cover image Six-Guns and Slay Bells: 
A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

Six-Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas

Robert J. Randisi, James Reasoner, et al. Western Fictioneers (www.westernfictio

According to this entertaining collection, Christmas in the Old West includes ghostly saloons, cryptic phrenological snake-oil salesmen, nightmarish men in black, ferocious Apaches, and ornery drunks. In Douglas Hirt’s “Christmas Wraiths,” tall tales turn true. A Texas Ranger and Santa Claus (calling himself Pop Edmunds) team up to defeat desperadoes and please children in James Reasoner’s “Presents for One and All.” The West is the staging ground for the eternal battle between good and ill in Cheryl Pierson’s “The Keepers of Camelot.” Even a monster helps secure justice in L.J. Washburn’s “A Creature Was Stirring.” The spirit of giving finds an impressive incarnation in Charlie Steel’s “Joshua’s Voice,” in which human influence on the western landscape poses somber questions about the Great Frontier and extends the reach of this seasonal collection. Characterization is often limited, however, and the shortness of the stories offers little room for development. (Nov.)