JANE LINDSKOLD “The Drifter.” First appeared in A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes (Daw, paperback original, 2010). Collected in Curiosities (CreateSoace, trade paperback, 2015).

   To begin with, here’s the first paragraph:

   Prudence Bledsoe rode into town on a big buckskin stallion. She was on the trail of trouble, and it didn’t take much to see that she’d found it.


   Jane Lindskold is an author known for her stories of mythological fantasy – werewolves, shape-shifters, satyrs, merfolk, and unicorns, according to her Wikipedia page – but she wisely holds off on telling the reader was exactly the “trouble” is that she is on the trail of, but you can take it from me that that Wikipedia description is right on the mark.

   I will tell you this. Prudence Bledsoe is the kind of woman that when she rides into town, people notice. Not many women ride into town, you see, a drifter, you might say, on horseback, not one of the usual arrivals on the train or by stagecoach. That first sentence also lets us know that she is a woman on a mission, and I think the townsfolk know that, too.

   Jane Lindskold is a very good writer. Besides setting up the story as she does in the very first sentence, she also conveys the dustiness and the on-the-edge of nowhere feeling of the town and the townspeople. Cattle and sheep have been gruesomely killed, she learns, and young children have gone missing. And at length, Prudence Bledsoe’s own personal secret is revealed.

   This is not a classic unforgettable story, but any means, but it’s an effective one, and it’s a fine choice for the leading one in a collection entitled A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters.