Reviewed 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.