As I said in my review of THE MAGIC WAGON by Joe R. Lansdale, I'm not really a big fan of Western novels, though I have read a few over the years. Because I'm now such a huge fan of Mr. Lansdale's writing, I'll read anything by him, no matter what the genre. BLOOD DANCE is no exception. It's one of his earlier Westerns that was written back around 83 or 84 and finally saw publication two years ago with Subterranean Press. Since I loved THE MAGIC WAGON so much, I decided to pick up a copy of this short novel, and I have to say that I definitely got my money's worth out of it. BLOOD DANCE takes place in the Dakota Territory, ten years after the Civil War, and is the story of Jim Melgrhue, an ex-Confederate soldier and Louisiana boy. When he and his best friend, Bob Bucklaw, decide to join a gang a train robbers, led by Beau Carson, Jim's instincts tell him that there's nothing but trouble around the corner, which proves to be the case. The train robbery turns out to be a fiasco, and when Carson orders the execution of all the passengers, Jim and Bob quickly decide to take a stand against the gang and its leader. Though they valiantly try to save the passengers, the gun battle that ensues leaves Bob Bucklaw dead and Jim seriously wounded. When Jim eventually comes to, he has to once again fight in order to save himself from a Sioux war party that's investigating the train and its dead passengers. Only through luck and the unexpected appearance of John Johnston the Crow Killer (think of the Robert Redford movie, "Jeremiah Johnson") does our protagonist survive. Thus begins the journey of Jim Melgrhue's quest for vengeance against Beau Carson and his gang of killers. As Jim heals from his wounds, he tags along with Johnston for a while, and then with a Crow warrior by the name of Dead Thing, who has his own score to settle against Carson. This leads to a Sundance in which Jim experiences a vision of his future. Before the path of revenge has been completed, Jim will try his hand at gold mining, save the life of Wild Bill Hickok, and find himself at Little Big Horn with General George Custer and three thousand Indians that are looking for a little payback. Like the late Louis L'Amour, Joe R. Lansdale does his research and incorporates historical fact with fiction, carefully weaving his adventurous yarn so that the reader doesn't always know what's true and what's created from the author's imagination. BLOOD DANCE is a quick read that can be done in a couple of hours. What makes the novel so entertaining is Lansdale's ability as a storyteller. He has a unique skill at being able to create characters that come alive with just a few short sentences, a dark sense of humor that can make even the most jaded reader laugh out loud, and an uncanny instinct for making any story sound interesting With Lansdale, the reader knows that he's going to have fun from the first page to the last. I find it hard to understand why more people don't know about this exceptional East Texas author. This man can write horror, action, westerns, serious drama, children's fiction, and even zany over-the-top adventure stories. Illustrated by Mark A. Nelson, BLOOD DANCE is a sure winner for those who enjoy a good Western novel and want to have a few hours of pure fun.