Sunday, November 8, 2009
Long Horn, Big Shaggy
Another day I'm too lazy to post anything new, so another reprint. I did change two words, so there is new content. Heh.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for weird westerns. And one of the newer authors I’m growing to appreciate is the Sage of Nova Scotia, Steve Vernon, whose story was one of the highlights of the excellent collection, A Dark and Deadly Valley. Therefore, when I heard the novella Long Horn, Big Shaggy fit the description of the sub-genre and was about to go out of print, I ordered it immediately.
To say that Long Horn, Big Shaggy is a weird western underestimates what weird means. It is the story of a cowboy, Jonah, who gets ambushed after stealing a horse, shot through the head, and killed. That’s the beginning for him. He is then re-animated by an old prospector, who is himself a re-animated dead man. In fact, almost everyone in the story fits that description. There follows a truly wild tale in which Jonah gets caught in the middle between two rivals, each of whom has killed the other, sometimes more than once.
If there is a flaw to the story, it is that Vernon concentrates too much on the weird and the gore, and not enough on why all this is happening. But Vernon’s sheer exuberance and adept turns of phrase carry you right along. I particularly was fond of the descriptive name of an undead horse, the “carrion stallion.” Recommended.