The best books set in the Weird Wild West

Who am I?

I love a good story that crosses genres; seeing where they mesh together, playing with where they differ, and letting the various parts spark into a whole that’s greater still. Though my writing usually takes place in the “real” everyday world, I often introduce supernatural elements. Partly because, while I’m an atheist, I still believe there are more things in the universe and on earth than we yet know. And partly because these elements, whether real or imagined on the part of the character, can act as splendid metaphors – or help to understand a state of mind. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Writ in Blood

What is my book about?

Back in the day, I was intrigued by Johnny Ringo, Doc Holliday, and Wyatt Earp in the film Tombstone (1993) and was soon determined to write a novel based on the people and events of the Tombstone, AZ story. I’ve followed a long, challenging trail since then! 

I took the research very seriously, and hope that Western aficionados will find interesting use of the historical records in my fictional account. However, I also brought genre elements into the novel, with Johnny Ringo’s demons being all too real, his ability to see people’s souls undermining his gunslinging reputation, and his homosexuality emphasizing his outsider status. This “Queer Weird West” subgenre is relatively new – but the “Weird West” has been with us for some while!

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

Julie Bozza Why did I love this book?

A new Western novel that already feels classic in its ready use of all the key elements of the genre. Interestingly, the eponymous main character is Chinese, proving that our Western heroes and antiheroes are perfectly open to diversity. Intriguing fantasy elements are found in Ming’s Chinese guide, The Prophet, and in the circus performers with whom Ming travels across the harsh Western landscape. A wonderful read! 

By Tom Lin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Orphaned young, Ming Tsu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is raised by the notorious leader of a California crime syndicate, who trains him to be his deadly enforcer. But when Ming falls in love with Ada, the daughter of a powerful railroad magnate, and the two elope, he seizes the opportunity to escape to a different life. Soon after, in a violent raid, the tycoon's henchmen kidnap Ada and conscript Ming into service for the Central Pacific Railroad.
Battered, heartbroken, and yet defiant, Ming partners with a blind clairvoyant known only as the prophet. Together the two set out to…


Book cover of The Buntline Special

Julie Bozza Why did I love this book?

This short novel is heaps of fun! It’s another take on the Tombstone story, told from Doc Holliday’s point of view with great wry wit. This Doc is an engaging and unexpectedly kind character, with little or no hint of his reputed “mean disposition”. Weird elements include steampunk – with Thomas Edison living in Tombstone and bringing not only electric light but cyborg sex workers – as well as an undead Johnny Ringo, and supernatural justice wielded by the Native American shamans. It’s delightful!

By Mike Resnick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Buntline Special as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to a West like you've never seen before, where electric lights shine down on the streets of Tombstone, while horseless stagecoaches carry passengers to and fro, and where death is no obstacle to The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western tale, and the West will never be the same.


Book cover of The Weird Wild West

Julie Bozza Why did I love this book?

This anthology “blends western grit with the magical and mysterious unknown that waits beyond the next horizon” and includes both a great range of stories and some delightful illustrations. “Abishag Mary” by Frances Rowat brings sea-based imagery deep into the landlocked deserts. “Frank and Earnest” by Tonia Brown features some cracking dialogue, not to mention a villain who seems entirely out of place and mostly baffles the two heroes. Other stories venture beyond the Old West, including "Fifteen Seconds" by Scott Hungerford featuring an alien invasion of a different kind in a more recent West. An excellent collection!

By Faith Hunter, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Weird Wild West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The untamed frontier is a challenge, a test of character, a proving ground for the soul. It's a place where pioneers rewrite their future, or end their days…for better or worse. In the spirit of Bret Maverick, Cat Ballou, Kwai Chang Caine, and James West, The Weird Wild West blends western grit with the magical and mysterious unknown that waits beyond the next horizon.

With thrilling stories by Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin, John G. Hartness, RS Belcher, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Misty Massey, James R. Tuck, Robert E. Waters, David Sherman, Tonia Brown, Liz Colter, Scott…


Book cover of Dead Man's Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West

Julie Bozza Why did I love this book?

This anthology is a bit less consistent in quality or interest, but some of the stories surpass all expectations. My favorite is "The Golden Age" by Walter Jon Williams, a superb and substantial tale of superheroes and supervillains set in the Californian Goldfields. The characters are regular folk who have taken on these larger-than-life personas as well as causes for which to fight. Their costumes, technology, and methods are true to the time, and seem completely ramshackle to us today; it’s safe to say there are no actual superpowers involved! This is a brilliant story and takes a few significant twists and turns. It’s well worth the price of admission alone. 

By John Joseph Adams,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dead Man's Hand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD! From a kill-or-be-killed gunfight with a vampire to an encounter in a steampunk bordello, the weird western is a dark, gritty tale where the protagonist might be playing poker with a sorcerous deck of cards, or facing an alien on the streets of a dusty frontier town. Here are twenty-three original tales - stories of the Old West infused with elements of the fantastic - produced specifically for this volume by many of today's finest writers. Included are Orson Scott Card's first "Alvin Maker" story in a decade, and an original adventure by Fred Van…


Book cover of Weird Westerns: Race, Gender, Genre

Julie Bozza Why did I love this book?

These fourteen essays explore the hybrid “weird west” genre, examining a range of texts including some by Native American authors, as well as TV series, films, fiction, roleplaying games, and comic books. It makes for an interesting read – and is thought-provoking in its conclusion that despite weird westerns challenging and destabilizing many of the old cliches, they have yet to “imagine an existence outside of colonial frameworks”. This has given me much food for thought, as it seems to me that frontiers (wherever found) are an intrinsic part of the western genre, and frontiers tend to imply conflict between the inhabitants and the invaders, between the new and the established. Maybe I’m wrong! In any case, this proves that we still have a long way to go before we’re done exploring all the possibilities of this intriguing genre! 

By Kerry Fine (editor), Michael K. Johnson (editor), Rebecca M. Lush (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Weird Westerns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2021 Top Ten Finalist for the Locus Awards in Nonfiction

Weird Westerns is an exploration of the hybrid western genre-an increasingly popular and visible form that mixes western themes, iconography, settings, and conventions with elements drawn from other genres, such as science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Despite frequent declarations of the western's death, the genre is now defined in part by its zombie-like ability to survive in American popular culture in weird, reanimated, and reassembled forms.

The essays in Weird Westerns analyze a wide range of texts, including those by Native American authors Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet) and William Sanders…


You might also like...

Songbird

By Laci Barry Post,

Book cover of Songbird

Laci Barry Post Author Of Songbird

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Group fitness instructor Mom of two Travel consultant Hiker

Laci's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It's 1943, and World War II has gripped the nation, including the Stilwell family in Jacksonville, Alabama. Rationing, bomb drills, patriotism, and a changing South barrage their way of life. Neighboring Fort McClellan has brought the world to their doorstep in the form of young soldiers from all over the country and German POWs from halfway around the globe.

Songbird is an inspirational, historical fiction novel, dealing with family, faith, strong women, and the American home front. It explores many historical elements of the World War II era, such as women's aid groups, the writings of Ernie Pyle, D-day, radio and music of the 1940s, and the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Songbird

By Laci Barry Post,

What is this book about?

When the perils and social changes of World War II confront a small southern town, faith, family, and love sustain the lives of one young woman and her family. Can those left behind endure?

"I'm waiting for my life to begin. Waiting for the train to come in," Ava Stilwell, a young woman eager for life, sings a popular song with the big band that reflects her heart. In the midst of a world at war, Ava finds love, a passion for her music, and new opportunities, but the war still looms over her, threatening to take it all away.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in American frontier, the American West, and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about American frontier, the American West, and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

American Frontier Explore 79 books about American frontier
The American West Explore 121 books about the American West
The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral Explore 7 books about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral