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“The Buzzard” / Eric Red

From Weird Tales #354 / Fall 2009
Reviewed by: Daniel R. Robichaud

"The Buzzard," Eric Red's contribution to Weird Tales #354, is a dark western, which echoes the style of Elmore Leonard's short fiction ("3:10 to Yuma"), the moodiness of Cormac McCarthy novels (Outer Darkness), and the morality play structure of EC Comics (particularly Crime SuspenStories, the non-supernatural flipside to Tales From the Crypt).

The tale begins with a scene so familiar as to be cliché. A nameless cowboy turned gunslinger (two very different occupations) rides across the Arizona desert. He is wounded, suffering the particular pains of a gut shot. Overhead, a buzzard circles, waiting for its meal.

The cowboy flees across the desert, and the buzzard follows.

Inevitability is the mood of this atmospheric tale. This fatalism makes the series of coincidences heralding the expected twist ending somewhat more palatable.

Actual characters are lacking in this story. Other than the Remington Peacemaker, proper names are conspicuous in their absence. Identities are limited to occupation/function: the cowboy, the buzzard, the horse, the sweetheart, the rustlers, a doctor. These people and memories have no names and even less defining characteristics, suggesting the barren environment scours individuality, stripping its occupants to raw archetypes.

In a nice touch, Death is ever present in the text, evoked from the baking sun, a trod upon cow skull, the cowboy's empty pistol, dreamless sleep, and more. The titular beasty is an obvious stand in for the Reaper. Even after the plot takes an unexpected turn before its final twist, the cowboy's stakes are inescapable: Death waits, though its patience is limited.

To its credit, the story is not unrelenting in its grimness. The prose incorporates a macabre sense of humor. This is a tale, the magazine's story note advises us, "In which we gain a new perspective on interspecies relationships." Indeed it is that.

Purchase Weird Tales #354 with “The Buzzard” by Eric Red.

Posted on Friday, May 7, 2010 at 10:54AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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