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.
- The Woman (2011): Nell With a Twist (mikesfilmtalk.com)
- Jack Ketchum Sounds off on Chiller’s Airing of ‘The Lost’: “Do Not Watch!” (horrornovelreviews.com)
- Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road (briankeene.com)
- BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (borkadventures.com)