Category Archives: western
by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque
Vertigo Comics (2010)
Did you watch Firefly when it was on Fox for its single season about ten years ago? Neither did I. It kind of slipped under my radar at the time. I caught the last couple of episodes, and fell in love with show just in time to learn it had been cancelled. Way to go, Fox.
I did, however, manage to catch the film Serenity, which acted as a psuedo-sequel to the TV show and a bookend on the story as a whole. So, to think there are graphic novels to help keep this universe going, it’s a nice consolation.
The events of this book take place between the end of the show and the movie, which is kind of a necessity in my view since some irrevocable events occur in the movie.
The gang are on a job when things go awry–what else is new for them–and have to make a quick escape. Meanwhile, the proverbial boys in blue recruit a person from Mal’s past to hunt the Firefly crew down. Those guys always seem to find Mal’s enemies when they don’t want to do the dirty work themselves.
The story is fairly average when you stand back and look at it, but the characters are depicted so accurately to their flesh-and-blood counterparts that it’s easy to just sit back and read the back-and-forth between them. And given the fact that the story takes place before the movie, there’s some sacrifice in the suspense department.
Still, if you enjoyed the show and lamented its premature demise, this book gives one more chance to escape into that strange future Whedon cooked up. Something between Star Wars and Deadwood, which is not a bad way to go I suppose.
Title: Journal of the Gun Years
Author: Richard Matheson
Published: Forge, an imprint of Tor Books (2009); originally published by M. Evans & Company (1991)
There is no stopping Richard Matheson, of that I am quite sure. I’m already a fan of his horror and sci-fi stories, and if that’s not enough the man writes westerns too. I had no idea. I stumbled across this novel late last year in a bookstore while looking for a bargain. In the back corner of the store, where the fantasy and sci-fi novels were relegated, a small shelf displayed a number of western titles. A neophyte to the genre, the only names I recognized were Louis L’Amour and Larry McMurtry. Then I saw “Richard Matheson” emblazoned on the cover of a book. That’s all the incentive I needed.
Journal of the Gun Years is a story presented as a gunman’s private journal entries over the course of a little more than a decade. But the first thing readers find is a foreword by Frank Leslie, a writer and acquaintance of Clay Halser–the Hero of the Plains. Leslie recounts his final reunion with Halser, as well as his untimely yet inevitable death in a gunfight. Internationally renowned, much in the same manner was Wild Bill Hicock, Halser’s reputation precedes him and has been inflated to such mythic proportions that Leslie feels it imperative to share a more honest and accurate portrayal of the gunman’s formidable years. And the best way to do that is publish Halser’s private journals. Through these selected entries we see an unfortunate man’s rise from obscurity and crime to a reluctant beacon of law and order in towns that want little of either.
Matheson crafted a tragic figure in Clay Halser that was tempered with not just humor but anger too. The characters written about in the diaries have pieces of the familiar–allusions to Hicock’s own fabled life are apparent–and are also given such an intimate approach it’s easy to suspend disbelief. The language is so sincere that Halser becomes more and more real with each entry. And I’m not a guy who usually goes for these journal style novels, so I applaud Matheson for hooking me from the get-go.
Despite knowing Halser is headed for an anticlimactic showdown with a young roughneck out to make a name for himself, the story gripped me as his life ran the gamut. Each happenstance in his life set him on that path to a sad demise. Hoping for some measure of redemption is not unreasonable when reading this book. Whether any is achieved is something you’ll have to find out for yourself if you choose to read this story.
I loved it. I should have expected to from the start. It’s Richard Matheson after all.
You can find other blog reviews of this title at: Retro Brett
Richard Matheson is capable of telling a story well no matter which genre it falls under. A re-release this year that has me interested comes from Tor, a western-horror tale called Shadow on the Sun.
This was originally published in 1994, but it apparently didn’t catch on beyond western aficionados. But the supernatural and horror elements should lend themselves well to people who are a little averse, for whatever reasons, to reading a story set in the Old West. And after reading Matheson’s Journal of the Gun Years, I’m more than willing to read another of his westerns.
Set in Arizona, a truce between Apaches and the whites is shattered when two white men are murdered and mutilated. And an Indian agent has to solve the mystery before the dusty desert town is thrown into more bloodshed, possibly at the hands of a stranger in town wearing a dead man’s clothes. Hmmm, I think there’s a hint of the undead here.
So have you heard of this Matheson title? Does it sound like the kind of book you’d be into reading too?