Judas Payne: A Weird Western / Webb's Weird Wild West: Western Tales of Horror (Wildside Double #11)
There’s a line in the author’s bio at the back of this book I really like: “Michael Hemmingson writes books in every possible genre he can.” That’s my kind of writer. I’ve read Hemmingson’s Orrie Hitt pastiche, THE TROUBLE WITH TRAMPS, but JUDAS PAYNE is the first Western by him I’ve read. It’s an unusual book, and it’s a fine example of taking a traditional plot and doing something new with it.
In JUDAS PAYNE, you’ve got homesteaders, a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher, Indians, a friendly sheriff, a wagon train, a gang of vicious outlaws and slavers led by a former cavalry colonel, a mysterious gunfighter, and a young hero trying to make his way in a world full of tragedy and strife. Sounds like a pretty traditional Western, doesn’t it? Oh, yeah, the young hero is the son of Satan. Literally. Satan takes on the form of a handsome, wounded Indian, and seduces the wife of the preacher. Lots of horrific things happen, to go along with shootouts and fistfights and assorted other Western plot elements.
Hemmingson writes in a somewhat formal style reminiscent of the TV show DEADWOOD, and it’s very effective given the Gothic overtones of this yarn. It’s a short, fast-moving novel, and spawn of Satan or not, Judas Payne winds up making a fine, likable hero. Everything is set up for sequels, and I hope we get them.
JUDAS PAYNE is half of Wildside Double #11, published by Wildside Press. On the other side of the book, continuing the Weird Western theme, is Don Webb’s short story collection, WEBB’S WEIRD WILD WEST. I’ve met Webb several times at conventions but haven’t read any of his work yet. These stories look good, and I plan to get to them soon. In the meantime, if you enjoy a definitely off-beat Western, check out Michael Hemmingson’s JUDAS PAYNE. Recommended.