A couple of months ago it was time for the summer trip west and back to South Dakota.
That meant it was time to read the usual nonfiction Old West history book and a weird western. (I already did the usual geology reading.)
I’ll get to the history book another time.
I’ve been reading David B. Riley’s work on and off since encountering his publication Science Fiction Trails in 2013.
I am rather picky about what I consider a successful weird western. Ideally, it should be science fictional and not take the easy route of using magic and avoid the easy crutches of time travel and aliens.
Under Riley’s editorship, a surprising number of stories managed to do that.
Perhaps that standard was why Riley had trouble getting submissions and eventually ended publication of the magazine.
Science Fiction Trails is back, though, and I might do a review of its too most recent editions, both available in print and kindle form.
It was in another defunct Riley magazine, the first issue of Steampunk Trails, that I first met his character Miles O’Malley in “The Big Green Orb”. That story takes place after the ones in this omnibus.
Review: The Devil Draws Two: The Weird Western Adventures of Miles O’Malley, David B. Riley, 2012.
Miles O’Malley would be the first to tell you he’s not very bright and kind of naïve and that his horse Paul is smarter than he is.
He’s not a very good barber either.
Yet, as he wanders about the West circa 1880, he manages to tangle with vampires, time travelers, Susquatches, a robot, Martians, ghosts, demons and best them through some mix of charm, a lot of luck, and some fine shootin’ courtesy of a special revolver.
Which brings up Miles’ mighty peculiar circle of friends and acquaintances. There’s Nick Mephistopheles who gave him that gun. Miles doesn’t just pay a call to Hell to meet Nick. Miles also goes to Heaven.
There’s Molly Madison, intrepid female reporter and fellow boarder at the same San Francisco rooming house as Miles. Wing Ding, Chinese laundry owner and smuggler, tags along for a few adventures.
Miles gets a lot of carnal attention from Mabel and Janus. They’re not fallen women but fallen angels.
And there’s crazy Angel, who’s not an angel, and Major Franks and Judge Hastings who keeps having Miles arrested to interrogate him about his many adventures.
That’s because Miles keeps running into the Gray Army, a bunch of diehard Confederates who want to cause an Indian revolt in California and take it over.
But they’re not the real problem.
It’s their boss: Ah Puch, the Mayan God of Death. He’s got a grudge against Nick and the world in general. (And he’s not the only Indian god showing up.)
Miles tells a good story more on the humor than suspense side.
All three stories are rather episodic in nature. I suspect they were fused together from short stories to make three novels rather in the manner of Aaron B. Larson’s The Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones, a novel Riley holds highly. (Yeah, the titles are even similar.)
There’s even a crossover appearance with another Riley series character, Grumpy Gaines, Texas Ranger.
I’ll definitely pony up cash for more Miles O’Malley stories.
And, nope, I don’t know why it isn’t titled The Devil Draws Three.