It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ian Rogers’ Felix Renn/The Blacklands series, so when I got the opportunity to check out his first foray into Weird West territory (a favorite genre of mine), I jumped at the chance like my life depended on it.
No one knows who or what is killing the cattle at Groom ranch, but Sam Dryden, with his supernatural greenwood gun, and Raisy, with her ‘deck’ of knives, are determined to find out. What they discover is more horrifying that either of them ever dreamed, and the secret may be one that takes them to their grave.
Where Temporary Monsters, The Ash Angels, My Body (a short story), and Black Eyed Kids are supernatural/detective stories told with an old school style, they’re unmistakably modern and steeped in today’s reality. In the case of Deadstock, the narrative is very much a throwback to western fiction where Rogers does away with every bit of modernization completely and instead shoves the reader into a literary time machine, making them feel the terror by the flicker of old west fire light. The back copy says that Deadstock is “Seasoned with a dash of horror and a pinch of sci-fi…” and I couldn’t agree more.
Rogers is in fine form, crafting a tight little story around two of his strongest characters to date. Sam and Raisy are quintessential western heroes hell-bent on righting a wrong in the name of loyalty and familial bonds. The mystery surrounding their back stories is ample enough to warrant full attention, just in case the author may divulge “a little bit more”. Unfortunately the author doesn’t fulfill this unspoken request, and we’re left with what he’s given us. Not that it’s a bad thing, though. Almost as is to make up for the lack of back story, it feels almost as if Deadstock is a set-up for a longer piece, and I for one can fully admit to being more than a little stoked for that prospect.
Proper setting and placement are absolutely essential to the well being of a well crafted Weird West novel. If these things aren’t handled properly, the author stands on the precipice of another genre altogether, namely Steampunk. Rogers handles this task brilliantly and expertly, keeping the realism directly steeped in a properly historical context, and limits himself to that time perios alone. Add the weight of a supernatural element and BAM! what you have in your grubby little hands is one of the best Weird West pieces you’ll ever read.
Not only does Rogers do an excellent job setting the scene, but his two main characters, supporting cast, and his ‘bad guys’ all work together to create one of the biggest teases I’ve come across in a long time. If Deadstock were to become anything, I’d wish that it headed into a series, and not a one-off novel/novella. There’s obviously a lot more to cover in this world, and I have faith that Rogers is up for the task.
Now, as much as my little love fest here is fun, I do have to mention that I felt a little let down by the length of the piece. There’s so much that can be done with this story that I, for one, have been left salivating for more. The prospect of having to wait for a prequel or sequel to this story is harrowing and I know that, once it comes, I’ll be chomping at the bit for it.
I’m a huge fan of Weird West fiction (even though I have a healthy fear of horses), and welcome Rogers to my collection. This is ‘Grade A’ fiction from a phenomenal author, folks. The Weird West genre is lucky to have a new addition to the stable, as Rogers’ attention to detail and original ideas will no doubt help bring more notice to what I think is a treat in the literary world.