Book Review: “Cowboy Karma” by Hank Bruce

51s-eBLPWELThis is a collection of four short stories, each set in rugged western landscapes, and each with an ironic twist to them. I learned about it from Pat Prescott and had to check it out. I love weird westerns, and these tales fit the bill perfectly. Each one is a short but memorable concept: An impatient mountain man becomes obsessed with a sinister crow. A would-be stagecoach robber experiences a stunning change in his fortunes. A hike in the mountains turns deadly. 

All these stories are good, but my favorite is “Hangin’ Tree’s Revenge.” This is the story with the strongest supernatural element, and the one that most clearly conveys the mood of a weird western. Frontier justice is never far off from outright revenge, and one feels that the desert is governed by mysterious forces that make little distinction between the two.

Anyone who likes supernatural stories with dark twists will enjoy these tales, and that goes double for people like me, fascinated with bleak desert landscapes. The landscape is very much a character in these tales, as in Bruce’s environmentalist novel Oblivion, and it’s a good way to get lost in the eerie desolation.


  1. My spirit is soaring. Hank is a truly remarkable man and good friend. He well deserves any praise coming his way. Great review.

  2. This collection sounds interesting, methinks I might well have to add it to my TBR pile 🙂
    As an aside, the Sanskrit meaning of karma is more to do with ‘action’ and ‘doing’, not ‘fate’ which many believe.

    1. That’s very interesting. Thanks for telling me that. While I’m guessing author meant it in the colloquial modern usage, I think these stories could also fit the Sanskrit meaning, in the sense of the characters’ actions causing what ultimately happens. (If I’m understanding right.)

      I’d be very curious to hear what you think! Thanks for the comment.

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