Eric Red’s “THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE” (Book Review)
Rugged people, sprawling plains and an undercurrent of superstition and mysticism; to some, the western is an almost perfect fit for tales of terror. However, there’s also risk of awkward translation by melding genres. Somehow, both of these points can be attested to in Eric Red’s latest horror offering, a werewolf-infested western entitled THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE, available now from Samhain Publishing.
By no means a flat-out disappointment, Red’s book still never truly lives up to its stellar premise, pitting silver-lusting gunslingers against a pack of werewolves that have seized a Mexican church as their own. The book has a curious balance between awkward, wooden dialogue and bizarrely unnatural characterizations with riveting action sequences, engrossing descriptions of carnage and palpable tension. In fact, there is a B-movie atmosphere apparent throughout the novel, yet with some of the more ferocious sequences, I’m not entirely sure if that was Red’s intention.
Red’s characterizations are noble yet never truly original or fully fleshed out, providing us with a slew of disposable anti-heroes to follow until focusing on the three head honchos, who are unfortunately not as interesting or cohesive as the narrators who came before them. There’s much promise in these guys, who don’t really hit their narrative stride until they uncover some of the grisly aftermath of wolf attacks, but they’re never truly the protagonists the story needs, lacking inner conflict that isn’t worn on the character’s sleeve. Nevertheless, the story is still entertaining, and the moments of horror are further accentuated by the refreshing take on the wolves themselves.
Yes, without giving too much away, there’s a cool twist on the unstoppable wolven monsters in THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE, one that makes them more dangerous than previous incarnations. There’s a level of power-drunk self-realization that’s in these creatures, both in human and wolf form. Wwhen they appear to kill, Red works his literary magic at full force as a clever and crafty author, doing his best to avoid falling into the tropes of both the western and horror genres, even if the resulting work feels stilted and inauthentic as a result. Furthermore, the dueling narratives of the townspeople who fell under the wolves’ reign of terror and the three violent bandits has a difficult time offering fluid storytelling, at least until the storylines converge in the unrelenting final act.
THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE could have definitely been stronger with a more novel-oriented approach to the story and more contemplative characters, but Eric Red does provide an entertaining and fascinating genre hybrid with some schlocktastic atmosphere and encapsulating action from beginning to end. It’s a fun, bloodsoaked read, even if it never reaches the levels of greatness hinted at by the premise and the supernatural antagonists. If werewolves and westerns are your bag, THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE will be your huckleberry, as long as you curb your expectations appropriately.