The Crawling Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Press Magazine, Spring 2011 (free here)
…And let me tell you, he is not the God of Jesus, he is the God of David, and the angry city killers and man killers and animal killers of the Old Testament. He is constantly jealous and angry and if there is any plan to all this, I have yet to see it.
This was the line that really sold me on Joe R. Lansdale’s recent piece of fiction for Subterranean Press Magazine. Reverend Mercer, the character speaking the above line, is sort of like a frontier version of a more ornery Solomon Kane. Not quite the right bastard that is John Constantine but definitely not the most agreeable of individuals. In The Crawling Sky Reverend Mercer arrives in the tiny Texas town known by the appropriate name of Wood Tick. Wood Tick is not the happiest places and the most honest and forthright individual there is the man they have chained up in their jail.
An entertaining adventure story The Crawling Sky scratches my itch for “weird west” fiction in an imminently satisfying way. The story’s largest problem is an overly long section of expository dialogue, but Landsdale infuses the conversation with some subtle use of dialect and an infusion of humorous asides from the titular character that renders this problem almost entirely forgivable. Lansdale’s descriptions of Wood Tick and its denizens, along with gems of dialogue like the following:
“No. I am good. I will take the horse meat, long as I can watch you fry it.”
“All right. I’m just about through whittling.”
“Are you making something?”
“No. Just whittlin’.”
“So, what is there to get through with?”
“Why, my pleasure, of course. I enjoy my whittlin’.”
indicate a distinctive flavor of dry humor that makes Mercer, and Lansdale, imminently readable. A bit of research shows me that there is one Mercer novel Deadman’s Road published by Subterranean back in October (it also included this story) though the title is no longer in print; which is a shame. Thankfully you can enjoy The Crawling Sky for free in the Spring 2011 of Subterranean Press right now.