Time Travelin’ Gunslingers

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Philip James continues to pulp up the joint with a mashup for the ages — Time Travelin’ Gunslingers is the tale of a US marshal pursuing an outlaw from 1870s Arizona to the prehistoric age, from medieval England to modern day Las Vegas.

Dare Shine is a cut-out white hat who’s all duty and no fear, until he pursues blood-thirsty outlaw Race Brody into the Catalina Mountains, and comes face-to-face with a rowdy gang of Velociraptors. Meanwhile, dull-witted Race is hootin’ and shootin’ his way up the Las Vegas strip, unaware that both men have been put on a collision course by an unseen hand, capable of manipulating time itself.

The marshal discovers, perhaps too late, that there’s a lot more at stake than frontier justice for a renegade outlaw, and he faces monsters, mobsters, magic, and his own fears in the corridors of time to keep Race from fulfilling a prophecy that means the end of everything Dare holds dear.

Time Travelin’ Gungslingers has none of the urbaine, hard-boiled charm of Deceased and Residing in Oakland, and that’s clearly intentional. The folksy, accessible, naive narrative is reminiscent of the heyday of pulp Westerns, when all a lawman had to deal with was a cheatin’ coyote or an ambush at the pass. That same style applied to a story of gunslingers facing time-bending magic, ageless passion, hate, love, heaven, hell and purgatory, creates a very satisfying juxtaposition, like visiting the Louvre in your pyjamas.

Your pyjamas and your running shoes, in fact, because Time Travelin’ Gunslingers is no leisurely pastoral stroll through yesteryear. It’s a quick-drawing, fast-shooting, fast-talking, galloping, rollicking ricochet against the walls of time’s labyrinth. Time travel is achieved by simple magic, and hence no words are wasted trying to explain it as a feature of string theory or faster-than-light travel, and there’s no time for brooding on the effect of butterflies flapping their wings.

In fact, apart from the convention vortex, the story is linear, and there’s little room for existential twists. Time travel is a utility which allows for an original story which has, on its own, plenty of traditional plot pivots without the need for the high-concept hypotheticals that are the typical tropes of time travel stories.

In short, in spite of the prohibition era mobsters, prehistoric monsters, Elvis impersonators and magic, Time Travelin’ Gunslingers somehow manages to deliver an old-fashioned white hat/black hat Western saga. The structure is old-school pulp serial, and each visit to another time and place has its own sub-plot, complete with cliffhangers and plot twists.

Time Travelin’ Gunslingers is in Amazon from March 16.