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Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Six-Gun Tarot: aka “Cowboys and Injuns and Elder Gods, oh my!”

It’s very rare that I am one to judge a book by its cover, what with novels having different editions etc.
But there was something about this particular book that grabbed me; perhaps it was the upside down skeleton dressed as a cowboy, leering and grinning madly from the shelf at me. Maybe it was the flames and the hangman’s noose which the skeleton hung from by its ankle. Perhaps it was just the colour pallet and simple art style that made it look like an old dime store paperback.
Whatever it was, I had to know more.
Upon reading the synopsis on the back of this book, I was sold. Three special words rang in my head: Steampunk, Cowboys, and magic.

Look at his happy little face

That’s the story of how I came to buy The Six-Gun Tarot on a whim, one sunny Saturday afternoon from a Southport bookshop and from start to finish, I was not left disappointed.
This book, the first in the Golgotha series by R.S. Belcher, starts very simply. One of our main characters, Jim, is travelling through the Nevada desert, starving, dehydrated and half dead. It reads like a Western so far. No hint of magic or wonderment yet.

As the story unfolds, Jim’s past is revealed and he is joined by two more protagonists. Mutt, a native American Deputy in the town of Golgotha and a man not quite all he seems, and Jon Highfather, the man Death refuses to take because it’s “not his time”.
Also, the more we get into this tale of the weird west, the more evil starts running amok.
Now, without giving too much of the story away, we’re not talking your average, every day run of the mill bandits at the watering hole Spaghetti Western sort of evil here. We’re talking as old as creation, shades of Lovecraft, world ending evil.

There are some lovely interwoven side plots and minor characters in the mix and everything just slots together nicely to make a well-crafted, easy to absorb, very enjoyable word journey.
Each character who we’re presented with feels fleshed out; we get an idea of who they are as we read. There aren’t any throwaway characters and as a reader, you really get a sense that the town of Golgotha is alive in this book.

My reading habits have changed a lot over the years.
I distinctly recall being a less busy individual and having moments of free time where I could quite happily sink hours into a good book.
These days, the majority of my reading is done on my lunchbreaks in my office.
This book changed that. I found myself compelled to continue. The 2-3 chapters I managed to cram into my lunch just weren’t enough to sate my appetite for the continuing story.
It reached a point where I knew I was reaching the end of the book and I was still baffled and guessing as to how it was going to end.

This does bring me to perhaps my only negative of this book.
There were times where the pacing did feel a little off, as though there was so much happening that there would be either a rushed resolution or a cliff-hanger to lead into book 2.
Now, while some who’ve read this book may argue that the ending was a little rushed, I feel content with the wrapping up in this book and how the stage is set for the second story, The Shotgun Arcana.

*sigh* I suppose I’ll have to go and buy that one now, too.
Until then, I’ve been and shall remain,

Craig has been raised on geekery from a young age when his Mum introduced him to Star Trek the Next Generation on TV as a kid. Since then, he has gained a wide love of all things "Geek", be it books/comics, cinema or gaming in all formats. He has a particular keen interest in all manner of RPG, be it on a tabletop or in a field larping.

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