The story goes that this novel was sat festering away at the back of Drachman’s mind until a stay in the hospital after working too long and too hard for a law firm. It was during this stay that he encountered the story of noted ex-lawyer, gunslinger and chin of the year winner Brisco County Jr. The semi-factual science fiction/fantasy adventure spurned Drachman on to finish his own tale with the intention that Brisco and Watt would one day meet up to fight bad guys and ride into the sunset together.
For those who know of Brisco County Jr you will already have an idea about the nature of this book but for those who don’t I will explain. ‘Watt O Hugh the third’ is a good natured man riding along during the time of the wild west. He encounters outlaws and bandits as well as a smattering of real world historical figures and inventions, often slightly out of place or time. Nothing major mind you but perhaps a few years out, or attributed to the wrong man. Think of the invention of Velcro by aliens in ‘Taken’ or ‘Star Trek Enterprise’ and you won’t be too far off the mark. However while Brisco dabbled in the occult and tried to offer an explanation for everything, usually by pointing the finger at the “orb” and muttering something about future tech Watt O Hugh dives into the occult feet first and while the story is decent and the characters interesting and the voice of said character strong and likeable it does leave you more than a little puzzled.
Near the start of the story Watt is shot off a high beam over a circus ring and falls to his certain death, except that he is saved by his ghosts. How they do this is never quite explained, nor who they are or what they want. In fact for several sections of the novel they are entirely absent no doubt for fear that they would break the suspense and drama entirely. Yet while this is noted by the main character we are never offered anything other than a lampshade to place atop it. This perhaps wouldn’t have been so bad had it remained consistent across the story but it like several other things in the book are merely tossed in. For instance the story is told to us by Watt O Hugh himself as he nears the end of his life as he races to transcribe and flesh out his diaries to preserve his memory. Due to a long life and an ability to travel through time he has seen a lot and yet things like his ability to travel through time are merely introduced halfway through the book and used for little more than a few flashbacks and reminisces with nothing of any worth coming from it. He learns this talent from a man who could be, at least the inspiration for, Jesus actual literal Christ and yet this character pops up only a handful of time with nothing really to say or do. Instead only asking Watt to do a mission for him in helping to bring down a weird cult; who are able to bring the dead back to life and construct a utopia for one and all which is as you guessed not fleshed out beyond the most basic framework.
As I said before I enjoyed the people I met in this book and the only down side to Watt’s narration is the parts where he feels absent, most usually when he is telling us about scenes where he wasn’t present but have been pieced together later. My only complaint was that there is so many, out there ideas which would support entire novels or series by themselves which are thrown in, mentioned once or twice and then never explored or used. Perhaps this is meant to reflect on the nature of the show Brisco County Jr which would have a historical figure pop up for an episode or centre an episode on a piece of tech currently vital to the plot but usually forgotten thereafter. This would explain why Oscar Wilde shows up for a chapter but the problem is that he seems to only be there for something to slap on the back of the book or list along with, ghosts and time travel in order to sell the story because he doesn’t do anything or say anything of note nor feel that interesting and leaves before you can care that he’s here.
The pacing of the story is decent but there is no real sense of conclusion to the story and though it definitely feels like the first in a series I’m not sure I trust them to pick up the pieces for the start of the next book.
Personally the author shows great promise I just wish I could say the same about the series.
Written by Steven S Drachman, published by Chickadee Prince books, length 214 pages