by Charles de Lint

Subterranean Press

59pp/September 2007

Riding Shotgun
Cover by Charles de Lint

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Riding Shotgun is a short chapbook published by Subterranean Press in conjunction with their release of Charles de Lint's novel Promises to Keep in September 2007. 

While the spirit world often encroaches on Charles de Lint's Newford, "Riding Shotgun" is one of the few honest to goodness ghost stories, although with a twist.  The story opens with Marshall Coe visiting his estranged father's farm, shortly after his father's death. Finding his old car on the property, he is drawn to sit in it.  Upon turning the key, he finds himself back to an earlier time, before his brother died and before his father blamed him for his brother's death.   Realizing he has a second chance to make things right, he learns from his original mistake, only to find that in the revised version, he dies instead of his brother and has become a ghost.  Linking up with the ghost of a girl he had grown up with, Marshall explores what it means to be dead and tries to figure out why he remains as a ghost rather than moving on to the still mysterious world beyond.  In the process, he learns that while some things may have been better in the alternative world he has created, other things turn out worse and he sees potential wasted and comes to understand more about people than he ever had in the wasted life he lived before traveling back in time.

Over the course of numerous novels and enough short stories to fill five collections, the city of Newford has seen more than its fair share of the supernatural.  In "Newford Spook Squad," the Newford Police Department shows that it is aware of the strangeness that happens in the city.  Written originally for the collection Hellboy: Odder Jobs focusing on Mike Mignola's comic character, "Newford Spook Squad" does fit in quite as well with the other Newford stories, although paired just with "Riding Shotgun," as it is in this chapbook, that disconnect is less obvious than it would be in a Newford collection. One of the interesting things with the story is that for the addition of the non-Newfordian paranormal in Hellboy, de Lint's narrator, Sam Cray, is much more skeptical than the typical de Lint hero.  In fact, the paranormal they are investigating practically takes a back seat to Cray's view of his new assignment heading up the Paranormal Task Force.

The two stories contained in Riding Shotgun are unrelated except insofar as both are set in Charles de Lint's Newford.  While both stories are enjoyable and portray different aspects of de Lint's world, with "Newford Spook Squad" pushing the boundaries further than normal, in a chapbook this length, reprinting two stories that have more of a direct, or even just a thematic, link, would have made the volume more cohesive.

Riding Shotgun
Newford Spook Squad

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