Eric Red kicked in the doors and smacked me around in the mid-1980s. His scripts for NEAR DARK and, in particular, THE HITCHER were the stuff of geek dreams. His writing had precision-tooled, B-movie mechanics and plots built with a merciless, gleeful desire to give the people what they want in ways that surprised us.
His best work, in my humble opinion, emerged when he directed his own hit-man masterpiece, COHEN & TATE, where mean and funny and brutal and thrilling all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” as Roy Scheider (fucking Roy Scheider!) and Adam Baldwin duke it out over the delivery of a 12-year-old eyewitness to their mafia bosses.
I’ve kept up with his film work, but I had no idea he’s been producing horror and other pulp fictions on the page for some time, too. Samhain Publishing now releases a short novel that displays a characteristic panache.
THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE has, at its core, a plot almost as perfect as SNAKES ON A PLANE: werewolves in the Old West. A vicious pack of banditos has holed up in a small-town church, terrorizing and daily snacking on the townsfolk. One young citizen sneaks away, hoping to convince some other vicious pack of bandits to ride in, melt down the silver and plug the lycanthropes. There isn’t a Western or werewolf cliché Red doesn’t welcome into the saloon.
As in his movies, the familiar is served up neat, no chaser; there’s an economy to his storytelling that will reward readers looking for the rush of mayhem. It’s an old-fashioned, well-made dime novel, doing Louis L’Amour, Elmore Leonard and Richard Matheson proud. And there’s a bite of Tabasco in the shot, small doses of razor wit: a gunslinger asking about a hapless civilian, “Who’s the sombrero?”; a drunken prisoner carefully sizing up his escape plan while a wolf man rips up the cells.
My only caution is that it’s relentlessly familiar: the saloons and slang; the virginal, feisty Mexican woman love interest; THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN thug-vs.-thug match-up at the core of the plot. I had hoped to be kicked out of the saddle a little more often. Still, the book begins at a gallop and never lets up.
Once again, Red delivers the pulp goods. And it’d make a helluva film. —Mike Reynolds
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