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Black Jack Derringer Book 1: The Ace of Spades / K. H. Koehler

Skullvines Press / October 2009
Reviewed by: Michele Lee

Black Jack Derringer: The Ace of Spades is like one of those little four-piece Whitman's Samplers. You end up with a good idea of what the story's going to be, but it's over and gone just when you're really ready for more.

Wild Alice West is not a woman for breeding or homemaking or any of the other things the Wild West-flavored land called the Skillet considers women good for. She's a bounty hunter, plagued by a bit of bad luck, a mouth that constantly gets her in trouble, a society that can't respect her and the fastest shot she's ever met. (She's humble too.)

Only now she's stuck in a little no-horse town, where the local sheriff cheated her out of her bounty, her mount was stolen and the only jobs people are willing to give her involve all the womanly work she finds demeaning.

That's where she discovers Mr. Treen, a slender, red-eyed albino card sharp who’s also stirring up a little trouble of his own. Except the man who lacks a first name possesses strange and disturbing abilities, a sense of humor from another time, and a deep, dark secret that he isn't even fully aware of.

An unlikely pair, they nevertheless team up to save themselves, and begrudgingly the town when it comes under attack from a wicked gang of land pirates. But things aren't always easier with a partner at your side.

If "Weird Western" sought a definition, this novella could easily fit it. There are hints of the Skillet being a post apocalyptic world, though there is heavy technology mixed with near-magic like abilities. Mutants are the underdogs of the world, be they human-like or equine (like Goliath, Alice's armor-skinned mount). Yet the sensibilities and daily life are throwbacks to the old west of the 1800 and 1900s. Other exotic creatures make an appearance, like pirates and military-built doomsday devices, fusing into a solid whole with plenty to explore.

This first installment in the Black Jack Derringer series is a very fun and exciting story, perfect for urban fantasy, pop science fiction, and cross genre fans. There's a dark brutality to the tale as well, which could hook horror fans looking for something unique — because if Black Jack Derringer is anything, it's unique.

Purchase Black Jack Derringer Book 1: The Ace of Spades by K. H. Koehler.

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2010 at 03:20PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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