been reviewing for coming up to eight years now and has been published in Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, Albedo One, Love Romance Passion, Diverse Japan, Active Anime and various other websites, blogs and magazines.


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