Cult Beat: Tales of the Callamo Mountains by Larry Blamire
October 25, 2011 by Bryce Wilson
What’s It About?
The Callamo Mountains region is a mighty strange place in the Wild West. It’s a beautiful verdant land that supports no animal life (well I suppose that depends on your definition of life anyway). It’s a fruitful region in the middle of the pioneer belt that boasts not a single settler, and it’s an intractable hideout where even the fiercest outlaws and toughest Native Americans are weary to go. All the maps made from it are strangely indistinct. The legends that spring up around the place are just a bit too strange to be made up. The few people who venture back down from the Callamo Mountains tell some awful strange stories about the place. Tales of the Callamo Mountains are thirteen of them.
Where Does It Come From?
Larry Blamire is a bit of a renaissance man. Primarily a playwright, he’s worked in everything from animation to video games. He’s probably best know for the semi-beloved cult feature The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra and its sequel The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, meticulous throwbacks to the C-grade science fiction programs of the 50s.
Starting off life as a single story for a cancelled anthology, Tales of the Callamo Mountains snowballed into thirteen succinct gems of horror stories. Though Blamire is not the first person to combine the genres of horror and western–he’d be the first to acknowledge this and does, in an introduction that will have you drawing up a list of stuff to seek out–he very well may be the best.
Why Is It Cult?
Tales of the Callamo Mountains may not have the biggest fan-base yet, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in zealotry. When talking to people who had read the book, the type of people who live and breathe this stuff, a certain shine comes into their eye, their voices suddenly fervent. A sense of, “Dude you NEED this in your life.”
How Does It Hold Up?
As much as I love the novels I’ve recommended over the last month, the natural habitat of the horror genre is the short story. I just couldn’t let the month end (sob) without pointing you toward at least one absolutely great collection of horror short stories.
The short story is less married to the three-act structure and other conventions than the novel. In other words, the short story fosters innovation, unpredictability and a genuine sense of ruthlessness. All of which are essential attributes for successful horror. Without the threat of a recurring character, or the clear sight of a hundred and fifty pages of book left, the reader is left with the disquieting realization that anything can happen at anytime.
This is a realization of which Blamire makes full use. While some stories like “The Line Shack,” “The Unexpected Stop,” or “Tub Seven At Engel-Reis,” feel like they could have been told around the campfire (or lurched off the pages of EC Comics), others like “Winchester Repeater” and “On Tuesday I’ll Be In China” stray off to the boundary of Weird West fiction. Others, such as “The Last Thing One Sees In The Woods,” range in and out of surrealism, and works like “The Girl On The Hill” and “Old Rhiney’s Tale” hit the depths of folklore. Rarely has a work with such unity of vision offered such variety.
If it has a flaw, it’s that Tales of the Callamo Mountains might be a horror fan’s horror book. Only true genre lovers may be able to pick out the notes of inspiration that Blamire threads through the work, the way jazz lovers can hear the beauty in what strikes the neophyte’s ear as discord. This is not to say the casual fan wouldn’t enjoy Callamo, anyone who loves a well-crafted entertaining story will. It’s just, as the old saying goes, you don’t really appreciate cream until you’ve drunk a lot milk. And Blamire’s book is pure cream.
Have you read Tales of the Callamo Mountains? Anything else by Larry Blamire?
We’d like to hear your Thoughts.
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About The Author:
A freelance writer, unrepentant literature and film junkie and bookseller, Bryce Wilson is a recent California transplant living in Austin (he moved for the waters). Between bouts with his trunk novels, he has written for the San Luis Obispo New Times as a retro film critic for the past five years. You can also find his musings on his film blog Things That Don’t Suck (thingthatdontsuck.blogspot.com) and his horror blog Son Of Danse Macabre (sonofdansemacabre.blogspot.com).