As we're getting into the novel publishing business, and as I am committed to generating more original content for various sites, welcome to my semi-regular MUST reads, where I share the best in prose and comics that I personally enjoy!
First up, I'm going to praise new author, R.S. Belcher and the first two volumes of what I call the Golgotha series: Six-gun Tarot and Shotgun Arcana. These were recommended to me as good choices for immersing myself in horror-western when we set up our own deal for Deadlands, and I am very thankful to Jeff Mariotte for that recommendation!
Six-gun Tarot was Belcher's first published novel and I have rarely read such a strong, well-written book from a new author. Yet, he has still managed to up his game in the sequel Shotgun Arcana that I am currently loving, and am in the final stretch of finishing.
The books are horror-western-steampunk, so if you love Deadlands, you'll love these. Belcher effortlessly blends Native American, oriental and Judeo-Christian mythology and mysticism with Lovecraftian horror, and wraps all of it in classic western with a sprinkle of humor. He is an excellent world-builder, and the town of Golgotha feels and reads like a real place, populated by real people.
His characters are amazing. Diverse in background, personality and outlook, yet each fully-rounded and with their own voice and convincing perspective. To me, one of the marks of the best writers are when each and every character, even the bad guys, make sense, their actions and viewpoint, even if we violently disagree, has a nagging 'yeah, I kind of get that" feel to it. Belcher nails that beautifully.
I also salute him for being intentional in including diverse characters. He has strong females who are the most badass people you ever met, a solid Native American presence that reflects traditional, but also outsider experience, and even throws in the gay and Mormon experience, but again, none in such a way they feel forced, or as props for an agenda, instead, they're just all folks living in this truly strange little town in the middle of the 40-mile desert.
A couple final strong points... In blending all these elements and characters, Belcher also does a wonderful job of establishing backstory, not just backstory central to the plot, but little off-the-cuff remarks that remind us we're just visiting Golgotha, these other folks live there.
He also does a wonderful job of sprinkling darker elements with humor, from the awkwardness of first love, to the tried and true friendship of men and women who face life and death together.
Check them out, and if you enjoy Deadlands, The Sixth Gun, Jonah Hex, or anything in horror, or western genres, you'll love them both.