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A Town Called Pandemonium edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

A Town Called Pandemonium edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin
Book Name: A Town Called Pandemonium
Author: Edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin
Publisher(s): Jurassic London
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Western / Fantasy / Short Stories
Release Date: November 30, 2012

A Town Called Pandemonium is the latest short story collection from Anne and Jared at the always excellent geek blog They have even made the introduction to their collection of fantasy influenced western stories available on their site and it is well worth a read before deciding to buy or not.

I would not say I am particularly well read or well watched when it comes to westerns. Actually I have never read a western, unless you count Last of the Mohicans which would be tenuous indeed. And my experience of watching westerns boils down to the Fistful of Dollars trilogy, the odd modern one that comes out from time to time these days (3.10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale deserved much more love and attention than it got), Blazing Saddles and Deadwood. I suspect though that most of the authors in this collection have enjoyed Deadwood as the town of Pandemonium is the same sort of den of inequity that Deadwood was with lots and lots of weirdness thrown in; a lazy analogy would be Deadwood meets Twin Peaks. The point though I am trying to make in a rather long winded manner, is that you don’t need to be a fan of westerns to enjoy the stories in this collection. You just need to be a fan of dark little stories with lots of weirdness thrown in and some devious twists and turns in the plots.

What we also have here is a shared world collection. Usually with short story collections authors are given a theme or a brief they have to follow, but other than that the tales bear little relation to each other. Here though all the stories are set in the same town and often share characters or reference events in other stories in the collections. This is done to a varying degree of success, many of the stories either feature or at least mention Representation Calhorun (the Al Swearengen of Pandemonium to make a Deadwood reference), and “Rhod the Killer” by Sam Wilson references events in the first tale by Will Hill, but the fascinating Anasazi only appear in Joseph D’Lacey’s tale which is a real shame.

I have mixed feelings on this, the geek in me wants all the stories to tie in nicely together, but the literary buff in me wants to simply read the best stories possible. For example in many ways the real treat in this collection is a tale from one of the up and coming stars of fantasy, Sam Sykes. Called “Wish for a Gun”, it is a dark horror tale, with echoes of Stephen King, which will linger in the mind long after you finish reading it. For all of its merits though, it does not really need to be set in Pandemonium, in fact it does not even need to have a western setting. The same story written in a sword and sorcery or even a contemporary setting would be just as effective. Does that matter though? I would say not as it is a fantastic little tale, and the collection would be much poorer without it.

Other highlights for me include the opening tale by Will Hill, “The Sad Tale of the Deakins Boys”, which serves as a mission statement for the entire collection. Almost a novella in length, it introduces the town of Pandemonium and the extraordinary horror which is unleashed by the boys tells you exactly what type of stories you are in for. I also adored “The Gathering of Sheaves” by Joseph D’Lacey, another tale that pushes close to being a novella. Here we meet one of the most fascinating characters in the collection, Chigger Nine Wren, an Anasazi Medicine Man, and is cleverly told by interlocking the diary extracts by Nicholson which tell how he comes to Pandemonium searching for the Peotl, and his vision quest with Chigger in the desert outside Pandemonium. Both stories also have in common the fact that they tell of a greater and more alien threat to Pandemonium than the simple brutality that the residents display towards each other.

A shared theme throughout the collection is that of secrets: whether the disturbing alien horrors exposed in the previous two tales I discussed; the secret lust and shame of “Belle Deeds” in Chrysanthy Balis’ tale, or what Chrissie Miller discovers happens behind closed doors in Den Patrick’s “Red Hot Hate”; the personal deeds the men in Osgood Vance’s “Sleep in Fire” and Scott K. Andrews’ “Grit” wrestle with; the hidden dangers of the seemingly innocent protagonists of Archie Black’s “4.52 to Pandemonium” and Sam Wilson’s “Rhod the Killer”; and in Jonathan Oliver’s “Raise the Beam High” we even discover what happens when what has been hidden is revealed. A tiny criticism though I would make here is that sometimes a few of these tales border on being moral fables as cheating wives are given poetic justice and nasty devious law breakers get their come-uppance in quite horrific manners. Having said that this is more than counter balanced by the dark humour displayed here, and I would challenge anyone who does not laugh out whilst read “Rhod the Killer” to a ‘pistols at dawn’ duel.

Overall I had a lot of fun reading yet another fantastic collection for Anne and Jared, and look forward to reading more collections by them in the future. For more information on A Town Called Pandemonium and where you can purchase it, click here. The website also gives further information on the other brilliant collections available from pandemonium fiction.


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