Que the Ennio Morricone. Grab your Stetson and saddle up. Brian Keene is about to take you to the Old West (with a sasquatch or two)…..
From Deadite Press:
The Old West has never been weirder or wilder than it has in the hands of master horror writer Brian Keene.
Morgan and his gang are on the run—from their pasts and from the posse riding hot on their heels, intent on seeing them hang. But when they take refuge in Crazy Bear Valley, their flight becomes a siege as they find themselves battling a legendary race of monstrous, bloodthirsty beings. Now, Morgan and his gang aren’t worried about hanging. They just want to live to see the dawn.
To say this is a weird Western may be a bit misleading. It is weird in the same way that McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a weird western. Both are firmly planted in the era of the Old West and adhere to the preexisting conventions of the genre but both do it in a refreshingly new fashion. McCabe & Mrs. Miller toys with the viewer’s sense of traditional locale by setting the film in the snowy Pacific Northwest while An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley (although also toying with the traditional setting) has the reader examine what constitutes good and evil in a Western. Keene doesn’t have a posse hunting a group of outlaws. No way, that would be too easy. Instead, Keene creates a race of monsters ,known as the “crazy bears”, who have been wronged by this group of rogue thieves. The “crazy bears” follow the standard conventions that most heroes adhere to in classic Westerns except, y’know, they are scary as all get out.
These “crazy bears” are no joke! Imagine of you took the savage humanity of the cannibals in Off Season, mated them with the fierceness of the beasts in The Cellar and filtered it through some down-and-dirty Bigfoot mythology. These are the “crazy bears” and they mean business. They may be visitors from space or they may be biblical beings that have been hidden away for centuries but either way, they are angry and out for revenge.
I’ve been on record as saying that Brian Keene can write about the working man like nobody’s business. His words drip with the authenticity that can only come from the pen of a man who has been through the ringer and lived to tell the tale. This is his strength. This is what makes him so important to so many readers. We can identify with the characters on the page- even in a story set in the Old West, involving a pack of terrifying humanoid beasts and a band of despicable bandits. Keene takes his “every man” sensibilities and applies it to a group of murders and thieves with superb results. This are the working class of the era and, after an initial brush with senseless violence, the readers grows to care about these characters who are left to fend off a group of crazed animals. Again, this is Keene’s strength and this is what makes An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley such a fun and effective story.
The dynamic of Morgan’s gang is very intriguing because a normal author would have you hate these people based on their background. Not Keene. Keene even adds fuel to the fire by having an opening chapter which invites the reader to despise Morgan and his cronies. I honestly believe that Keene enjoys the challenge of trying have the reader relate to a character they once hated. The story then begins to slowly build these characters up in very convincing fashion. We see their faults and fears and begin to feel for them as they fight for their lives. Eventually, we are a member of Morgan’s gang and we, too, are fighting for our very survival. This is the hallmark of Keene’s writing and this why a story about crazed sasquatch set in a long-gone can feel so damn personal.
An Occurrence in Crazy Bear Valley is a fun story that packs a whole lot of tension into a very small space. This is definitely “read in one sitting” territory here, folks, and I guarantee you’ll leave the story fully satisfied. Check it out if you’re looking for something a little off-beat!
If the review above doesn’t sell you, there is also a short story included. “Lost Canyon of the Damned” is a fun little tale that finds Keene venturing gloriously close to bizarro territory as he tells a story that is one part Western, one part Zombie with a heaping helping of prehistoric, inter-dimensional weirdness. This is a fantastic piece for those interested in Keene’s upcoming bizarro piece that he has hinted at for the past few years.