El Mosaico Vol 3
By Michael Panush
Curiosity Quills Press
One of the many things this reviewer loves about New Pulp is how writers are willing to change or alter standard book formats. Michael Panush does that quite admirably in this, the third volume of his weird western series, El Mosaico. For those of you who missed the first two volumes, the saga revolves around an American Civil War version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” Built by a demented southern doctor/scientist, Clayton Cane was assembled from the parts of dead confederate soldiers and brought back to life in the hopes of being the first of many such “reborn” soldiers in a last ditch effort to safe the Confederacy. Luckily for the Union, the war ended before others could be created and Cane escapes his creator to begin his new post-war career as a mercenary bounty hunter in the Wild West.
That’s the basic premise of the books and volumes one and two were clearly put together as collections following Cane’s many bizarre adventures. At the end of book two, he had settled in a small Texas town called Hellfire and become its sheriff. “Hellfire” picks up exactly from that point and two thirds of the book details Cane’s efforts to protect the town from a power hunger mining corporation owned by one Gaspar Noble. Noble wants to dig all the mineral wealth out of the grand Silver Mesa without a thought to how his greed will lay waste to the town and its people.
Though written as a novella, each chapter in the battle for Hellfire has a unique individual story twist. Then, just as that major story concludes, Panush continues the book with two stories featuring Cane’s newly acquired female deputy, Nelly Needles, a terrific character that really livens up the series. And as if that wasn’t enough, there is one more huge surprise awaiting the reader. Closing out the book, Panush propels us into present day with the introduction of yet another fantastic pulp hero, El Hijo Del Mosaico, a Lucha Dor Mexican fighter claiming to be the son of the legendary gunfighter. We’d love to tell you more, but would require spoiling some really great surprises that await you in “Hellfire.” So now you can see our dilemma caused by Panush’ innovative approach to series writing. Is this a novel or a short story collection? A strong argument could be made for both cases but that in itself seems foolish as the important issue here is the marvelous fun of this book offers up. We lavished much praise on those first two volumes but without hesitation, “El Mosaico Vol 3 Hellfire,” is by far the best one yet. If you like great weird western pulp action, you won’t find a better series than this one.