By Del Howison

Published by Pandi Press, April 4, 2023

Review by The Horror Zine Staff Reviewer Heather Miller

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margaret thomas

Author Del Howison’s name may be familiar to lovers of horror literature; as a Bram Stoker award-winning author, former board member of the HWA, and owner of Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank, California, his qualifications as a horror legend are unquestionable.

However, it is not horror that brings us together today.  Howison has struck off on a side path, a winding, dusty track full of clopping hooves and jingling spurs: he has written a western. Billed as an adventure novel, this story follows the titular character as she journeys from Missouri to Arizona with only one thing on her mind: justice. 

Or, perhaps, if she’s being entirely honest: vengeance.

Margaret “Peggy” Thomas’s husband was shot and killed in front of her by a gang of Wild West outlaws, and her life has never been the same.  When a telegraph comes from a sheriff in San Pueblo, Arizona, informing her that one of the murderers has been caught and is soon to stand trial, Peggy packs her saddle bags, mounts her horse (cleverly named Horse), whistles for her faithful dog, Slocum, and starts on an adventure which will test her in ways she could not have dreamed.

This story is the Old West meets the Odyssey, a tale in which the journey is truly more important than the destination.  Along the way, Peggy will meet friends and foes.  She’ll come up against every danger and injustice the old American West has to offer, but she’ll also find companionship, camaraderie, and bravery in the most unlikely places.  She will gather to her a ragtag group of friends, a truly memorable cast of characters, as she draws closer and closer to the place where her husband’s killer is being held.

And then things get really interesting.

Margaret Thomas is a character so viscerally real, so wonderfully vulgar and so gloriously herself in all her faults and foibles, that readers will not be able to help cheering her on.  Her motley crew of companions are no less lovable, though I suspect each reader will have their individual favorites—and everyone with half a heart will love Slocum the dog.

Howison has painted the wild west in shades of reality.  As an Oklahoma girl myself, I can attest to the truth of the sweltering heat, the dusty trails, the clapboard towns, the weathered faces; Howison’s writing will make you feel as dry, dusty, and dirty as any cowboy who ever pushed his way through a pair of swinging saloon doors demanding a drink.

All in all, Howison has stepped out of the looming shadow of the horror genre and into the blistering sun of the Wild West, to give readers a journey fraught with danger and hardship, sprinkled with moments of tenderness, a journey in which poor Margaret Thomas will learn her own strength, and just how far she’ll go to seek justice and protect those she loves.