DUST OF THE DAMNED by Peter Brandvold
I’ve read some of Peter Brandvold’s Westerns under his name as well as the Frank Leslie name, and I’ve enjoyed them as solid actioners that are quite a bit harder edged than anything Louis L’Amour ever wrote. And his latest release, Dust of the Damned, is way weirder than anything L’Amour wrote even back in his early pulp days.
Imagine a world where President Abraham Lincoln hired a gang of European werewolves called the Hell’s Angels to help break the back of the South during the War Between the States. Brandvold did, and he elaborated his story from there. The author creates his own terminology for his creatures (vampires/swillers), but doesn’t really blaze any new territory, which is a shame because no one has really played with the American Indian mythology and that could have potential been really cool.
Dust of the Damned is pulp of the first water. The author doesn’t hold himself back in this one. Everything is fair, and the old West has never been weirder.
The opening sequences where the book’s hero Uriah Zane, a supernatural bounty hunter, will let readers know right quick whether they want to buy into the pot on this particular tale. Zane is a man larger than life, built with a swagger and carries all his tools around in a coffin-shaped wagon. Those tools include the traditional hammer and stake for vampires, but also a liberated Gatling gun that spews silver bullets.
The initial battle with the vampires is attention getting and could easily translate to the movie screen. Vampires in underground lairs with the sun just setting has BIG MISTAKE written all over it, but since these are the opening chapters, readers don’t have to worry too much. Still, it’s an interesting look at Zane and the lengths he goes to in order to get the job done.
Once Zane is introduced, Brandvold quickly widens his cast of characters by introducing US Marshal Aubrey Coffin, who also tracks down the spooky in the Old West. She’s an immediate departure for the times because there never was a female US Marshal in the history of the Old West that I’m aware of, and her sensibilities are more 21st century than 19th.
The Hell’s Angels include Charlie Hondo, the leader of the werewolf pack, but he’s already thrown in with a Mexican witch that can raise the dead. One of the things that really bothered me about the werewolves is that they were supposed to be of European heritage, but they talked and acted like owlhoots. They didn’t have to behave like refined gentlemen, but I would have liked at least a nod in that direction.
Dust of the Damned is a quick read and doesn’t require a lot of digestion. Horses “fog” the trail and the gunfights come fast and furious. There’s also a scattering of more supernatural forces at work that probably won’t satisfy any true horror/monster fan looking for something new, but the book keeps moving.