Countdown: The Top 31 Norman Partridge Works of Short Fiction–#13

[For the previous countdown post, click here.]

 

13. “Dead Man’s Hand” (1996)

As depicted by Partridge, the folkloric Negro gunfighter Stackalee cuts quite an imposing figure: dead-eyed and grizzled, decked out in an oxblood Stetson hat and a pair of magic boots “stitched from the hides of thirteen vampire bats.” At the start of this novella, though, Stackalee is in bad shape: he’s been lynched, a strip of flesh has been carved from his buttock, and his left hand has been chopped right off. The culprits: a nasty outlaw gang in league with a comely by formidable Arizona bruja named Estrellita (who plans to use Stackalee’s severed body part as a Hand of Glory). There’s macabre mayhem throughout, such as the scene when an insulted Estrellita curses the outlaws (one hapless desperado ends up with a bellyful of croaking frogs). And when the revived Stackalee catches up with his antagonists, his vengeance is grim and grand. “Dead Man’s Hand” is the last of a trio of Partridge pieces to feature the main character (after “Stackalee” and “The Bars on Satan’s Jailhouse”), and the third time is certainly the charm in this bewitching mix of the western and horror genres.

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