Edward M. Erdelac's Tales of a High Planes Drifter (2009), The Mensch with No Name (2010) and Have Glyphs Will Travel (2011) were published by Damnation Books.
Information about the author:
Edward M. Erdelac is a member of the HWA and the author of five novels (including the acclaimed weird western series Merkabah Rider) and several short stories. He is an independent filmmaker, award winning screenwriter, and sometime Star Wars contributor.
Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and a bonda fide slew of children and cats.
Click here to visit the author's blog.
Information about the Merkabah Rider series:
Set in the 1880's, the Merkabah Rider series follows the adventures of the Rider, a Hasidic gunslinger hunting the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers to the Great Old Ones. Along the way, the Rider encounters a demonically possessed ex-Confederate sharpshooter, a gang of half-demon outlaws with a mystical cannon, fights an invisible menace with Doc Holliday, and takes on the demon queen Lilith and a bordello of antedeluvian succubi among other things.
Each novel is presented as a collection of pulp adventure novellas, like the old Zebra paperback collections of Robert E. Howard stories. The series currently consists of three installments, Tales of a High Planes Drifter, The Mensch with No Name, and Have Glyphs Will Travel, with the fourth and final volume, Once Upon a Time in the Weird West, due out this year. Think of a Jewish Solomon Kane set in the old west, and that's Merkabah Rider.
A REVIEW OF EDWARD M. ERDELAC'S MERKABAH RIDER SERIES (BOOKS 1-3)
Note! This is a joint and spoiler free review of Tales of a High Planes Drifter, The Mensch with No Name, and Have Glyphs Will Travel.
Before I write more about these three books, here's information about them:
Tales of a High Planes Drifter contains the following four stories:
- The Blood Libel
- Hell's Hired Gun
- The Dust Devils
- The Nightjar Women
Here are the official synopses for these stories:
Blood Libel: In 1879, the children of the Arizona mining town of Delirium Tremens have begun disappearing. The law has tracked the missing daughter of a local reverend to the neighboring Jewish settlement of Little Jerusalem. Old hatreds are fit to boil over when a mysterious Hasidic gunslinger known as the Rider checks into the local hotel. He soon discovers a rogue element of the population has taken over the settlement and instituted a cult dedicated to the profane worship of the demon king Molech. The Rider sets out to bring it down, with the lives of the innocent Jews and the kidnapped preacher's daughter in the balance. But as he sheds his physical form to do battle in the spirit world, an irate mob breaks into his hotel room and drags his unconscious body away. The Rider must smash the cult and return to his body in time to avert his own lynching...
The Dust Devils: An impenetrable dust storm blows the Rider into the border town of Polvo Arrido. Its affluence points to a town in the midst of a boom, but where have all the people gone? A ruthless bandit chief and his gang may hold the answer, or else a strange eyed ju ju man whose powers rival the Rider's own. Then there's the fact that the storm surrounding the town doesn't seem to dissipate...
Hells Hired Gun: When the Rider discovers a massacred Franciscan mis-sion, he turns aside from the trail of his master to track down the perpetrator. He is rescued from a snowstorm outside the remote town of Gadara by an odd old preacher, who spins him a yarn about Medgar Tooms, a cursed gunman who walks the West at the head of a herd of voracious pigs, dragging the broken chains of all those who have tried to bind him. But this is no fantasy. Tooms is coming to Gadara, and only the Rider and the preacher stand in his way...
The Nightjar Women: The Rider comes to a town without children where nightly, evil is born again and again. In the coils of his most secret dreams, an antedilivian menace calls him... by his true name.
The Mensch with No Name contains the following four stories:
- The Infernal Napoleon
- The Damned Dingus
- The Outlaw Gods
- The Pandæmonium Ride
Here are the official synopses for these stories:
In this installment the Rider unravels more of the mystery of Adon's Hour of the Incursion plot and quickly learns that demons are the least of his troubles. He defends a remote settlement against a gang of half-demon gunmen in "The Infernal Napoleon," joins forces with Doc Holliday to hunt down an invisible creature in "The Damned Dingus," aids a group of Indians against the mindbending horror of "The Outlaw Gods," and takes his hunt to hell itself in "The Pandæmonium Ride."
Have Glyphs Will Travel contains the following five stories:
- The Long Sabbath
- The War Shaman
- The Mules of Mazzikim
- The Man Called Other
- The Fire King Triumphant
Here are the official synopses for these stories:
The Rider and Kabede must rally a US Cavalry troop against an army of the undead lead by three of Adon's renegade riders if they are to survive The Long Sabbath. The Rider infiltrates an Apache stronghold to convince the combined forces of Vittorio and Geronimo not to lend their might to the mysterious forces of The War Prophet. The Rider sets out to rescue the succubus Nehema from the wrath of The Mules of The Mazzikim, then confronts his greatest enemy, The Man Called Other. Seeking to learn the remaining secrets of The Hour of Incursion, the Rider and his companions arrive in Tombstone only to face the horror of The Fire King Triumphant.
I admit that I'm difficult to please when it comes to speculative fiction that can be categorized as weird western, because I expect quality, good prose and imagination from weird western stories. I've often been more or less disappointed by weird western books and stories, but not this time, because I was impressed by Edward M. Erdelac's stories.
As a big fan of well written weird fiction, dark fantasy and horror, I can say that I loved these stories. Finding stories which combine Jewish mysticism, Lovecraftian horror and western elements is difficult, but Edward M. Erdelac has somehow managed to combine all of these elements and the result is truly stunning. I dare say that these stories will someday be considered classics of the genre, because they're excellent and atmospheric stories.
I think it's good to mention that these stories are stories for adults, because the author writes fantastically about the gory and bloody happenings. He manages to bring the grittiness and violence of the Old West to life, but doesn't overdo it. It's also good to mention that these stories must be read in order, because that's the only way to fully appreciate the beauty and strangeness of them.
I think it's intriguing that the author has decided to write several stories about the Rider and his adventures. This kind of storytelling is charming, because it reminds me of old pulp classics. For example, Robert E. Howard wrote several stories about Solomon Kane in a similar kind of way (I think that Howard's Solomon Kane stories have been an inspiration to the author).
I haven't read many weird western books, so I'm not an expert on this genre, but in my opinion Merkabah Rider outshines all the other weird western books and series on the market, because Edward M. Erdelac is a good author and his stories are imaginative.
It's possible that many readers will try to compare these stories to Stephen King's famous and popular The Dark Tower saga. In my opinion there's no room for comparison, because Merkabah Rider offers much better and more interesting fiction than The Dark Tower books. Erdelac has the raised the bar amazingly high and has taken weird western to new heights of excellence with his original storytelling style, so all other authors will be having difficulties writing similar stories.
This series follows the adventures of the Rider. The Rider is a Hasidic gunslinger who hunts his renegade teacher. Along the way he has to deal with all kinds of problems. He carries a pistol with him and riders with an onager. His travels take him from one adventure to another, and along the way he meets all kinds of demons and beasts etc.
Reading about the Rider and his adventures is interesting, because the author keeps the stories fascinating by revealing small bits and pieces of the world in each story. I'm sure that every reader who likes weird fiction and is willing to read western flavoured dark fantasy will be charmed by the author's revelations and will like his writing style. The author moves the story easily forward by telling about the Rider's adventures and what happens to him. Each story is part of a big story arc (the first book introduces the Rider, but the grandness and epicness of the story arc is revealed in the second book, and the third book is pure pleasure from start to finish).
The Rider is a fascinatingly mysterious character, because the author has created a bit different kind of a hero. The Rider can almost be seen as a classic drifter character, but he's much more than that, because he fights against evil and horrors, and he can enter the spirit world. He's almost like a combination of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane and Clint Eastwood's classic western heroes.
The other characters are portrayed well too. I liked the way the author wrote about them and how they interacted with each other. Reading about Doc Holliday was very interesting.
In my opinion Edward M. Erdelac writes slendidly descriptive prose. His descriptions are vivid and fascinating, and he manages to evoke beautiful and disturbing images of the Old West where almost anything is possible. The descriptions of the locales reminded me of Sergio Leone's classic westerns (and other classic western movies), because there's dust, mountains, valleys, gunmen and prostitutes etc in these stories. The only difference is that the events in these books are spiced with fantasy and horror elements.
In my opinion Edward M. Erdelac has a talent for combining western, fantasy and horror. He uses classic western elements as the core of the story arc and boldly leads his readers into the realms of the fantastic. I liked it very much that the author has infused his stories with Lovecraftian weirdness and even uses such names as Necronomicon, the Great Old Ones and Shub-Niggurath (these Lovecraftian elements add a nice touch of weirdness and fascination to the stories).
As the story of the Rider begins to unfold, the readers will have a chance to read more about Lovecraftian elements. In my opinion the author uses Lovecraftian elements in a creative and impressive way. I think that everybody who loves weird fiction will enjoy reading about the Adon's Hour of the Incursion and other things. I think I'd better not write more about these things, because I might reveal too much information to the readers and spoil the fun of reading the stories, so I'll just mention that fans of H. P. Lovecraft will enjoy these stories.
The author pays a lot of attention for building up the atmosphere and the world. The worldbuilding works well. At first it seems that the stories are straight forward stories, but when you read all of them, you'll notice that they're full of details and how perefectly they're interlinked to each other.
Edward M. Erdelac writes fluently about crimes, racism, prostitution, gun fights and other things that made the Old West a wild and dangerous place. The author also writes realistically about the beliefs of the people and even shows how ignorant some of them can be, because they shun the Rider for being different.
The author has an intriguing way of writing about Jewish mysticism, mythology, religion and biblical elements. His descriptions of these things are genuinely interesting and fascinating. I enjoyed reading about the religious, mythological and supernatural elements, because he doesn't underestimate the intelligence of his readers, but trusts that his readers are intelligent and are able to figure out certain things for themselves.
There are good glossaries of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic terms at the end of the books. I think it's good that the author has added glossaries to each book, because otherwise it might be difficult to understand certain terms. I'll also mention that I liked the cover art images by Cinsearae Santiago.
It was a pleasure to read Tales of a High Planes Drifter, The Mensch with No Name, and Have Glyphs Will Travel, because I loved the stories. In my honest opinion these books are damn good dark fantasy flavoured weird western books. If you like weird fiction, dark fantasy and westerns, you must read these books, because they're perfect entertainment and full of strange and macabre happenings.
I'm sure that these books will especially appeal to fans of Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, because there are traces of their style in these books. I can also recommend these stories to readers who like such modern horror masters as Laird Barron and Richard Gavin.