I recently read another H. A. DeRosso collection—after Under the Burning Sun—edited by Bill Pronzini . Its title: Riders of the Shadowlands. It was published by Five Star in 1999, and it is similar to Under the Burning Sun in that it collects ten of DeRosso’s western-type stories—two were published by mystery magazines, although one is a strange kind of mystery. The tales are less eclectic than the first collection, but no less entertaining, existential, or downright terrific.
The stories in this collection are also lightly edited—James Reasoner in a comment to my post about Under the Burning Sun said, “I compared a couple of the stories in the collection to their original magazine appearances and found only a very few changes.” Mr. Pronzini also states that he only edited superfluous, and redundant words. I only mention the editing because of the recent Internet flare-up about the new Harlequin pulp editions that were edited for content—a situation that is far different than the editing in this volume.
My favorite stories included in the collection are both tales of the “shadowlands.” One is a short story and the other a novella. The novella is the title story, “Riders of the Shadowlands,” a fairly conventionally plotted rustler tale. Its ordinariness ends at the plot however. It is a violent story in a hellish setting with a hardboiled / noir attitude. It has more in common with the hardboiled crime written in the 1950s, but the western setting and attitudes are accurate and beautifully described in a hard-bitten, stark prose.
There is a terrific mystery titled “Dark Purpose,” which was originally published in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (April 1958) under the title “Kill the Killer.” It is a manhunt story set in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin. The wilderness, and landscape, are as central to the story as they are in DeRosso’s “shadowlands” tales. In fact it is as much a western as any of the stories included in the collection.
Riders of the Shadowlands does not include a dud; each is vibrant, entertaining, and dark. The stories were published between 1950 and 1962, and each is an example of how talented and original DeRosso was as a writer.