Colt by Ken Bruen from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir

On Dangerous Ground Ed Gorman Dave Zeltserman Martin H. Greenberg Cemetery DanceReviewed by Nik Korpon

Let me give a disclaimer first: This is my first Ken Bruen. He’s one of those who everyone else has read, and I’ve had on the TBR shelf for a while, but other things kept popping up. And after reading his story Colt, I think I’ve done myself a big disservice.

Bruen sets the scene quick: Lucas, a ne’er-do-well holed up somewhere on the edge of the map, is on the run after an unnamed incident in Arizona. Doesn’t matter, though, because he seems to have found trouble even in the one-horse town of Watersprings. And his Colt .45 just jammed.

Colt has the cast of a classic noir—the hardboy trying to outrun himself, the over-compensating lawman, the femme fatale—and shares some common themes, namely doomed characters and bad-but-inevitable decisions. It’d be easy to just transport a crime tale back 100 years, throw in a couple y’alls and howdy partners in and call it a Western, but the story feels authentic. I think it’s the dialogue that especially does it. The characters have their own way of speaking, varied enough to keep them distinct, but dirty enough to relegate them all to the run-down saloon, the town jail.

The only thing that stuck out to me was the use of ‘me’ in place of ‘my.’ Though it could be chalked up as another dialect of the time, it felt like there was a bit of Irish brogue seeping through. It’s a minor complaint that, after being slashed, gutted and dried by Bruen’s lean, badass prose, really ain’t nothing to complain about.

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Nik Korpon

Nik Korpon is the author of STAY GOD, OLD GHOSTS, BY THE NAILS OF THE WARPRIEST and BALTIMORE STORIES: VOLUMES ONE and TWO. His stories have bloodied the pages and screens of Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, 3:AM, Out of the Gutter, Everyday Genius, Speedloader, Warmed&Bound and a bunch more. He is an editor for Dirty Noir and Rotten Leaves, and reviews books for Spinetingler, NoirJournal and The Nervous Breakdown. He also co-hosts LAST SUNDAY, LAST RITES, a monthly reading series. He lives in Baltimore.

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About Nik Korpon

Nik Korpon is the author of STAY GOD, OLD GHOSTS, BY THE NAILS OF THE WARPRIEST and BALTIMORE STORIES: VOLUMES ONE and TWO. His stories have bloodied the pages and screens of Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, 3:AM, Out of the Gutter, Everyday Genius, Speedloader, Warmed&Bound and a bunch more. He is an editor for Dirty Noir and Rotten Leaves, and reviews books for Spinetingler, NoirJournal and The Nervous Breakdown. He also co-hosts LAST SUNDAY, LAST RITES, a monthly reading series. He lives in Baltimore.

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