The story of The Red Seven is a simple one. As pay back to a bounty hunter, known only as The Ghost, for killing off someone who owed them money, a gang called The Red Seven murder all of his family. When The Ghost finds out, he sets out to travel across America and take revenge on each of the seven members one by one.
It’s a premise that wouldn’t be out of place in a Louis L’amour novel. What makes this seemingly standard Western stand out is the utter brutality of it. The vivid descriptions of violence rival that of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.
“The pungent stench of death lingered in the air. Headless corpses mingled with others who missed hands or feet. Men lie in crumpled masses. Women’s bodies were slashed to ribbons, entrails, and viscera thrown like a New Year’s celebration. Tragic trophies were taken. Dark blood stained the weathered wood of the wagon trains. Women and children lay out upon large rocks with crushed faces snarling up at God for the fate they suffered.”
Unlike Blood Meridian, there’s not a lot of layers to The Red Seven. This is ultimately a straightforward Western. This isn’t a bad thing. Dean has a knack for writing action. Each chapter is a set piece of over-the-top action.
“One bullet crashed through his belly, sending a white hot pain through his abdomen and up into his teeth. Another shot nicked enough of his neck to bleed. He wouldn’t have long before the lights went dim, and he’d be a goner.”
The book is short, but again, this is not a bad thing. Put on some Ennio Morricone and you can breeze through the fast paced action of this book in a couple hours like you were watching a movie.
This is a minor spoiler, but my biggest complaint about this book is the ending. For a book as violent and cynical as this one, it wraps up a little too neatly in the end. If any story was calling for a sad or at least ambiguous ending it’s this one. The ending seems like it was put there to please the audience. That actually is a bad thing.
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