TALES FROM THE TEXAS WOODS
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Like so many of Michael Moorcock's collections, Tales from the Texas Woods is less a short story collection than it is a Medieval Miscellany, bringing together a wide range of pieces between one set of covers. In this case, Tales from the Texas Woods includes 4 short stories, 5 essays, 2 reviews and one piece which doesn't really fit any description.
The odd-piece-out in the collection is "A Catalogue of Madness," a three page piece which purports to be a description of some of the mythical books which existed in the Moorcock family library before it burned down. Naturally, many of these works were related to Moorcock's "Bek" family, which makes appearances in several of his more recent works, as well as other pieces published in Tales from the Texas Woods.
The reviews, of Jonathan Carroll's From The Teech of Angels ("Disarming Evil") and Robert Irwin's The Arabian Nights: A Companion ("The Sun of Its Parts") are less reviews of the works under discussion than they are essays based on reflections Moorcock had while reading and thinking about the works which are, in theory, under discussion. The first of the pieces I classify as an essay, "Bryan Talbot's The Adventures of Luther Arkwright" could just as easily fall into the review category. In this essay, Moorcock ostensibly is discussing the work of Bryan Talbot, a cartoonist Moorcock has had the pleasure of working with at times. The essay spends quite a bit of time discussing racism, Thatcherism and Reaganism before it even gets to Bryan Talbot's work.
Other essays are autobiographical in nature, whether personal "How Tom Mix Saved My Life" and "My Comic Life" or literary, such as "About My Multiverse." These pieces are hardly of interest to the casual reader, but they do serve as introductions of a sort to Moorcock's writing, if not to the specific pieces which are included in this collection. The final essay, "Sword of Irony," is the introduction Moorcock wrote in 1995 to the White Wolf omnibus edition of Fritz Leiber's Ill Met in Lankhmar. The piece is most notable, perhaps, for showing what the inventor of Elric feels about the inventor of two of the other great fantasy characters: Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.
Elric, arguably Moorcock's most famous and popular characters, makes appearances in the first and last stories collected in Tales from the Texas Woods. In the first story, a tribute to the Western novel, The Masked Buckaroo, an almost matinee-type cowboy, must track down an albino Apache warchief known as El Lobo Blanco. "The Ghost Warriors" also includes one of the Bek family members and begins to show in more detail than previously known how the Eternal Champion, specifically Elric, is tied to the Bek family.
Elric makes another appearance in the final story, "Sir Milk-and-Blood" in which he appears to help release two members of the IRA from their roles in the organization. Given the crimes Elric has committed throughout the books and stories Moorcock has written, "Sir Milk-and-Blood" has some interesting things to say about crime, punishment and remorse. "Sir Milk-and-Blood" (previously published in Pawns of Chaos) is the only actual story in Tales from the Texas Woods which doesn't have a Western background.
"Johnny Lonesome Comes to Town" is a straight-forward Western without the supernatural or the Eternal Champion tie-in of "The Ghost Warriors." Like the earlier story, it also deals with Apache on the warpath, although in this case it focuses more on the hero, Johnny Lonesome, who is trying to settle things in the area and learn why typhus is raging throughout Arizona. Although the story works, it is not particularly memorable.
The remaining story is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche which fails as a Holmes story, but succeeds as a mystery. Moorcock doesn't manage to capture Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style in "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," but the story is quite readable, perhaps more in tune to the modern reader. Furthermore, Moorcock presents a mystery which the reader can solve, which is a far cry from the Holmes stories in which important clues are left out until Holmes presents his solution.
Tales from the Texas Woods is a good collection for a Moorcock fan, although those who are not familiar with this author's foibles and background are probably better advised to track down one of the White Wolf onibus editions before reading this collection. Nevertheless, the stories and essays in Tales from the Texas Woods are high in quality and this collection is of interest to the casual Moorcock reader as well as the complete fan.
|The Ghost Warriors||The Sun of Its Parts|
|About My Multiverse||My Comic Life|
|The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes||Johnny Lonesome Comes to Town|
|How Tom Mix Saved My Life||Bryan Talbot's The Adventures of Luther Arkwright|
|A Catalogue of Memories||Disarming Evil|
|Sword of Irony||Sir Milk-and-Blood|
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