If you gave up on the feasibility of a Western/science fiction
mash-up when "Cowboys vs Aliens" tanked a few months back, give it
another try. On the page, at any rate. "Phoenix"
contributor Steve Drachman revives the nascent genre with his rip-snorting,
mind boggling novel "The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh."
hero -- a Western legend, Civil War Veteran, and Wild West Show star -- has, like Billy
Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," become unstuck in time. Also like Pilgrim, who was forever traumatized
by the Allied bombing of Dresden
during World War II, at the heart of Watt's chronological
peregrinations is a tragic historical event, in his case the 1863 New York City
Draft Riots during which uncounted African-Americans were
Love also plays a major part in Watt's tale: he's lost his heart to Lucy
Billings, a beautiful firebrand and fighter for justice who unfortunately has
taken up with someone whose revolutionary commitment is greater than his own. But there are other amorous solaces with which he
passes the time, or times; like Emelina, a bawdy barmaid and apparently
So you could say there's a lot going on in this teeming
tome, including cameos by Oscar Wilde and
J.P. Morgan, the latter of whom is
responsible for one of Watt's grimmer misadventures when he has the redoubtable
cowpoke tossed into the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie on a bogus murder charge.
That's also where Drachman will be reading from "Watt" on
he makes a brief tour of some of the Western sites where the novel is set. No word
as to whether he will be traveling through time to read on the dates when
it takes place as well.