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Editor and writer, Russell Davis created the anthology Lawless with a mission, To prove the western wasn't dead and promote the genre, he gathered an equal number of established name practitioners and emerging voices for original tales. Everyone operates at the top[ of their game.

Johnny D. Boggs kicks things off with "Hanging Is My Favorite Way Of Dying". He tells the story of a captured outlaw mainly through letters to a woman he loves. The perception from a rogue of his times to a truly vile human grows with each letter with the last letter becoming a hell of a climax. Boggs uses the story to examine a few westerns tropes without being too meta.

Many of the stories brush up against history. Jeffery J. Mariotte, the author I discovered from the collection, follows a deputy branded yellow during the Dalton Gang's infamous attempt at robbing two banks in "The Coward Of Coffeyville".Steve Hockensmith has fun with a couple of crooked lawmen dealing with Texas border badman King Fisher.

Some find a fresh angle to the genre by using a specific job or detail of the period. Loren D. Estleman puts a railroad "Straw Boss" up against a confederate-senator-turned-robber. C.K. Criggers "The First Man Down" uses the setting of a gristmill for a young woman's vengeance.

There are other stories that use women in their leads. Melissa Lendhardt delivers a story of hard sisterhood from her Heresy world. Larry D. Sweazy tells the life of "Hell Mary", a New York street player, turned mail order bride, turned gunslinger with a harsh pathos.

The Last two stories have protagonists of color. James Ciccone fictional "The Madman Of Union County" introduced me to the real life George McJunkin, whose life sounds like several different pulp stories mashed together. Joe Lansdale wraps it all up with another of his takes of the Nat Love legend, this time involving renegade Apaches and a young Edgar Rice Burroughs.

There are other authors both known and less known. James Reasoner follows a man gone into a bad life in the story, "The Outlaw Trail", told with the feel of a Marty Robbins ballad. Bill Brooks brings a noir tinge to his Six-gun story "A gathering Of Funeral Birds." Deborah Morgan gives a Tom Sawyer taste to "The Hagstone Holler" and Katrina Carrasco gives a colorful take on 18180 Port Townsend, Washington in "Deepwater".

The collections serves up a consistent quality of storytelling. The odds are you'll find a new writer to follow as well as enjoying the the yarns spun by the reliable hands. There may be an argument about whether the genre is thriving right now in popularity, but Lawless proves it is in talent.


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