© 2020 Rhett C. Bruno & Jaime Castle
Read by Roger Clark. 3 hours and change
If you read Cold as Hell, you were introduced to Crowley, a gunman of the old west who died trying to protect a young woman and her daughter from his boss, the leader of a gang known as the Scuttlers. Rather than being consigned to the flames of perdition, though, Crowley opened his eyes to find himself branded with a black star and taking orders from a moody angel named Shar: he’d been made a Hand of God, his mission to seek out and destroy creatures of Hell loose on the earth, like vampires, werewolves, and similar beasts. I would have loved Cold as Hell purely because it lets me listen to Roger Clark, the narrator who is best known as the actor for Arthur Morgan, but Bruno deftly combined fantasy-horror tropes to native American theo- and mythology to make a truly interesting fantasy western, where good writing was given extra punch through Clark’s chops. Dead Acre is the Audible version of a novella slightly predating Cold as Hell, in which Crowley is sent to a small town known as Dead Acre which has the dashed rum luck of being very near a Hellmouth. Some strange goings-on have been going-on in the lawless hamlet, and he’s investigating the murder of a man and the disruption of graves that proves to be rather hairier than expected. The ending gave me pause, however, because it sees Crowley meeting the the child whose life he saved all those years ago —- and if I recall, him discovering that child all-grown up was a rather important part of Cold as Hell, meeting they’re meeting twice and then forgetting it, a bit like Darth Vader telling Obi-Wan “At last, we meet again” when Disney’s malicious handling of Star Wars demonstrates that Vader and Obi have met numerous times since they last dueled on Mustafar. Perhaps I’m remembering wrong, though. At any rate, it was enormous fun to listen to, especially as I played RDR2 and had Roger Clark’s alter-ego Arthur Morgan get into numerous drunken barfights. If you’re an RDR2 fan, there are lines that are especially funny: Crowley’s contempt for New Orleans, rather like Arthur’s hatred of St. Denis, and his description of it as being a city on a hellmouth, especially apropos when Arthur can actually encounter a vampire in the city if he follows a trail.
I do like the idea of supernatural Western’s, or Western’s with a supernatural ‘tinge’. There’s some vampire hunting examples that I keep meaning to check out….
I wasn’t expecting to, but it’s proven a nice surprise. Cold as Hell’s sequel will be released later this month.