Book Review: The Six-Gun Tarot

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher, Golgotha #1

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.

The wild west has always been a theme that I liked in fantasy, it must have something to do with the idea of sheriffs and gunslinging bad guys. but also by the works of fiction by Mike Resnick and lets not forget the wild western anthology Dead Man's Hand and Guy Adams' western series, the Heaven's Gate Trilogy that really helped to support this genre. The Six-Gun Tarot is written by Rod Belcher. He has won awards as a newspaper and magazine editor and reporter. This is his first full length  book, he has written a few short stories in addition to it.

Just a quick question up front. Have you read the synopsis of this book? No!? Just read and then quickly order the book. It sounds very cool, a weird western featuring mythical creatures, assassins, heaven and hell (thus angels and demons) and much much more. what you can further make up of the synopsis that something is about to happen to the small town of Golgotha, will is be swallowed by infernal means or can it still be saved? It's for you to find out. 

As with many supernatural stories it always work best when it start of in the natural way. All along the story you follow multiple perspectives, but the first focus is on Jim Negrey who is currently making a trek across the desert, the 40-Mile desert, almost dying of thirst. He is rescued by Golgotha's deputy, Mutt. What Mutt doesn't know or perhaps he doesn't care is that Jim left his old place in a hurry running away from the law, and now curiously finds himself being the right hand man of the law. Jim has many secrets and one of them is an artifact, a jaded eye that he carries around with him, an eye that was once his fathers. It is rumored that this artifact might hold strange powers. The rest is mainly focused in and around Golgatha. Soon you get to meet up with the Sheriff of the town Jon Highfather who is said to be immortal, one aspect you learn on early, just let me get quickly back to Mutt, Mutt is the deputy of Jon Highfather and just as eccentric, he is the son of Coyote, a skinwalker, naming him Mutt is kind of well... Any next to these three characters there is another important player in town. Malachi Bick, a saloon owner in Golgotha who tries to stop the re-opening of the silver mine which lies at the foot of Golgotha. Well he doesn't want this because an ancient and terrible evil dwells there, sorry for the mild spoiler, but compared to the stuff you will learn about many of the characters it's nothing. It is also here that the story comes together in a great way. Because somethings are just inevitable, you might guess what happened, what some people tried to prevent. well it happens and it is a terrific display of many genres crossing them and mixing them up.

The story of The Six-Gun Tarot actually has several individual storyline working for it, like the ones of Jim and Jon and Malachi, and there is something working on the whole of the story where everything connect and where most play an important role. I have to say that I was mightily impressed for seeing such a intricate story for a debut. You can readily see that Rod. S. Belcher was very eager to write this story. He wants to show you everything of the world and more, and this is also that works a bit against the grain for The Six-Gun Tarot. By introducing so many new aspects and a full character cast it is all a lot to process at once. The pacing of the book is rather relentless and trust me when I say that you do get drawn into the book. But I sometimes lost track of what was going on and how it could all be significant in the end. This is just a minor squabble and some debuts suffer from over exposure, but I'm sure that this will be worked out in the sequel. 

There is one bit where The Six-Gun Tarot draws a lot of strength from and that is world-building. The world that Rod. S. Belcher envisions is rich to say the least. As I already mentioned above there is a great mix up of several themes of fantasy. Western, horror and alternate history to name a few. Each of these help to make the world interesting. Many of these bit work well individually but the way that they are combined make it that much better. The western aspect is readily shown by the inhabitants like Mutt and the desert city of Golgotha and lets not forget some gunslinging characters. The horror aspect comes nicely into play by the sort of Lovecraftian creatures that dwell in the silvermine next to Golgotha. The ancient evil that dwells is very well portrayed. Now there is one other bit the alternate history aspect of the book. The story takes place just after the Civil War in Nevada and most of the population are Mormons, its just mixing this bit into the whole, also the rebuilding of the town with Chinamen that adds so much flavour to the story. Now thinking of it I have completely forgotten the Angelic presences of the story! Yes this is also a story of heaven and hell... As you can see there are a lot of elements to the world of the Golgotha series. I can pick a favorite, they all work very well. 

With The Six-Gun Tarot Rod S. Belcher has produced a down right cool story. From the first introduction to Jim to the other characters that you meet in Golgotha, the son of Coyote or the Sheriff that is not affected by bullets or Malachi Bick, is he just an innocent saloon owner. Then you have the whole setting of the town of Golgotha and all the weirdness that takes place. Here Rod S. Belcher shows that he has a knack in writing an engaging story, producing some individual storylines, with multiple perspectives but also making them connect in a high degree giving a great wholeness and completeness to the story. I already glimpsed the synopsis of the sequel The Shotgun Arcana and it says that the troubles for Golgotha are far from over. 


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