Review: Once Upon a Fang in the West by John Dover

cover of Once Upon a Fang in the West by John DoverOnce Upon a Fang in the West by John Dover
Not A Pipe Publishing (May 2021)
223 pages; $14.55 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

Author and musician John Dover began his writing journey with his jazz-noir novellas and comic book series, Johnny Scotch. His most recent novel is Once Upon a Fang in the West.

Once Upon a Fang in the West is a weird-western story about William, the haunted sheriff of the town of Thrall. One day, he’s called to investigate a murder in a saloon where he meets Finn, a drifter who has gotten himself into a bit of trouble. They agree that there will be no more trouble, but the next day, Finn is found slaughtered in the room of prostitute Ruby. To complicate matters, William then meets Samuel, a man he believed to be long dead. Together with Samuel’s lackeys, they chase after Ruby, hoping to bring her to justice…but is she too formidable an enemy for even the undead?

There is something to be said about fun books. While the horror genre has certainly benefitted from an influx of various voices, traditions, and literary skills, occasionally it’s nice to pull back from some of the weightier collections and just read something light and fun. Once Upon a Fang in the West is just that. It’s a very capable adventure story that’s well told and keeps readers engaged. While there’s not too much character development or arc to this story, there is a great western revenge set-up combined with a very satisfying pursuit blended with some visceral horror elements that makes for a really solid adventure tale. While some readers might be disappointed at the lack of depth in the book, readers looking for a really solid story with a fun plot and some good, old-fashioned horror and gore will be more than satisfied. 

Once Upon a Fang in the West is one of those books that was clearly created with joy for its genres. It has all the trappings of a good western story as well as all of the blood and thrills of a good horror story. John Dover hasn’t added anything unique or profound to the genre of weird west, but that’s not the purpose of this book. This is a very solid story that’s told in a fun, engaging style. It’s meant to be scary, but also lighthearted and comical at times — all the things a great western or a thrilling horror work would be. Once Upon a Fang in the West is a fun horror western and anyone looking for an enjoyable, light-hearted read will take pleasure from this book.

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