Sunday, October 4, 2009

Death Ground by Ed Gorman (Leo Guild Western)

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Ex Libris Reviews. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.

Ed Gorman writes my favorite kind of Western, at least as far as I can tell from the example of Death Ground. I really enjoy dark fiction like horror and hard-boiled crime novels. There, characters unrepentantly operate by their own set of rules. This was the first Western I read that didn't appear to be peopled entirely with black-and-white characters either trying to do the right thing or blatantly the opposite.

Everyone's motives in Death Ground are questionable. Even the protagonist is a bounty hunter named Leo Guild who is more interested in collecting the reward for returning the spoils of a bank robbery than in bringing the robber to justice — although that would be okay, too, as long as the reward was worth it.

Gorman puts enough plot into the 200 pages of Death Ground to fill a much longer novel. At least four of the characters undergo some type of change, a cholera outbreak wipes out half of a settlement, and all of the bad guys are punished — usually with a bullet or six.

Somehow, Gorman manages to make each individual sympathetic (like the priest who isn't really, two brothers with an incredibly dysfunctional relationship, and a murderer who adopts an orphan) in an emotionally resonant narrative. With the existence of three other Leo Guild novels to help ease the transition via familiarity, Death Ground also acts as the ideal introduction to Westerns for the horror or crime fiction fan.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails