Low Noon Edited by David A. Riley
Publisher: Science Fiction Trails
Reviewer Rating: 4
Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths
Low Noon is a horror anthology set in the Weird Wild West and is edited by David A. Riley. I guess I am going through an anthology reading phase or perhaps I am desperate to read horror and I really do not have many laying around. I was also off to camp in Arizona and New Mexico and figured a southwestern horror book would fit right in. Whatever the case, this anthology proved to be a pleasant or perhaps considering the stories an unpleasant surprise. I enjoyed these stories which I read in Coyote Buttes and Flagstaff Arizona as well as in the wilds of the Zuni Mountains in New Mexico. When I arrived at the New Mexico camp in the darkness, wolves took up their low eerie howling and when I heard them I figured I had picked the right book to take along.
The anthology contains twelve stories designed to put shivers down your spine. I give them each a quick review below.
The anthology starts with a bang as Don D’Ammassa presents Drawn Out. Sometimes people with extra-natural powers underestimate everyone else. When a woman comes looking for her missing beloved, Old Man Fosters should have been more careful because the young artist might end up having some tricks of her own and when she finds out what happened to her man, she will not be very forgiving.
Second is The Trail of the Brujo, by Matthew Baugh. This is a truly brutal tale about a witch who can switch bodies. If he is not stopped his evil and horrid ways could go on forever. Still, how can you stop someone who can switch into a new body each time he runs into trouble or is shot?
Third up is Before All This Modern Stuff by Lyn McConchie. This tale revolved around a man who puts greed in front of human life. When his cattle thieves turn out to be starving women and children, he orders them killed anyway. Years go by and he had forgotten the deed, but often one’s bad deeds come back to haunt you when you least expect it.
The line up continues with Feeding Pluto by C.J. Killmer. In this tale a man goes tracking down his friend who has disappeared along with many others. The cannibals eating these missing people might be the least of his problems, because something worse wishes to eat him as well. This one stretched reality more than a little, but I enjoyed it. The main character is cool. I like it when authors allow themselves to write powerful protagonists.
Henrik Ramsager brings us A Quarter Past Death. Some rough characters come into town to try to defend their shattered brother’s honor, but how can you have a gunfight with a man who’s already dead, even if he’s shooting back at you? This one didn’t do it for me as much. Seemed more comic than scary. I like comedy, but sometimes I am just hoping for the shudder.
The Five Disciples is by Joel Jenkins. A bounty hunter and friend take one five ultra-powerful warriors from Asia. These long lived mages go down a bit too easy. Sometimes in fantasy and horror one wonders how these villains live to be some unheard of age and then get cut down by the heroes. Were there no heroes of merit or one who got lucky for the past hundred years of danger and fighting? Good story despite my peeve. Much more high fantasy here, over horror.
Next is The Judiciales by John Howard. In this very short story Carlos finds his life has a price tag he cannot pay no matter how much money he stole. This was a little short for my tastes. It felt rushed.
Hell Home on The Range was written by Sam Kepfield. I liked this story quite a bit, however, it has the same basic plot of Feeding Pluto mentioned above. Seems like between Donner Pass and the movie Ravenous, people like to think of the lonely places being full of white cannibals. Still this was a well done and exciting story. I enjoyed a little character development the villainous female received. One of the strongest tales of the anthology.
Kit Volker wrote Art Lessons for us. This is another short one which did not do much for me. Seemed a little bit like filler. With so many longer and stronger stories, these shorter tales just cannot compare.
The Temptation of Darcy Morgan was given to the reader by David Boop. This story bordered on being epic. A bartender, a sheriff, and the beautiful young dealer, bet the souls of a town against a man who never loses a game. They are not off to a good start. Nice one where wits are used to solve problems instead of violence.
Realgar was written by Jackson Kahl. This might be the scariest tale in the anthology. It is moody and contains a hint of Lovecraft style horror. I enjoyed how the main character started off wealthy with many men and slowly found himself more and more on his own. Liked this one a lot.
Lastly, we have A Walk in the Woods by David B. Riley the man who edited the book. In his tale, Grumpy deals with some high plains drifting vampires. These vampires have someone hunting them. It soon becomes a three-way conflict where not many will survive. Another good one and a great way to end the book.
Overall a strong and enjoyable anthology. A couple of shorter tales brought down the overall score, but I would recommend this to all lovers of horror. If you like the southwest, like I do (Hell, I live in Arizona where some of these stories take place.) It delivers and I enjoyed reading in while in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico and I am glad I picked it for my little camping trek.