As I started reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Cher song that everyone I know sings wrong, Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. Whilst the song is about forbidden love it’s also about the cost of surviving a harsh world.
Bo Hampton delivers a story of a Gypsy family torn apart by a Pale Man and his cohorts, leaving a hidden Tara alone in the world. Then along comes a tramp-like Marcus Cornelius, finding the girl and recognising that she matters. It’s that belief that leads to Marcus taking the shy and sullen girl under his wing. Eventually, they pair ride into town and are stopped by a bunch of thieves who look to dispose of Marcus and plan to enjoy Tara. It’s at that point, the book moves from western to horror western.
Hampton pulls double duty as writer and artist. Starting with the writing, the book reads well, if a tad stereotypical. The Gypsies are the good guys, Marcus is the shadowy stranger that helps out and the second bunch of outlaws is nothing but a comedy act in comparison to The Pale Man. Despite this, you get propelled by Tara’s plight and actually start to care about her situation. With the stereotypical nature of the story, the fact that you care about Tara has to be because of Hampton’s writing. That, or maybe western horror is the next big genre.
Hampton’s art is very much like his writing. At first glance you may think you have seen it all before. Whilst essentially true, to keep that frame of mind will mean that you will miss out on an excellent piece of storytelling. Hampton’s work doesn’t oversell any one part of the story, instead treating each element with respect. Hampton is ably aided and abetted by colorist Jeremy Mohler who gives the environment a well-worn used feel.
Well worn may be an apt way to describe this book, with the various tropes in play. Despite that, the book is a well crafted tale, that fans of either horrors or westerns should appreciate.