The weird western is alive and well. Or should that be undead and well? No matter, this subgenre seems to be enjoying a surge in popularity. After reading “Bad Sanctuary”, it’s easy to see why. This one is a perfect fit for the Six Weeks of Scares leading up to Halloween.
The story concerns a bounty hunter named Hawthorne who stops at an abandoned fort. A plague swept through some years before, and the Army abandoned the place. A few civilian inhabitants, such as the clerk at the train station attached to the fort, have stuck around. Most of the rest of the residents are outlaws and wanted men who have taken refuge there.
The exceptions are the two sisters who live in the cellar of the train depot. They’re not exactly human, and they have a taste for blood.
Hawthorne is no Puritan, but he did remind me of Solomon Kane in that he’s not concerned about the bounty on the men he hunts so much as he is about punishing them for the evil they’ve done. He’s going to have his hands full in this situation.
I’d heard of Lowarnce, and have at least one other story about Hawthorne on my eReader I’d picked up during a sale, but this was the first work of his I’d read. I enjoyed it enough that I intend to read other things by him, starting with the other tale in this series I’ve got.
The dialogue moves the story along and reads like people talking. And it’s not twenty-first century talking, either, but sounds like what you expect characters in the Old West to sound like. The action is swift and brutal. Lowrance’s prose is spare and lean, befitting the kind of tale he’s telling. He shifts viewpoints a couple of times, letting us see Hawthorne through both his own eyes and those of the men he hunts.
Hawthorne is definitely an unlikable protagonist in a lot of ways, but there’s more to him that what we see here. Lowrance gives enough insight into his character for the reader to understand there’s a reason he’s the way he is. The end of the book has a note saying Hawthorne’s origin story will be told in a forthcoming title. While I’m not a fan of origin stories, in part because of how Hollywood seems to overly rely on them these days, that one is one I will be interested in reading.
Beat to a Pulp is a publisher specializing in what’s come to be called the New Pulp. Their line encompasses a number of genres, with the bulk of what I’ve seen being westerns or crime/noir, but includes science fiction and horror. Some of their titles are available in print and electronic editions, but many are ebook only.
The production values in this one were professional and top of the line. The interactive ToC worked as it should, taking me to the part of the story it was supposed to link to. There were no weird page breaks or unusual formatting issues.