Hell by Bentley Little from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir

May 25, 2011
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On Dangerous Ground Ed Gorman Dave Zeltserman Martin H. Greenberg Cemetery DanceReviewed by Jedidiah Ayres

First lemme say how much I love the idea behind this collection. Let me follow that up by saying how natural a fit the two genres are, (The Searchers anybody? Unforgiven? Blood Meridian? Smonk?), but “Hell” by Bentley Little follows up the introduction from James Sallis moving in what feels like a sleep-walk. We’re told that Texas Ranger Frank Perris is on the trail of another ranger who’s committed a crime “too vile for your ears to hear,” and that he had to get his man as “honor demanded no less.” Vaguely noble and heroic notions seem to be driving Perris through the meandering story – a quick stop here, casual murder there – and just about the time I was wondering what the point of the whole thing was and what on earth qualified this as any shade of noir he catches up to his man and (without spoiling anything), the premise of the whole journey is cast in a far different light.

Haven’t read the rest of the pieces yet, but “Hell” strikes me as an odd choice to kick things off. I’m hoping that the next story is a rocket powered death trip and that the slow pitch opener (that features a pretty good final image – I gotta say) was designed just to throw you off balance.

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3 Responses to Hell by Bentley Little from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir

  1. Elizabeth on May 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Sounds kind of like the one I reviewed, “Canticle,” which was a pleasant read but left me scratching my head as far as noir goes.

  2. Dave Zeltserman on May 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Elizabeth, I believe Jed was trying to imply with the following “the premise of the whole journey is cast in a far different light” that by the end the story has shifted into noir, and in my opinion, the most unsettling kind of noir where all your perceptions and thoughts of the person you’ve been reading about have to change.

  3. Jedidiah Ayres on May 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Yeah, it all turns on that last moment