The Crossings by Jack Ketchum: A Genre Blending Western

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If the name Jack Ketchum sounds familiar, you might have seen one of the three films adapted from his books – Red, The Girl Next Door or The Woman. The award-winning Ketchum (real name Dallas Mayr) has been praised by no less than Stephen King who ranks the man very highly in the world of horror literature.

I had never come across Mr Ketchum or his work before. Then while writing a review about The Woman (directed by Lucky McKee) one of the things I found out during my research was that the film was adapted from Ketchum’s book of the same name.

My interest piqued, I then looked on Amazon.com to see what else he’d written. I know that I probably should have read The Woman, but honestly, the film put me off so much, I didn’t have the stomach for it.

I discovered this book, The Crossings, which is a sort of cross-genre western. Set sometime in Texas after the Texas/Mexican war (a time period that included the Alamo and General Scott’s “invasion” of Mexico) we meet Martin T Bell, the narrator of this tale; John Charles Hunt and “Mother Knuckles.” We also meet the Mexican woman Elena, who wants to save her sister from an occult group run by three old witches and a bunch of Army deserters.

When Bell joins Mother and Hart in the rounding up of wild mustangs to sell to the Army, he has no idea that a half-dead Mexican woman will change his life, destiny and make him into a heroic figure.  In Ketchum’s west, the bad guys are really  bad and some of the good guys only marginally better than his villains.

I was very impressed by Ketchum’s version of the old west and the introduction of an occult/supernatural bent to his tale  was woven into the story seamlessly. The action moved swiftly and never failed to hold my interest. He combined just the right amount of historical fact to make the story feel possible.

All the characters impressed and he did not rely on two-dimensional characters or clichés to round out his story.

At 110 pages the book is not overly long and it reads so smoothly that I had no problem finishing it in a single reading. The book is so entertaining that I now count Jack Ketchum as a new addition to my stable of favourite writers. I will now busy myself in the acquisition of more of his tales.

I’d have to give this a full 5 out of 5 stars for a brilliant blending of the horror/occult and western genres.

Simply a great read.

Author Jack Ketchum.
Author Jack Ketchum.

2012 Olympics: G4S Lets the Side Down on Security

So G4S, the company that helps the prisons in England to move their prisoners, who were contracted to provide the security for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, have seriously fallen short in the area of numbers.

To be fair the target numbers for ‘policing’ the games has gone up repeatedly since the initial estimate from officials of 2000 people. Due to repeated ‘re-estimates’, the number required is now 10,000. G4S has agreed each time to the increases and now at the eleventh hour have fallen very short.

With the Olympics due to start on the 27th of this month, organizers are starting to panic. The army, who are already pretty much over tasked, have been further tasked to provide around 4000 troops  to bolster security. Leaves are being cancelled as they attempt to fill G4S’s shortfall.

But how did we get into this mess? Were the organizers and the government too busy rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the money that the games will undoubtedly bring pouring in? Why were their estimates at the beginning of negotiations with G4S so low compared to what they now want?

Surely somebody in the government or the games organizers would have had a better idea of what was required in the way of security. The news stations are focusing on G4S and implying it is their fault. I think that the fault lies with all three of the players.

The government for not taking the security seriously from the out set. I think that they obviously left the decision up to the organizers.

The organizers for believing it was acceptable to keep changing the goal posts that they originally agreed upon and expecting G4S to “step up smartly” each time they changed the numbers.

G4S for failing to tell the number changers that it was not able to meet the higher requirements, instead of pointing out what they had originally agreed on.

I believe that G4s is just as guilty as the government and the organizers of rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a ‘great little earner.’ In a similar fashion of “not seeing the forest for the trees” I think all the main players in this little fiasco couldn’t see the logistics for the money.

Why couldn’t they have contacted out to more companies to provide security when the initial numbers turned out to be too low. That way they could have shared the wealth and met their ever increasing requirements.

Nobody really believes that the pressure to hold the Olympics was down to “national pride” or any such sentimentality. It has always been about the money and the revenue that will be generated by visiting athletes and their supporters from other countries.

I’m sure that everyone connected with this security gaffe knew all along that G4S could not provide the numbers that finally were decided on. I think they always intended to seconder the military to help out.

Since it is all about the money, why cut your possible net profit down by having to pay for more security when you can get the military to do it for no extra cost.

I won’t used the clichéd phrase of  “something being rotten” but I will say the whole debacle stinks to high heaven.

London 2012 banner at The Monument.
London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)