For some strange reason Joe Lansdale often carried the tag of horror writer for many years which is peculiar since out of the 20 or so books of his, only "The Drive-In" and "Dead in the West" are horror novels. Many of his novels are either westerns, hard-boiled mysteries or strange combinations of both. Dead in the West is another unique crossover as only Lansdale can do, a short novel that seamlessly combines the western and horror genres to mold a "zombie western". Let it be said that Dead in the West is one of the best and most unique contributions ever to the horror genre.
Reverend Jeb Mercer is a man of god who has lost much of his faith due to the many unfortunate circumstances that have shaped his life. Every once in a while Jeb still communicates with the lord and this time He has sent Jeb to the East Texas town of Mud Creek on a mission, a mission about what Jeb is uncertain but he boards his mule, packs his guns and heads over to the sleepy desert town. Jeb will soon find out that the town has been cursed by an Indian shaman and that is why everyone in Mud Creek is turning into slow shuffling zombies. Can the Reverend, a man of god who has lost his faith, save the town from the dark pits of hell that await?
The ideas are great and truly original but it is Lansdale's writing that make this novel so exceptional. He has a way with words and with humour that just jump at you and make you stare at the page in disbelief. The dialogue is some of the funniest ever and all the words seem to flow seamlessly on the pages. This is one of those novels that is very hard to put down unfinished. On the surface, the plot seems like one of a pulpy dime novel but it has such a tight structure and sense of atmosphere that it becomes so much more. This book has more treasures in 120 pages than most books of 400 pages could ever think of having.
Most of the novel would be classified as a western until that is the invasion of zombies in the last 30 pages or so that turn it into a bloody, gory and extremely graphic zombie gut-muncher. This is one of those gems that should never go out of print and should obtain classic status but because of how unconventional it is will forever remain an obscure cult anomaly. If you are a fan of Joe or horror in general what are you waiting for? Hunt this book down, then settle into your favourite chair with a bowl of chili on the side and let Joe take you on for the ride of your life.