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Six-Guns Straight from Hell
edited by David B. Riley and Laura Givens
CreateSpace, 288 pages

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2007
David B. Riley
David B. Riley has been writing for a very long time. He decided to put together some of his earlier stories into a collection. For some reason, his earlier works seem centered around the subject of flying saucers.

ISFDB Bibliography: David B. Riley
SF Site Review: Flying Saucer Stories
ISFDB Bibliography: Laura Givens

A review by Sandra Scholes

One of many books by Science Fiction Trails Publishing, Six-Guns Straight from Hell is a volume of twenty stories that feature science fiction, horror and the wild, Wild West. In these settings, cowboys, sheriffs and other humans have to fight off countless monsters in the guise of vampires, wizards, alchemists, zombies and other dark-hearted devils.

Editor number one, David B. Riley kicks us off with his introduction to the series, while editor number two Laura Givens explains how the cowboy western story has changed over the years, and how these stories are straight from hell themselves.

Not content with giving us a second introduction, Laura shows readers what she means by genre mixing, and does an excellent job of it.

"Ching Song Ping and the Forty Thieves," by Laura Givens

Ching Song Ping isn't the most fortunate of men, certainly not when he is an oriental man trying to make a living in the desert landscape of Arizona. Ching discovers a sorcerer, a trickster calling himself Coyote who has several women prisoners -- and one that catches his eye. It is then Chin decides to play a game with the sorcerer -- one that has high stakes.

Laura Givens weaves her characters around an Arabian Nights backdrop of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and gives us a nice, satisfying twist at the end.

"Clay Allison and the Haunted Head," by Bill D. Allen & Sherri Dean

A game of cards is going smoothly, but when a woman, Rosa comes in and tells her story, one man of the many in the place is listening harder than the others -- Clay Harrison, and he's shocked at the stories she tells of Charles Kennedy, a homicidal maniac who used to knock off patrons of his guest house and bury them under the premises.

Bill D. Allen & Sherri Dean use the right mix of serious and ghostly, and humour to pull off this yarn so that the readers get the best outcome. It's dark humour though, and only in this issue do you get a disembodied head that drips blood all over the place -- and talks!

"Decently and Quietly Dead," by Matthew Baugh

Stranger things have happened in Arkansas, but when a man goes to see the sheriff about a killer who escaped death, he only laughs once at the suggestion that dead men can walk before he takes him seriously.

Matthew Baugh's story pulls the reader right into the plot a little at a time, setting them up for a vampire tale with a difference. I though how good it was that McMasters had been hailed as the second coming by others and the anti-Christ by the local godly community as it caused others to be afraid of him; that, like zombies, here was a man who could bring back the dead and use them to his own devices.

"Trouble Huntin'," by Bill Craig

Ty and Sally come into contact with a former marshal who wants to find a man called Lupo -- for what he did he can't be forgiven, and he is wanting to bring him to justice with a belt full of silver bullets.

This story, in particular, is a good one like a quick snack; it is easy to read and just as satisfying as a longer read. As far as the characters are concerned, at first Ty and Grady act like two ordinary cowboys, until they are face to face with Lupo. The plot leads the reader right into enemy territory yet doesn't give anything away until the end, unless the reader already knows about Roman myths.

"On The Road to Bodie," by Lyn McCondue

Maria has enough of a hard life working at a Chinese laundry, only sees her mother for one day a month, yet when a man takes a fancy to her daughter, Innes, and wants her for his wife by whatever means, she needs help of a different kind to rid her of him, but what can she do when everyone else thinks he is a good man.

I thought this was one of those glimmer of hope tales, the sort where all else fails and there is someone else out there looking out for a person. Lyn McCondue knows how to show the despair a girl can feel at the prospect of being married off to a man she has never known, but she also shows the reader the light at the end of the tunnel with one man who can save her from her situation. As well as being gritty and realistic, this is also a touching story.

"Spook," by John Howard

Amos is bored with his job, but one day out as a courier, he spots a sign he's never seen before and wonders what to do. He and Corporal Aimes decide to ride into the town and get a beer, but nothing seems right, and soon they find themselves in a living hell.

"Spook" is a cautionary tale of what you should do if faced with a sign you've never seen before. Just take a different path and forget you ever saw it! It's a steady tale with an unusual ending that creates an eerie atmosphere. Amos and Aimes are unaware of the dangers at first, but after a while they know they can't stay in the town longer than necessary.

"Bleeding the Bank Dry," by David Boop

Robbing a bank sounds like a great idea, but when it's a brand new one with the latest technology built in, Luke, Paul and Matthew need the help of Daniel, an undead with the knowledge to be able to get the job done.

I liked the beginning of this story with the three brothers acting stupid yet scared at the sight of the dark lord. It starts out as a comedy, but ends as a tragedy, and that is what makes this story well worth reading. The ending, I found also yielded a possible twist, but it will be one the reader will have to work out. There is a sort of sensuality too from the descriptions of Paul, and how he would make a perfect, handsome vampire, who might actually be better than Daniel. I enjoyed that aspect of it.

"A Specter in the Light," by David Lee Summers

Mr. Ted Delay's day is a normal one, as is his afternoon, but a visit from Ike changes things. Ike needs a decent cave to demonstrate early electricity that could be good for future mining. Ted helps him out but discovers something sinister among the men there.

"A Specter in the Light," combines the reality of invention and the delight of discovery with the uncertainly of the supernatural. David Lee Summers regales us with his knowledge of science. The story breezes along the pages like a spectre itself and many will enjoy the pace at which it moves.

These are just a few of the many short stories inside this volume of western fantasy and sf. The ones I have mentioned are those I found particularly interesting, whether for plot, humour, or ending. I like a good twist to stories I set out to read, and I can safely say that David B. Riley and Laura Givens have edited only the most gripping and entertaining of horror and dark fantasy stories for this anthology.

Copyright © 2012 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes has been concentrating her efforts on a new story, "Darke Before Night,"" and in between crafting that, she writes for Vampire Romance Books, Fantasy Book Review, Quail Bell magazine, The Chronicles and Love Vampires.

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