Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Razored Saddles

Razored Saddles was one of the seminal anthologies of the 80s (first published in 1989) and one of the few I missed on the first go-around, so I was understandably stoked when I finally obtained a rather expensive copy of the original hardback. I was also excited that the anthology was edited by a favorite author, Joe R. Lansdale (with Pat LoBrutto). And finally, there was the subject matter.

When I was a kid and comic books were the center of my reading universe, one of my favorites was a book called Weird Western Tales. This was a blend of horror material and the western genre, with cowboys fighting ghosts, zombies, and the like. The best known continuing feature in this vein was Jonah Hex, about a hideously disfigured gunfighter (Lansdale himself wrote two great story arcs for Jonah Hex in the late 90s). Razored Saddles was ostensibly in this milieu, so I had looked forward to it. Lansdale hisownself referred to it as the first “cowpunk” anthology.

All anthologies are somewhat up and down, with a variety of different authors with differing takes on the theme, and I was prepared for this to hold true here, but I expected it to be generally good, with great writers like Lansdale, Lewis Shiner, Howard Waldrop, and others. The book started off well, with a Robert McCammon story, “Black Boots” about a gunman fleeing an unkillable foe. But the pleasant vibe dissolved in a haze of New Wave SF blandness. The majority of the stories ignored the weird western idea in favor of flat uncompelling narratives. It did pick up near the end, with “Yore Skin’s Jes’s Soft ‘n Purty” by Chet Williamson, but most of the stories were a major letdown. Lansdale himself has written a number of outstanding western/horror hybrids, so if that's what you're looking for, I'd suggest seeking one of his collections. To me, Razored Saddles was a missed opportunity.

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