(2020) Steven Hopstaken & Melissa Prusi, Flame Tree Press, £9.99 / US$14.99, pbk, 336pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58195-1
Thinking they have put their monster-hunting days behind them, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker return to their normal lives. But when their old ally Robert Roosevelt and his nephew Teddy find a new nest of vampires, they are once again pulled into the world of the supernatural, this time in the American West. A train robbery by a band of vampire gunslingers sets off a series of events that puts Bram on the run, Oscar leading a rescue party and our heroes being pursued by an unstoppable vampire bounty hunter who rides a dead, reanimated horse.
Following on from their exploits in Stokerís Wilde, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker have to reunite and head west, way out west to tackle a next of vampires in America, although on the surface it looks as if they are there for very different reasons, because Bram has to tour with Henry Irving and his theatrical troupe, and Oscar has a new play to promote. Like itís predecessors this is a fast-moving hoot, told in epistolary form (just like Dracula) comprising of extracts from letters, diaries, journals, reports, articles, telegrams and notes to make up the narrative. One of the joys of this form of story-telling is that it can be very funny as we get some of the characterís innermost thoughts, and learn what they really think of each other, and sometimes itís not very complimentary. One thing to note, the story is busy, busy, busy, and new readers should probably start with the first book as there are continuing plot threads being carried over Stokerís Wilde involving the main characters and those close to them including lycanthropy, tainted blood (well, from a vampireís point of view), and bloodthirsty vampires out for revenge for events that happened in book one, and letís not forget the White Worm Society, a sort of occult Diogenes Club, who have neatly bundled all the text together for our enjoyment.
Bram and Oscar are like fish out of water in this different country where things are so very different, but still able to be skewered by Oscarís sharp-tongue, and Hopstaken and Prusi are obviously having great fun throwing the two main leads into the mix and throwing in real-life historical figures such as Calamity Jane, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert and Teddy Roosevelt and Jeremiah Johnson, even Bass Reeves, the lawman who might have been the inspiration for the Lone Ranger gets a look in. The authors also manage to shoehorn in spectacular vistas and some old Wild West tropes such as gunslingers, albeit of the vampire variety and train robberies. There isnít anything quite like this in written form Ė sure there are weird western tales, though not providing as much fun and entertainment as to what Hopstaken and Prusi offer, but if you imagine a mash-up between the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Winona Earp you can appreciate where these books are coming from.
Fast, furious, funny, action-packed, gory, fast-talking with a hint of fantasy and science fiction thrown into the mix. Whatís not to like in another winner from Flame Tree Press, an imprint to look out for, and If the little teaser at the end is anything to go by we might have more adventures to come? Letís hope so.
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