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.
About the Author
Mike Resnick has won an impressive five Hugos and has been nominated for thirty more. The author of the Starship series, the John Justin Mallory series, and the Weird West Tales, he has sold sixty-nine novels and more than two hundred fifty short stories and has edited forty anthologies. His Kirinyaga series, with sixty-seven major and minor awards and nominations to date, is the most honored series of stories in the history of science fiction. Visit him online at www.mikeresnick.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Buntline SpecialA WEIRD WEST TALE
By MIKE RESNICK
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2010 Mike Resnick
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe 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."
"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."
"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!"
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.
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."
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was an absolute joy to read! Very easy to get in to, very easy to read, but very hard for me to put down. The hilarious dialogue and outspoken characters made me feel like I was watching a movie, and I didn't want it to end. So it's not a complicated, deep, book trying to expose some government secret, but when I want to relax, this is the type of book I look for. If you feel like taking a quick and fun vacation out West, let Mike Resnick show you the way. I guarantee you'll have a blast.
It was a good read but something felt missing to me. It just didn't seem to have the same tone as a lot of his other books. I enjoyed it but he has done better work, see his Galactic side show books and Santiago for an example of some of his better work.
In 1881, the leadership of the United States of America still dreams of manifest destiny to the Pacific though the country's western border remains The Mississippi. On the other side of the mighty river is rich land occupied by Indian tribes with powerful shaman whose magic has kept the Americans frustratingly in the east. The government sends the great inventor Thomas Edison, who has worked with Ned Buntline on a horseless stagecoach, on a quest to determine whether science and technology can defeat magic. The Earp brothers escort Edison to Tombstone, Arizona where a last stand is forming. On one side is the enigmatic Edison, the Earp siblings and their pals Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. On the other side are two separate deadly foes; the dangerous Apaches led by Geronimo the most powerful Medicine Man and the Clanton gang who are abetted by the once dead Johnny Ringo. With seemingly none of the real persona purebred human, there is an overabundance of paranormal leaving the Arizona confrontations entertaining, but also never moves out on the larger theme of manifest destiny propelled by science and technology as opposed by magic. Thus fans of steampunk thrillers will enjoy the Buntline Special as a fun exciting Weird West Tale at the OK Corral, but never quite obtains the revolutionary quality of the author's wonderful alternate history Dragon America Harriet Klausner
"The Buntline Special" is weak. Coming off of Mieville's "Perdido Street Station" where I felt as if I could have skipped the setup of the first half of the book to get to the action, "Buntline" is a jarring reversal. There is practically no setting up or describing of anything. It is very much like reading a play because the vast majority of the book is dialogue. The illustrations are very well done, which is fortunate, because they make up for where the author has failed in painting the scene of this yarn.This considered, the characters are amusing and the dialogue is clever and almost always entertaining. This makes "Buntline" a face-paced, action-packed read as long as conversations qualify as action. The actual shoot-outs that pass as the climax of "Buntline" feel rushed and seem to be squeezed in to include elements of actual history to this alternate history tale.Regarding the plot, this is basically a reimagining of the story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Included with those familiar characters are cowboys, Indians, and outlaws, but also a zombie, a vampire, and robots (invented by Thomas Edison, of course).I should probably just stop reading books with pictures. If that is the case, then I don't know for whom this book is intended: there are too many f-bombs for it to be a children's book. I didn't hate it, but I cannot recommend it.
I have loved this book and can not wait to read the next to. These kind of books make reading a book fun again. I can follow along like a movie going on in my head. Mike Resnick is an amazing writer
It's a steampunk style version of the movie tombstone. Epic
Steampunk Inventions, Zombie Gunslinger, or Metal Whores couldn't save this Title You would think the legend of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday mixed with steampunk would be exciting. This title unfortunately isn't. Doc Holliday's character was the only thing mildly interesting but the rest of the book was not entertaining. I couldn't get a rise out of the picture of the metal whore but hey that's just me.