WILLIAM DRESDEN — DEAD RECKONING — 2016
A thrilling novella. We are after the Civil war with all the “freed” soldiers that turned their warlike skills into new professions, horse thieves or highwaymen, all of them drifters in gangs from one western place to the next. It is also the time when the war against the Indians started and they were relentlessly pushed away into desolate reservations, systematically. The Trail of Tears is in full swing and all kinds of stories are circulated based on some Indian myths and folk tales with monsters and magical powers to frighten the good American Christians and justify in their minds the genocide being performed on these “barbaric” Indians.
In that atmosphere William Dresden invents a character, Jesse who has the power to project fire when provoked and made angry. A gunslinger he is but also a fire-starter in the best Stephen King’s tradition. The beast is “The Limikkin. The Wendigo. The girl. Amélie.” And that beast takes possession of cannibals. Amélie was its last victim, the last cannibal in the story. And that girl has to be destroyed first as the girl and then as the beast. Complicated. And then buried and her heart extracted from her chest before has to be burnt separately. Definitely complicated like some vampire story.
There are some funny passages, particularly the poker game. Jesse has some supernatural eyesight — or is it brain-sight? — which enables him to feel what other people see or hear. So he is able to assess the hand of cards of his opponent and he knows he can beat him. Unluckily you do not defeat the king of the place in a Far West Wild West (fwwww:// or the Internet of the nineteenth century’s Indian killing and gold rushing pioneers) city in the middle of nowhere except if you can draw and shoot faster than him, and Jesse can of course.
He is connected to some Indians led by Sixkiller, a human six-shooter of some sort. He is the one who brings the Indian magic in the story, with extra-natural beasts, supportive or antagonistic but always ugly and frightening. He is working on the various gates corresponding to the various Indian directions in the Indian universe and he wants to prevent Jesse from entering the Eastern Gate, though we do not know exactly why, maybe meeting the famous Nyx, the supreme Indian Beast. To do that Sixkiller has to kill the gatekeeper Desmond. Sorry Jesse, no gatekeeper any more. Well, he’ll have to find another one.
Well written with the hybridizing of Clint Eastwood’s western films and Stephen King’s gunslinger’s magic and earlier horror books. Enjoy the horror western Indian hallucinatory feast. But do not take too much of the magic mushroom, even if it looks like simple ayahuasca. Avoid drinking that mixture that might bring you on the other side of the brick wall at the dead end of the street to hell.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU