First off, I have to admit I’m not a big fan of westerns. Once in a while I’ll watch a movie but never a novel or short story in the genre. I have a massive amount of respect for Mark Justice, the author of THE DEAD SHERIFF. I first heard of him through his groundbreaking Pod of Horror podcast, and I loved his collection of short stories LOOKING AT THE WORLD WITH BROKEN GLASS IN MY EYE. He’s a great writer and a super nice guy (check out my interview of him http://mattcowanhorror.com/2013/12/02/an-interview-with-mark-justice/ ). I gave this western a chance for two reasons. First, because of my faith in Mark’s writing ability, and second because it’s more than just a western. It’s a supernatural-western, which is much more my speed.
THE DEAD SHERIFF: ZOMBIE DAMNATION is a fast-paced, exciting adventure. Mark’s versatility is displayed through his crafting of these fun characters, the high adventure, natural humor, and my favorite, strange supernatural magic.
The Primary Characters:
The Dead Sheriff: a lawman risen from his grave to rid the world of evil-doers. Bullets don’t stop him, and he can’t be bought.
Cheveyo: the Dead Sheriff’s Indian side-kick, at least that’s how he is perceived by the world, but in truth, he is far more than he appears.
Richard O’Malley: a Boston reporter who leaves his unfulfilling life behind to write about a mysterious undead vigilante traveling through Texas taking out power-hungry criminals.
Reverend Ludlow Skaggs: preacher-supreme to the town of Damnation who’s seeking to expand his high-profit church. He’s a dynamic speaker who uses his influence to manipulate the masses into doing his bidding.
We get to travel with the bounty hunting Dead Sheriff and Cheveyo on their way toward their climatic showdown in Damnation. This world has lots of potential. There’s mention of several other masked vigilantes popping up throughout the country. I was interested to learn more about them, and with future Dead Sheriff books planned, I may get that wish.
Any story about a dead cowboy walking around killing bad guys is going to have its share of supernatural elements. What makes it click is the internal logic of it all. The magic of this world has rules that must be followed, and there are mysterious otherworldly forces at play here that even the practitioners don’t understand.
This is a fun, quick read with a very cinematic flow to it. I could easily picture it unfolding on the big screen. When a writer’s really enjoying his work, there’s an energy that shines through on the page. With THE DEAD SHERIFF: ZOMBIE DAMNATION, it’s obvious Mark Justice is having a blast. I’d recommend this book to any fan of pulps, westerns, horror, and even superhero stories. If you give it a try, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.
Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dead-Sheriff-Zombie-Damnation/dp/0984880011
Read Mark’s blog: http://markjustice.blogspot.com/
Reviewed by Matt Cowan