Fictional Drama / Western
Described by the author as a ‘Queer Weird West novel’, Writ in Blood is a retelling of the story of the men of Tombstone legend: the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, the Clantons, Johnny Ringo. But what a retelling!
The historic events drive the timeline and the action of the novel, with few deviations from fact in this regard. But those events serve as the incitement for a deep dive into the complexities of character, into the subtle layers of love and its expression, into personal meanings of courage and honour, and even into what the mind can conjure when trauma and memory need an outlet.
Johnny Ringo is a man who is sure he has lost his soul. Abused sexually as a boy, he has turned his anger and shame both inward and outward; his sexual partners are not always willing either. When a beautiful, winged figure, Lucifer’s son, presents himself to Johnny as a willing partner, he welcomes the visitation. Is it real? He doesn’t know. He doesn’t really care, either.
Johnny is seeking redemption and love, and his metaphysical search frames the experiences of the rest of the major characters, although theirs are caught up in the material world. None are without experiences in their early years that have shaped their philosophies, even if they cannot articulate this. None are wholly good, or wholly bad; Bozza creates multidimensional characters from the stock names of Western USA legend. These are men troubled by the choices they have made, worried for their families, concerned that their actions as lawmen are making things worse in Tombstone, not better. Complex, thinking men.
Doc Holliday, slowly dying of tuberculosis, intent on living what life he has left without boundaries, guides the reader through the deepening complexities of both plot and character arcs. As his loyalties change and deepen, we see the effect of choice and consequence on the characters.
Writ in Blood will not be a book for everyone. Sexually explicit, speculative about the sexuality of legendary characters, not always grounded in corporeal reality, it has the feel of Greek myth, an examination of how the eight Greek definitions of love* shape the actions and the souls of men. I loved it, and recommend it highly.
* Agape: universal love; Eros: sexual love; Philia: friendship; Philauta: self-love; Storge: enduring love; Pragma: enduring love; Ludus: playful love; Mania: obsessive love.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Marian L. Thorpe