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Skull Full Of Spurs
edited by Jason Bovberg and Kirk Whitham
Dark Highway Press, 245 pages

Skull Full Of Spurs
Dark Highway Press
This and other Dark Highway Press titles are available at:
4301 Black Hawk Court,
Fort Collins,
CO 80526
or by email at

ISFDB Bibliography: Jason Bovberg
ISFDB Bibliography: Kirk Whitham
Dark Highway Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

At first blush, some people might be dubious about the idea of mixing horror and westerns; those would be the people who never considered the consequences of a compound fracture with "qualified" medical attention four days' ride away. And no anesthesia once you get there. And then the limb has to come off. I'd say the horror is already there waiting for the right authors to pump it up.

Skull Full Of Spurs has rounded up those tumbleweed terrorists for you. It's going to be a dark, creepy ride, and not even the coyotes' choir is going to keep you company.

The big guns have turned up for this anthology. One of the biggest and the best is Yvonne Navarro. Her offering, "Divine Justice," is a classic example of her strong blend of plot and character study. In one of the many stories that reaches beyond your expectations for a western drama, she introduces characters as realistic and distinct as they are disturbing. (And, for Brian Hodges, she remembers the jar babies...)

If death had to find you in the Old West, better it be quick and clean. Two lethal, lightning-fast shots from the hip are two of the most chilling. Take M. Christian's ice-water cold "Medicine Man," where an Indian healer and a white holy man come to a meeting of minds. In "Ain't," poor Pete wakes up in a bad place in a worse time in Michael Heck's shadowy tale where more is implied than laid right out.

A reminder of the essential Hispanic component of the settlement of the West comes through in bewitching detail in Nancy A. Collins' "Calaverada." Sugar skulls, papier-māché skeletons, and the other grisly tokens of the Day of the Dead greet a gang of bounty hunters on one of their deadliest raids yet. Sometimes, those little signs are trying to tell you something...

If any story seems to be tiptoeing outside the guidelines, it would be Rick Hautala's campfire tale, "The Screaming Head." Let it wander a bit outside the boundaries; this is one people probably will be telling around bonfires for years. Hautala knows just how to set up his characters and his readers for a good scare, in an old-fashioned style. He shares fear, rather than portray it; maybe you'd better read this one during the day.

Three new legendary figures make disturbing appearances in Skull Full Of Spurs. Meet Little Dick West, Mister Shade, and The Hangman. It should be no surprise to the reader that these larger-than-life figures are, well, villains. Just how many of the famous people you can name from that era are actually infamous, and a seriously misguided media and public have managed to make bad-boy heroes of them?

You won't make the same mistake with Skull Full Of Spurs. Some characters teeter in that gray area, but bad is bad, and you won't see a positive side to these villains. What you will see is that if the West was won, it was just barely so.

Copyright © 2000 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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