‘Dawn In Damnation’ by Clark Casey is a real page-turner of a western. Written in a down-to-earth style, it grabs your interest from page one. Initially, I was curious to see how the idea would play out. There is not excessive gore or an over-emphasis of the paranormal nature of the story.
This is written as if that’s just the way life is here, in the town of Damnation. It’s as if you have just walked thru a dust storm and arrived on the outskirts of town. Most people head straight to the Foggy Dew, the saloon for humans. There is another saloon down the road, that serves beef, but that is where the werewolves hang out.
Sal, the barman at the Foggy Dew Saloon, serves bacon or pork chops for breakfast. When you first arrive in town, you are given a drink and a line of credit for drink and/or gamble with, while you figure out where you are and what to do next, like how to pass the time or who to kill.
The first few chapters are all about the town’s people who are already here. Then the chapters talk about some of the newcomers to town, so we can read about what happens to them. That depends on whether they get shot in the first few days or settle down into the existing daily routine of life around town.
If you like reading or watching westerns, you will enjoy and recognise some of the characters, reading about the different people and what happens to them or the other people they come up against also how they got here and what happens when they leave. There are prospectors, railroad workers, soldiers and card-sharps as well as murderers and rapists.
Westerns tended to be morality stories and there is this theme running through the story. Of the people, mostly men, being there for one last chance to become good and ascend to heaven. If they don’t overcome their selfish or mean streak, they are shot in a duel or just killed for being too evil and descend to hell. The story is not deathly serious, nor is it played totally for laughs, there is some humour but not laugh-out-loud jokes.
This town is now their reality and you find something to do with your days like eating and drinking, playing cards in the saloon, sleeping it over overnight at the rooming house.
It is always twilight or dawn and never sunrise or sunset. So Nigel, the resident vampire, spends a lot of time out on the upper balcony watching the goings-on downstairs and the new arrivals reactions and behaviour in duels outside and who wins or loses.
Though he tends to keep a wide berth between himself and Ms. Parker, now that he has got used to her arrival, but not to the growing bump in front of her or the smell of fresh blood as it continues to grow in her belly.
The characters are written sympathetically and descriptively, by what they say and do, you get to develop an understanding of what they used to be like and how they have changed and adapted to their new existence or not changed at all and get killed. This is a story about people that you want to read about and want to know what happens next. I found it to be a lively and well-paced story, with the words painting a picture of the town and its people. An odd town with odd people which makes it an entertaining western with a difference.
If I am curious about anything, it is what keeps the vampire going ? Apart from the baby there is no fresh blood and the same with the werewolves, no fresh meat. Nothing is indigenous, everything has to come thru the dust storm barrier. So the café has black coffee but no milk. If you are curious and would like to read more about this unusual town and its inhabitants, I suggest you pick up a copy of this book for a read. I certainly enjoyed doing so.
(pub: Kensington Publishing Corp, 2017. 182 page paperback. Price: $15.00 (US), £11.71 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-51610-498-7)
check out website: www.kensingtonbooks.com/