The Old Ways by Ed Gorman from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir

On Dangerous Ground Ed Gorman Dave Zeltserman Martin H. Greenberg Cemetery DanceI usually don’t give a shit about Westerns. I don’t care about Lonesome Dove or Louis L’Amour. I find the language is forced most of the time and everything feels like a big caricature. I’d rather read about a man getting away in a mustang than on a mustang.

Not to start in with the “slashes” but the exception to my dislike of westerns is the western/noir. I hate the hybrid genre. I hate having to name and categorize every fucking thing; having to break it down into smaller groups so people can get a handle on it. I’m not excusing myself from being one of those people; I’m equally as guilty of using sub-genres as a crutch when it comes to defining all types of shit.

At any rate what I’m after in a western is pretty much the same as I’m after in most of the fiction I read. I want bad things to happen to everyone. I want to finish that last page feeling shittier than I did on page one. I’m looking to make myself completely fucking miserable reading about everyone losing everything. Luckily for me Old Ways by Ed Gorman gives me what I need.

Now here’s the challenge of reviewing a short story without ruining the ending and writing more than “this guy did this, bad shit happen, I liked it”. I’m sure it isn’t a challenge for anyone else but I’m a fucking terrible reviewer.

Jimmy is an Indian hustler who spends his time ripping fools off at card table in the saloon where he works. Also employed at the saloon is Mr. Stevenson; a hulking black behemoth with a penchant for snapping necks and reading to the public. Jimmy and Mr. Stevenson both love or have loved the same woman: an Indian woman named Moira. She is delicate and gorgeous but much to their collective chagrin she has taken up with a violent prick named Two Eagles (also Indian, if the name didn’t give it away).

One night Mr. Stevenson catches wind of a decision taken by Two Eagles to cut off Moira’s nose in retaliation for her getting ploughed by two dudes in some shitty hotel (albeit after he kicked her in the stomach and killed their unborn child). This is apparently an old custom. Woman commits adultery –Woman loses nose. This ensures no man will ever want her again. Mr. Stevenson and Jimmy go to Moira’s to try to stop this from going down but luckily for you, shit goes south and you’re left with an ending that’ll ruin your day.

This is what I mean by reviewing short stories. I literally summed everything up in two paragraphs. I am wildly inadequate at writing reviews. I could probably go on a little about how the language and vocabulary used was modern without being cheesy or taking you out of the story. Or how the characters are archetypal without being clichés but most people don’t give a shit about that. They just want to hear this story will punch you in the dick and make you fall in love with it all at once.

Thankfully, it does.

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5 Replies to “The Old Ways by Ed Gorman from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir”

  1. “They just want to hear this story will punch you in the dick and make you fall in love with it all at once. Thankfully, it does.”

    Well said! Ed never lets a reader down. There are few writers of whom I can say I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read, and Ed would be one of them. His Western novel The Sharpshooter is also terrific. Dark, violent, funny, tragic.

  2. No, I’d say you are quite a good reviewer. I have this collection and have not yet read this particular story. Because of your review, I will now.

  3. I probably should have proofread it a little better.

    Cullen: I will definitely hunt down (and read) The Sharpshooter. Thanks for the heads up.

    Elizabeth: I am flattered. Thanks!