by Steve Savile and David Niall Wilson
Crossroads Press and Macabre Ink Digital (2011)
I don't read a lot of what you could classify as weird westerns, but on the occasions I have (i.e., Stephen King's The Gunslinger and Gemma Files' Book of Tongues) it's been a thoroughly entertaining experience. And the collaboration of Steve Savile and David Niall Wilson is no exception.
Right from the striking cover art by Robert Sammelin, Hallowed Ground promises a blood-soaked, bullet-ridden fable. Usually when there's a pretty gal holding a gun on a book cover, it's urban fantasy, but this is a shade grittier than what I've read from the UF crowd.
The book starts with a band of wayward freaks setting up camp outside the dustbowl town of Rockwood, led by an eerily charismatic man known as the Preacher. In their wake, the crows come, harbingers of something bad on the horizon. As the Preacher sets his pawns in motion on the board, more players enter the impending fray. Provender Creed, one of the few in Rockwood not cowed or culled by the dark forces at work, strives to find out what looms for the small desert town; Sheriff Brady who fights to save a dying town; Dr. Samuel Balthazar and his Traveling Show; Lilith; and Mariah, the resurrected love of Bejamin Jamieson who sold his soul to bring her back.
There is a huge, robust cast of characters, and many of them all have their own personal stakes in what's happening in and around Rockwood. If I'm criticize this book for anything, it's that there were times where I got lost in the narrative and had to double back more than once just to remind myself why one character was behaving a certain way or reacting to something in a surprising fashion. The ending is wholly satisfying though, and while it feels like a complete story, I got this sense that there wasn't just room for a follow-up novel down the road, but the follow-up could be even leaner and meaner than this one.
This was my first chance to read a novel by David, and my first chance to read anything at all by Steve, so I'll be seeking out more by each author in the future thanks to their collaboration. And if they come out with more collaborations, I'm all for it.