Usually, I know exactly what I’m going to read after I finish a book. However, back last New Year’s Eve, I thought I needed a break.
A weird western was just the thing.
Review: The Ravine, William Meikle, 2013.
While this isn’t my favorite kind of weird western, I think the most inventive ones are science fiction stories that don’t use time travel or aliens, I still found this story gripping and fast moving.
Meikle starts the action right away with a cavalry squad swept to another dimension where they are recruited in a fight to keep Satan imprisoned. Only one survives, Stevens, who is imbued with the weaponry and power of an angel and returns to our world.
The second viewpoint character is Joe Clancy. He’s a rancher with his wife Jessie, son Tommy, and hired hand and family friend Paddy Doyle. His ranch is on the brink of being foreclosed on; there is a drought, and he needs the cattle in good shape to make his mortgage payment. Meikle really makes you feel the plight of the Clancys all through this story.
Tommy discovers a spring except it’s really the source of an “infection”. The ghastly looking fish in the spring are only the beginning of horrors. Clancy immediately senses danger, but the rest of his family and Doyle eat the fish as do the townsmen.
Another viewpoint character is Isaac Prentice, musician and bouncer at the saloon in the town nearest the Clancy ranch.
The danger coming from that spring feels like a combination of the infection in H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” and a zombie plague when the changed attack our heroes.
But more than bodies are at stake. The danger is also spiritual. People began to have seductive dreams of an underwater temple.
Things go from bad to worse when a gunslinger comes to town threatening to kill Prentice – as soon as said gunslinger is out of the local iron bar hotel.
There are the usual Meikle aspects which I like – Scotsmen, lots of smoking, whiskey, and music. Mention is made of “The Death of Sergeant George”, a song mentioned in other Meikle stories.
It’s a range war story, and the spread at stake is the whole world, and it’s another winning Meikle story.