Friday, July 11, 2008

Whiskey Shots, Vol. 18 by Darrel Sparkman

TITLE: Whiskey Shots, Vol. 18
AUTHOR: Darrel Sparkman
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 11k)
GENRE: Western romance
COST: $2.99

Two short stories about lawmen in the Old West, and the women who get in their hearts…

The first and longer story of the anthology is “Stage to Abilene.” Marshal Matt Bodine is on his way to Abilene to collect on a warrant when his horse gets hobbled and he’s forced to hitch a ride with a passing stagecoach. He runs into an old female acquaintance, amongst others, and when the stage is stopped by Kiowa, he gets out to negotiate passage through. The charm of this short story is not its plot, though it moves along at a fair clip. It rests in the anthology's strength as a whole – with its characters. They are colorful and distinctive, and if maybe one or two fit into stereotypes of the genre, it’s easy to forgive in light of sharp dialogue and vivid descriptions. There’s mild headhopping in this particular story, but on the whole, it’s not that disruptive. There’s enough dusty charm to keep me sailing through, all the way to smile of an ending.

The second story is called “Comanche Trail.” Marshal John Becker finds himself in a shootout with Indians, trying to protect the young woman he just rescued from them by accident. John is wry and appealing, as is Mandy, the woman he aids, and I particularly loved their banter, even in the midst of all their troubles. As people, I connected with these two a little bit more than the principles in the first, but the story itself didn’t flow quite as well. There’s an awkward flashback near the beginning that takes me out of the rhythm of their relationship, and it takes a little bit before I can settle back into it. Of course, the story is quite short, so that little bit is literal not an exaggeration. But it’s pleasant and funny, and when I get to the end, I’m more than happy with how everything turned out.

On the whole, the collection is a delightful morsel of Old West charm. I’m interested in reading some of this author’s other stories. With his attention to detail and sparkling characters, it would be fun to see how he works with longer formats.


8/10 – Mild headhopping disrupts the flow for me in the first story, while the second’s flashback jolted me.


6/10 – Not the most original stories, but solidly told.


9/10 – Characters in both stories leap off the page, with often funny and almost always realistic dialogue

Entertainment value

8/10 – There’s a comfort with both of these stories that pulls me in and leaves me with a smile.

World building

9/10 – Colorful detail and exact knowledge paints vivid pictures in both short stories.



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