Deadman's Road

Joe R. Lansdale
Deadman's Road Cover

Deadman's Road


The 1980's novella Dead in the West anchors this collection of Lansdale's weird westerns. In the introduction, Lansdale recalls growing up loving westerns and loving horror, and even loving the occasional crossover of the two genres in such cinematic non-masterpieces as Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, and Billy the Kid Meets Dracula. When he had his first go at such a mash-up, he produced Dead and the West. It saw magazine publication, received a few nibbles from the film world, but as is most often the case, nothing came of it all.

That's not entirely true. What came from Dead in the West was the character of the Reverend Jebidiah Mercer, a man of God like no other you are likely to encounter. "I'm not that fond of God," says the Reverend to most everyone he meets. "But I've been given a duty. Drive out evil." When Lansdale elaborates on Jebidiah's character, we learn this

...he was God's messenger, that old celestial sonofabitch. Jebidiah wished he was free of him, and even thought sometimes that being the devil's assistant might be the better deal. But he had once gotten a glance of hell, and it was well short of appealing...God liked hell as much as heaven. It was God's game, heaven and hell, good and evil. That's all it was, a game, and Jebidiah despised and feared God because of it

Dead in the West is an entertaining tale of vampire infestation in a frontier town, but it reads like the fleshed-out film treatment it is. When Lansdale returned to the Reverend around ten years ago, he turned out the series of excellent short stories that fill out this collection. Jebidiah encounters a shopping list of supernatural evil, but each story introduces colorful Western characters and lively plotting that never fail to entertain. Lansdale has taken what lessons he needed from Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter and created satisfying, contemporary horrors.