Category Archives: Western

Terror in High Water by Joe Powers

Joe Powers is a Canadian horror writer who lives in New Brunswick, and Terror in High Water is his first full-length novel. It is a twist on the typical western novel where a bad bunch of hombres ride into a town, terrorizing it until the Marshall arrives with his deputies and cleans up the town. Sound familiar? It’s been the fare of western books and movies throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Well, what if the hombres were immortal beings from another dimension, say Hell (or the traditional depiction of Hell, anyway)? This is what Mr. Powers offers up to the small remote Texas town of High Water, which lies close to the Mexican border. It consists of the typical businesses of the time, Hotel/Saloon, Blacksmith, Grocers, Hardware store, etc. The main business is cattle farming, and this is what likely draws “The Man” and his five gang members, a huge man named Agamemnon, and four others he calls his “Hell Hounds”. After brutally killing the Sherrif and a few other early opposers, The Man and his posse take over High Water’s hotel and demand that two head of cattle be brought in each day to feed his Hell Hounds (don’t ask, you have to find out for yourself).

High Water’s priest knows of a monster hunter that is capable of killing creatures like The Man and his associates.

One man who does stand up to The Man is the priest who knows of a monster hunter that is capable of killing creatures like The Man and his associates. This irritates The Man for he knows the existence of such a being is true but thinks he is secure in this Texas backwater town. However, this monster hunter, Samuel Heilig lives just over the Mexican border, in retirement. He is the town’s sole hope for relief. However, he is unwilling to come out of retirement, thinking he is too old to be battling monsters.

Heilig rose the following morning, got dressed, and put the kettle on to boil. He ate breakfast and sipped his coffee, and when he was done, he went outside to sit in the shade and escape the growing heat of the day. He found a comfortable spot and withdrew the bullet casing that Henry had given him from his breast pocket. He turned the shiny artifact over between his fingers, and as he examined the fine details, his mind drifted back through time to the day he’d dropped it.
He thought about the old world and the foul creatures that walked the earth. He recalled some of his encounters, times he’d stared into the face of evil and come out on top. So many people had no idea what may lurk in the shadows at any time, mere steps away. If they only knew, he mused, nobody would ever leave their homes.

You might be able to guess what Heilig’s decision is, but the ending may not be as easy to guess. Terror in High Water gets top marks for a low F-bomb count, no sex and a good plot. However, there are many ways to die, as the reader will soon discover.

“As the reader is taken on the suspenseful journey you can picture the town, its citizens and the anxiety their new stranger has created. Joe Powers has made you see and feel the emotions that is featured on each page. The effect of this is a sure page turner as doubt is in your mind on how this may end.”  Fred E-Scene Review

Terror in High Water by Joe Powers
World Castle Publishing

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The Death and Life of Strother Purcell by Ian Weir

My late father was an avid reader of the Western novel. When a new one arrived at the local branch library, Ed Fisher would be the first one to read it. He was a fan of Zane Grey, if I recall correctly, but would read anything with a western theme. As for myself, I think the only western novel I read was Lonesome Dove. No doubt there have been other westerns worth reading, but when it comes to CanLit, the Canadian West was a different place than its American counterpart, and so westerns (as we know them) have never been a Canadian genre as such.
Now, BC author Ian Weir has written The Death and Life of Strother Purcell (2018, Goose Lane Editions) a sweeping epic that covers the North American continent east to west and north to south. It has all the components of a good read: good guys, bad guys, good girls, bad girls and everything in between. Feuds, vengeance, heroic acts and cowardly ones, sham preachers and lots of drinking are all here too.

“Three riders coming hard, this way. With fell intent. They’ll ask for lodging till the storm blows past. They’ll want stabling for their horses, and a hot meal for themselves and they’ll be cordial enough for a time. But then they’ll ask for whiskey, and when they drunk it they’ll ask for more – and that’s where it starts.”

Tom Skiffings
“It was a dark and stormy night.”  So goes the famous opening line as Snoopy (the Charles Shulz character)  attempts to write the Great American Novel. Well, for Professor Brookmire, it was a dark and stormy night in 2004 when he was contacted by Tilda Sturluson in regards to some papers she had come into possession of concerning the famed western lawman (and gunslinger), Strother Purcell. It the Professor that speaks to us in the book’s Prologue and throughout the text by means of footnotes. An exceptional work of creative fiction, Mr. Weir uses different voices from the compilation of papers to tell the story of Strother Purcell (and others, such as his half-brother Elijah) as if he was a genuine historical figure. It is all so seamless, and so engrossing that you’ll be quite ready to believe that Strother Purcell actually existed. (Just for authenticity, Mr. Weir includes a cameo appearance by Wyatt Earp and his common-law wife at the time, Josephine Sarah Marcus, who now live in San Francisco.)

The heart of the story involves the dogged pursuit of Elijah Dillashay, Strother’s half-brother across the North American continent, eventually ending up in British Columbia (where the book actually starts, but not where it ends). Elijah (or Lige, as he is commonly called) has committed wrongs as a young man and Strother feels it is his righteous duty to bring him to justice. As a Sheriff’s deputy, he tries to explain this to a woman friend, Maria Teresa Lestander:

“My brother is a fugitive,” Strother said. “He’s wanted by the Law. What sort of a lawman would I be—?
“A bad one. A bad lawman, derelict at best. But…what sort of a brother?”
“Brothers don’t come into it. The distinction is false.”
She searched his face in some bewilderment. Maria Teresa had no brother of her own—no family at all, besides the sheriff. She would have liked, very much, to have had a brother.
Strother drew a breath. He said. “You need to understand –.”
“What?” Maria Teresa demanded. “What is it that I need to understand?”
“The law.” He spoke doggedly. “There’s brothers, Miss Lestander, and then there’s law. It tells us where we stand—what’s right, what’s wrong. Without the law . . . It comes down to obligations. Obligations on either side—what’s rightly ours to take, and what we owe. If those accounts get lost, or confused. or disregarded—then God help us. We lose our way, and then the devil only knows . .”
Strother’s voice trailed away. He seemed to struggle for words. When he found them, his voice was unaccountably hoarse. “I lost my own way, once. I collected, maybe, more than what was owed. Well, I learned from that. I learned, never again. The law. What’s due, and what’s owed. If a man transgresses, then that man must stand trial, never mind whose brother he is.”

The themes of love, justice, retribution, family honour and forgiveness resonate throughout The Death and Life of Strother Purcell. It truly is a never-ending story, a mix of fact, legend, hearsay and first-hand accounts. Mr. Weir has skilfully managed to arrange these different accounts told by distinctly singular voices into a narrative that will entertain and fully engross the reader (male or female, for there are several strong female characters in Strother’s and Lige’s life).

To say I loved this book would be an understatement. I loved the writing, the various marginalized characters that each brother attracts, the geographical contexts, not to mention the well-imagined storyline that slips back and forth in time periods. Then it all culminates in an electrifying clash of old friends and enemies. It definitely goes on my 2019 longlist for “The Very Best!” Book Awards in the Fiction category. This book will not disappoint any reader.

“Weir takes every trope in the Western’s playbook — the one-eyed avenging lawman, the feckless brother, tarts both with and without hearts, gunslingers, gimps, and gamblers — and makes of them something new and utterly wonderful. This wildly entertaining and witty yarn made me gasp, hoot, and holler.”

C.C. Humphreys

The Life and Death of Strother Purcell by Ian Weir
Goose Lane Editions

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2QIgJv6 Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2018-2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved