Last year I listened to High Midnight, which was my first western and it was weird… in a good way. I didn’t review it here, but I did on GoodReads. A crazy, gonzo western in an alt-reality Texas.
Haints Stay is my second western and it is also weird, in a good way, but in a completely different way.
Title: Haints Stay
Author: Colin Winnette
Format: paperback, ARC from publisher
Do you like interesting, complex, complicated characters? How about a pregnant trans* cowboy assassin named Sugar? Yea, it grabbed my attention, too.
As I mentioned before, I’ve never read a traditional western, but I feel confident saying that this is an untraditional western. The story’s setting is the wild west – the desert, the woods. Small towns for weary travelers to rest, drink, fight. There are pubs, inns, bathhouses, missions. Wagon trains, gunslingers, pianos in bars. There are assassins, women who can hold their own against marauders, and children hardened by the world early on. But the story veers far from the typical western with cannibalism, transgender pregnancy and birth, and a one-armed gun for hire. That last one might be part of the traditional western, not sure.
Two of the assassins are Brooke and Sugar, brothers. Their killing has gained them a living. And a lot of enemies. So they spend most of their time in the wild, only venturing into town to collect their payment and an occasional bath. Out in the woods, appears a boy, Bird (this is the second book I’ve read this year with a character by this name), who has no memories of his life or how he got there.
The story follows the brothers and Bird and it is intense and visceral. The book is described as an “acid western”, which seems pretty accurate. Haints Stay is violent, disturbing, provocative, and actually really good. Good for rainy days, but I wouldn’t recommend picking it up as a beach read.