Sunday, December 4, 2016


Ron Fortier’s Airship 27 has just published a wonderful and macabre entry from the late Mark Justice…the one, the only...THE DEAD SHERIFF.

For those inclined to miss the obvious, DEAD SHERIFF is a Weird Western, but unlike any that’s ever been composed (or such I say for the sake of the title character, decomposed?), with a successful track record that keeps gathering fans.

The post Civil War story focuses on an enigmatic, wandering, living corpse: a spectral legend that manifests to do in wrongdoers. The Dead Sheriff’s decaying identify is hard to pinpoint (is he one or many?), which makes the mystery behind the entity even more unsettling. Newspaper man Richard O’Malley is intrigued by the grotesque myth, and the novella interjects his first-person narratives among chapters as he tracks down the undead vigilante.

In other respects, the story's real hero is one of Native American descent, Cheveyo (aka, Sam), who has a peculiar relationship with the zombie-like shape. Mind you, it's not by any means a Renfield/Dracula arrangement, but there's definitely a symbiotic link between man and corpse. I won't spoil it here, but it's special, memorable and when it dares to dig deep, disturbingly woeful.  

The story's primary villain, a charlatan preacher man named Skaggs, is also a high mark for the tale, for no yarn of conflict ever clicks unless its bad guy is thoroughly despicable. Skaggs is, on the surface, a B-movie type scoundrel, but there's something about his smug contempt (particularly the callous way he hides behind the collar) that ultimately sets him apart. At any rate, you'll hate him for sure and yearn to see him get his comeuppance in a big-time way. 

Such ingredients make Justice's work hard to put down. From the start, his story grips the reader by the throat and gets unnervingly richer with each page turn, but what also makes this bizarre adventure compelling are Art Cooper's superb, Kirby-ish illustrations. Truly, his images enhance the already absorbing text to the hilt, making you want to revisit them long after you've finished the tale. (Oh, and if that nifty Zachary Brunner cover doesn't make you want to read Justice's adventure, you really are in dire need of resurrection!)

Those who fancy Fortier's Brother Bones (or even the likes of Marvel's Ghost Rider and supernatural, cowboy flicks like "Curse of the Undead") will feel quite at home with this saga. I also give Fortier a heap of credit for keepin' Justice's living-dead legend alive and well. (You can leap in on the weird wonderment through Kindle or paperback at...