Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rider of the Weird West: The Merkabah Rider series

In the mood for some good Weird Western fiction? Well, hit the trail with Edward Erdelac’s Merkabah Rider series and you’ll get it from both barrels.

The titular Rider is a Hasidic Jew and an initiate of mystical order known as Merkabah Riders. The Rider roams the post-Civil War Old West, combating supernatural evil with his esoteric powers and knowledge. He’s armed (and armored) by a coat full of magical talismans, mystic spectacles (etched with the seal of Solomon), and mystically engraved Volcanic pistols--particularly effective on the astral plane.

The first volume in the series is Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Plains Drifter.  It's composed of a series of short-stories or novellas, with the glimmering of an overarching plot running through. Over the course of the stories, Rider combats a Canaanite god, a demonic tornado, and the denizens a house of ill-repute where Lilith herself is the madam.

The stories have a lot of real world mythological and occult detail--interpreted through a unifying mythos--but all of that only serves to enhance the pulpy action. In this way, the stories are perhaps most similar to Richard L. Tierney’s Simon Magus short-stories--though those have more of a Cthulhu Mythos bend (though that’s not entirely absent from the Merkabah Rider, either).

Another nice element is the little homages and sly references Erdelac drops into the yarns. There’s a direct homage to Howard’s “Kelly the Conjure-Man” (based on a real Texas legend, according to Howard) and “Black Canaan.” Some real world historical personages show up: note the real name of “Sadie” given in “Nightjar Woman.” There also other details mentioned throughout that I suspect are references to famous Western films, as well.

So much material that could vaguely qualify as Weird Western is largely “everything and the kitchen sink” steampunkian monstrosity (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the Merkabah Rider stories have a versimilitude about it them that comes from riffing off real world magical beliefs and placing everything in a real world context.

So check out High Planes Drifter, and its sequel Merkabah Rider: The Mensch with No Name--and I sure a third book in the series is on its way. They’d make great inspiration for Stuart Robertson’s Weird West rpg, and others I’m sure.

10 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

Sounds really interesting, similar in anyway to Jonah Hex?

James said...

Very, very cool! I must buy these!

Stuart said...

This is really interesting! I was thinking of adding a Rabbi character to our Weird West game (instead of the usual Preacher type). I appreciate you sharing this info. :)

Trey said...

@Angry Lurker - I would say it shares a mostly gritty tone with the Jonah Hex comic, but has a largely fantasy element. It lacks the steampunk elements of the Jonah Hex movie.

@Stuart - You're welcome. :)

Banacek said...

Sounds... intriguing. I'm not sure about the mixing of mythologies, though. Although there are some theories that Jews were originally Canaanites.

Malkavian said...

I always like the mixing of myths, Like once i read that Peter pan killed Captain James Hook and since there cant be a Neverland without Hook then Peter severed his hand and became the new Captain Hook, and Ruffio became the new Leader of the lost boys. Pretty cool huh.

Trey said...

@Banacek - Well, the Canaan/Hebrew mixing isn't far fetched. Canaanite gods show up as villians in the Old Testament, after all. And just like there, Erdelac has Moloch be a devil is disguise. The voodoo loa is a little more of a stretch, but hardly without precedent, and done cleverly.

@Malkavian - Huh. That is pretty cool.

Ka-Blog! said...

wow - time to visit amazon to see if there's an electronic copy available for kindle.

Roger the GS said...

Hasidim in the Vineyard anyone?

Trey said...

Ah! Good thought, Roger.