The Buntline Special (Weird West Tale #1)

The Buntline Special (Weird West Tale #1)

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by Mike Resnick
     
 

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Welcome to a West like you've never seen before, where electric lights shine down on the streets of Tombstone, while horseless stagecoaches carry passengers to and fro, and where death is no obstacle to The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk… See more details below

Overview

Welcome to a West like you've never seen before, where electric lights shine down on the streets of Tombstone, while horseless stagecoaches carry passengers to and fro, and where death is no obstacle to The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western tale, and the West will never be the same.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this lusterless steampunk western, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are outfitted with superhard brass body armor and Gatling-style handguns; Thomas Edison is a cyborg working with Ned Buntline on motorized stagecoaches and other wonders; lawman Bat Masterson has vampiric tendencies; gunslinger Johnny Ringo is a zombie bent on besting Holliday in a gunfight; and Geronimo is a successful shaman and general making sure the United States stops at the Mississippi. Five-time Hugo winner Resnick brings a sparse, dialogue-centric writing style to the classic story of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, twisting it ever so slightly to blend magic and mechanism into its narrative weave. The larger story of the feud is untouched, making Resnick's rendition feel like a copycat of Tombstone with gears glued on. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"A fast, fun, and often amusing tale where Wild West meets steampunk. . . . Told in a spare style reminiscent of a tale told 'round the campfire, The Buntline Special has a mythic feel. It's a modern-day Tall Tale with the requisite larger-than-life characters."
- Miami Herald

"Brilliant. Scary, funny, often very moving. Left me wishing I could have shared a couple of whiskeys with Wyatt and Doc."
- Jack McDevit, Nebula Award-winning author of Echo

"With great relish Resnick subversively refurbishes this notorious collection of fact and embroidery. . . . A clever and refreshing do-over that leaves the door ajar for sequels."
- Kirkus Reviews

"When does a Western stop being a Western and start being something . . . else? Mike Resnick poses this question and others in his first foray into steampunk with The Buntline Special, a brilliant and humorously told tale about the Gunfight at the O. K. Corral. . . . This book is just plain fun. Resnick does an excellent job with keeping things original and fresh. . . . I loved this book. . . . I could easily go for seconds. Highly recommended!"
- Shiny Book Review

Library Journal
The Apache wizard Geronimo has halted American expansion west of the Mississippi River, so the U.S. government sends science genius Thomas Edison, along with writer and manufacturer Ned Buntline to Tombstone, AZ, with the mandate to use science to defeat magic. Hired as bodyguards are Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson. As the confrontation between mysticism and technology builds to a climax, an undead Johnny Ringo joins the fray—and the "wild West" becomes even wilder. Crafting his own steampunk version of the American West, the five-time Hugo Award winner and author of the Lucifer Jones series brings a new twist to a familiar and oft-chronicled time in American history. VERDICT Resnick's followers and fans of the Old West will appreciate the author's humorous take on both the Western and steampunk genres.
Kirkus Reviews

Alternate history cum steampunk Western, with Resnick (Starship: Flagship, 2009, etc.) developing the most famous of all the legends of the Old Wild West.

In 1881, the westward expansion of the United States was halted at the Mississippi River by the magic of powerful Indian wizards. Claiming Manifest Destiny, the government pays inventor Thomas Edison to go to Tombstone, Ariz., and find a way to counteract the magic. Unable to defeat the wizards, Tom teams up with Ned Buntline to invent electric-powered horseless carriages, impenetrable brass, electric lighting, even metal ladies to staff the local whorehouse. Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Bat Masterson, and consumptive dentist-gunfighter Doc Holliday, have been hired as bodyguards, since Tom already lost an arm to an assassination attempt and now sports a handsome brass cyborg replacement. Indian wizard Hook Nose has hired the Clanton gang to dispose of Edison, so the scene is set. Unfortunately, another wizard turns Bat Masterson into a giant vampire bat. Worse yet, Hook Nose reanimates murdered gunslinger Johnny Ringo to kill Edison, but the well-educated Ringo wants to stay undead, so he avoids Edison, preferring to discuss philosophy and literature with Holliday, drink and visit the metal ladies. Clearly, the real showdown will be between Holliday and the revoltingly undead Ringo. Holliday's dry wit and fast reflexes provide the substrate as with great relish Resnick subversively refurbishes this notorious collection of fact and embroidery.

At times overly talky, but a clever and refreshing do-over that leaves the door ajar for sequels.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616142995
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
12/10/2010
Series:
Weird West Tale Series , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
188,456
File size:
3 MB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Buntline Special

A WEIRD WEST TALE
By MIKE RESNICK

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2010 Mike Resnick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61614-249-0


Chapter One

The tall, lean man with the thick, droopy mustache entered the saloon and looked past the faro dealers and poker players, past the portrait of Lillie Langtry, until his gaze fell upon a well-dressed lone man seated at the side of the room. The man smiled and waved a hand. The tall man, oblivious to the stares and whispers of the patrons, walked over.

"Mr. Earp?" said the seated man, and the newcomer nodded. "I'm so glad you agreed to come."

Wyatt Earp seated himself, filled an empty glass with whiskey from the open bottle in the middle of the table, took a swallow, and wiped his mouth off with the cuff of his black jacket.

"All right," he said. "You sent for me, Mr. McCarthy. You do the talking."

The man extended a hand. "I'm pleased to meet you," said McCarthy. "Your reputation precedes you, and of course your brother has informed me of your current activities."

"Which brother?" asked Earp. "I've got a lot of them."

"Virgil," answered McCarthy. "He's a good man."

"I notice you didn't send for him."

McCarthy smiled. "I'm sure all his time is taken up with being deputy marshal of Tombstone."

"He keeps busy," said Earp, not returning the smile. "Now suppose you tell me what this is all about, Mr. McCarthy."

"Call me Silas."

"After I find out why I'm here, Mr. McCarthy."

McCarthy looked around the saloon. "Shall we go outside?" he said. "I'd prefer not to be overheard."

Earp shrugged. "Suit yourself."

They got up from the table, walked through the swinging doors, and out into the street of Deadwood, Colorado.

"That's a magnificent animal," said McCarthy, gesturing to a roan that was tied to the hitching post in front of the saloon. "He wasn't there when I arrived. Yours?"

Earp shook his head. "We don't have much use for horses in Tombstone, not anymore."

"Yeah, I've heard about that."

"I suppose word gets out."

"Chilly, isn't it?" said McCarthy, as they turned a corner and began walking down a side street.

"I've seen worse," replied Earp. He stopped and turned to McCarthy. "I've come a long way at your request, Mr. McCarthy," he said. "I'm hungry, and I'm tired, and I've got a blister on my left foot, and I'll be damned if I'm inclined to walk all around town until you're sure no one can hear your voice or read your lips, so why don't you just stand still and tell me what's on your mind?"

McCarthy nodded. "Might as well. It's a legitimate request." He took one last look around. "Mr. Earp, your country needs your help."

"I was born too late for the War between the States, and I'm not aware that we're fighting another one," said Earp.

"You're wrong," said McCarthy adamantly.

Earp looked mildly surprised. "England? France? Maybe Mexico?"

McCarthy shook his head.

"I'm not real good at guessing games, Mr. McCarthy," said Earp.

McCarthy studied him silently for a long moment, and then spoke. "Why do you think the United States ends at the Mississippi River?"

Earp shrugged again. "Nothing much on this side of it. Couple of gold and silver mines, a few ranches, maybe a couple of hundred settlements, and a bunch of Indians."

"It's the Indians that we're at war with."

"Dumb," said Earp firmly. "You go to war with the Apaches and the rest, you're going to lose. They'll kill you all."

"I notice they let you live," noted McCarthy.

"I'm not at war with them," answered Earp. He pulled out a tobacco pouch and began rolling a cigarette. "Tombstone is a silver-mining town, and they have no interest in silver. We haven't got anything they want, and they haven't got anything we want."

"Well, they have something the United States wants," said McCarthy, swatting a fly away from his face.

"What?" said Earp, lighting the cigarette.

"The Western half of the continent, of course."

"Why?"

"It's our destiny to reach the Pacific Ocean," said McCarthy with absolute conviction.

"I've heard that manifest destiny crap before," said Earp. "If you want all that land, why don't you just buy it from them?"

"We haven't bought one square inch of the United States!" snapped McCarthy. "We're not about to start."

"Seems to me you bought New York from the Indians. Twenty-four dollars, wasn't it?"

"That was a totally different situation," said McCarthy defensively. "The government of the United States didn't do that, because there was no United States at the time."

"Okay, it's your destiny to own all the land from one ocean to the next," said Earp. "Good luck taking it from them."

"That's where you come in, Mr. Earp."

Earp looked amused. "You think I'm going to scare the Apaches and Sioux and Cheyenne and the Western tribes into giving you their land and hightailing it to Canada or Mexico?"

McCarthy returned the smile. "That was never our intention."

"Well, then?"

"Let me explain. The reason that we stopped our expansion at the Mississippi was not that the Indian armies were too much for us. No, Mr. Earp, we defeated the British, and we can defeat the Indians, tribe by tribe or all together, on a field of battle." He grimaced. "But what we can't do is defeat the magic practiced by the medicine men of the Western tribes. We may have the cannon and the Gatling gun, but the Southern Cheyenne have got Hook Nose, and Goyathlay of your local Apaches is almost as powerful."

Earp frowned. "Goyathlay?"

"You know him as Geronimo," said McCarthy. "Those two, and scores of less well-known medicine men, have used their powers to keep us on our side of the Mississippi."

"You're wrong," said Earp. "They haven't kept me and my brothers there, or a hell of a lot of other men."

"You're allowed in the West on sufferance," continued McCarthy. "You represent no threat to them. You don't make war on them, you don't hunt the game they need for food, and while there's not much water there's enough for them and the small handful of whites they allow to live in their territories."

"They let more than white men come out here," noted Earp. "Damned near every tribe has got an escaped or freed slave as a translator. That way they don't have to learn our language, and we don't have to learn theirs." He paused. "Okay, so now you've explained why the United States stopped at the Mississippi, but you still haven't told me what you want of me. I hope you don't think I'm about to wage a one-man war against the Apaches."

"No, of course not," said McCarthy. "We're taking steps to counteract their magic."

"Then why the hell did I travel all the way from Tombstone to Deadwood?" demanded Earp irritably.

"You and your brothers own the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone, do you not?"

"Two of them."

McCarthy seemed surprised. "Two saloons?"

"Two of my brothers: Virgil and Morgan. We'll be sending for James and Warren when the saloon's a little more prosperous."

"What would you say if I offered to let you keep running the Oriental while you and your brothers work for me, and paid you double whatever it makes, month in and month out?"

"I'd ask who you wanted me to kill—Geronimo or President Garfield?"

McCarthy uttered an amused chuckle. "I hope you won't have to kill anyone."

There was a momentary silence. Finally Earp said: "I'm waiting."

"First I want your agreement that anything I tell you will be kept confidential."

"It's been nice knowing you, Mr. McCarthy," said Earp, starting to walk back toward the saloon.

"Wait!" cried McCarthy.

Earp stopped and turned. "I don't make blind promises, Mr. McCarthy. I probably won't tell anyone what you want to tell me, but I won't promise it until I know what it is."

McCarthy considered the statement. "Fair enough," he said at last. "What do you think of Tombstone?"

Earp looked puzzled. "I like it fine. Certainly better than Dodge or Wichita."

"As well you should. You know, New York's and Boston's streets are still illuminated by gas, and our main form of transportation is by foot: either our two or our horses' four."

Earp stared at him. "This has got something to do with Tom Edison, right?"

"He is the most brilliant scientific mind the country has yet produced. Ben Franklin proved there was awesome power in electricity, but it took Thomas Edison to harness it. The potential in this electricity of his is limitless. Yes, Mr. Earp, this has got everything to do with Thomas Edison. Why do you think he moved to Tombstone? He could make ten times the money in New York or Baltimore." McCarthy didn't wait for a reply. "He's in Tombstone because we paid him to go there, to secretly study the medicine men and see what he could concoct to counteract their magic."

"You want me and my brothers to protect him," said Earp. It wasn't a question.

"That's right. Outside of Sheriff Behan, whose reputation is, shall we say, questionable, you're just about all the law there is out there. I know how you cleaned up the criminal elements in Dodge and Wichita, and Virgil was just as successful in Prescott."

"You've got to understand," said Earp. "Virgil is the Tombstone Territory marshal. We don't have any US marshals out here. His authority isn't very well defined; the mine owners invented the position because Behan still has two years to serve and nobody trusts him. The truth of the matter is that Virgil's more of a private lawman than a public one."

"Details," said McCarthy impatiently. "You've got to protect Edison!"

"Against who?"

McCarthy shrugged helplessly. "We have no idea. As more and more whites have settled in the West, some of the tribes have started to feel threatened. We've kept it quiet, but five towns have been destroyed, burned to the ground, every citizen slaughtered. Tombstone's getting to be a popular destination, thanks to its silver strike—"

"And to Edison and Buntline's improvements," interjected Earp.

"That, too," agreed McCarthy. "Mr. Earp, we can't lose Thomas Edison. He is our best hope, maybe our only hope, of fulfilling America's destiny. This land was put here for us, and nothing is going to keep it from us."

"And you don't know who's planning to kill him, or even if anyone is?" said Earp.

"We're hearing rumors," said McCarthy. "We can't pinpoint them, but Edison's too important for us to ignore them. It will be your job to protect him. It could be the Indians, or a jealous rival, or an entrepreneur who wants to steal his secrets and get rich off them. It could be a hired killer, working in the employ of any of those I just named. We don't know who will try, just that someone will, and you have to prevent it."

"That's a tall order, Mr. McCarthy."

"I know. To that end, I've contacted William Masterson."

Earp frowned. "William Masterson?" he repeated, puzzled.

"The two of you brought law and order to Dodge City."

Suddenly Earp smiled. "You mean Bat Masterson."

"I guess I do," said McCarthy. "At any rate, he has accepted our offer and is on his way to Tombstone even as we speak."

"It'll be good to work with him again," said Earp. "You couldn't ask for a better lawman."

"Well, that's four lawmen—you, your two brothers, and Masterson," said McCarthy. "Hopefully that will prove sufficient against any threat that may arise."

"I need one more," said Earp.

"Another lawman?"

Earp smiled grimly and shook his head.

"A medicine man from a friendly tribe, perhaps?"

"This man makes his own medicine—with his gun."

"Is he willing to face death for you?"

"He looks death in the eye every morning," said Earp.

"Every morning?" repeated McCarthy, puzzled.

"When he looks into the mirror."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Buntline Special by MIKE RESNICK Copyright © 2010 by Mike Resnick. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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