Review: The Coming of Crow, ed. Joel Jenkins, 2014.
Armed with a Colt Peacemaker blessed by a prophet on a night in the desert when the dead rose from the earth, the lone survivor of his tribe after they are wiped out by other Indians, raised by white Mormons, an ex-Army Scout turned bounty hunter, Lone Crow roams the west.
But it’s not just bad men he’ll encounter. His gun and tomahawk and bow will deal death to Cthulhoidish entities, shapeshifters, sorcerers, and Chinese demons from Alaska to Costa Rica, California to Colorado, Oklahoma to Arkham and New York City.
Jenkins’ Lone Crow is the literary descendant of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and Aaron B. Larson’s Haakon Jones and the finest weird western series I’ve encountered next to Larson’s. Truth be told, he may be better than Larson, and I’m just biased towards Larson because of his extensive use of my native South Dakota for many of his stories.
I’m not going to summarize the 14 stories here. That would give a false sense of tedium since many of the stories use a plot where Crow is after some bounty, encounters and defeats some supernatural menace, and then still has to deal with the normal dangers of capturing or killing bad men. However, if your interested in specifics, you’ll find a bit more on individual Crow stories elsewhere on the blog.
Jenkins action scenes are superb. His attention to gunplay and use of obscure firearms is well-done.
But, like Solomon Kane, Crow’s religious faith is important as many of the menaces he faces are psychic and moral as well as physical.
Jenkins throws in historical gunfighters like Wyatt Earp, ex-slave and legendary U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves, and “the Destroying Angel of Mormondom”, Porter Rockwell. But he also throws in reference to other people’s fictions. A thread running through these stories is the chaos unleashed by foolish Miskatonic University professors, and there are also the machinations of the Diogenes Club, the organization Sherlock Holmes’ smarter brother Mycroft belongs to. To this, Jenkins adds his own sinister cabal, Blavatsky’s Aryans.
Many adventures have ex-foes or bounties of Crow’s turned allies: Shotgun Ferguson and Six-Gun Susannah Johnson.
I’m generally hostile to unconvincing diversity in modern literature and, indeed, its obsession with the whole subject and the idea that racism as the greatest human evil ever. But Jenkins has a light and realistic touch here. Crow deals with racism against him with stoicism and humor, and the American West, with its mélange of races and ethnicities, is an historical setting where Crow and his interactions with other races seems realistic. Jenkins doesn’t sugarcoat the brutality of Indian tribes towards whites and other tribes either.
And Jenkins makes the attraction that three white women have for Crow realistic as well. It’s not an easy thing to pull that off in Jenkins’ pulp plots of supernatural menace.
The series isn’t perfect. There are some continuity errors. For instance, it’s said Commanches wiped out Crow’s tribe in one place, the Apaches in another. Jenkins also arranges his stories in the order of publication there is a lot of jumping back and forth in Crow’s life though each adventure is, of course, self-contained.
If you’re interested in the weird western genre, I can’t think of a better book and more easily available book to start with.